Professor of Ancient Greek & Roman Studies, Rhetoric, and Comparative Literature; participating member in the Critical Theory DE
Greek literature, Ancient Drama and its Reception, Critical Theory (psychoanalysis, queer theory, political theory, posthumanism, and new formalisms)
In my scholarship, I seek to place antiquity in dialogue with modernity, defamiliarizing and destabilizing widely accepted critical positions by exploring the emancipatory potential of textual and visual form. Aristophanes and the Cloak of Comedy: Affect, Aesthetics, and the Canon (University of Chicago Press, 2016) theorizes the nexus between canonicity and sensory—especially haptic—materiality. The edited volume The Materiality of Greek Tragedy (Bloomsbury, 2018) tests the advantages and limits of the so-called new materialisms in the interpretation of drama. On the threshold between critique and post-critique, my monograph, Archive Feelings: A Theory of Greek Tragedy (Ohio State University Press, “Classical Memories/Modern Identities,” 2020), examines how contemporary theorizations of the archive (especially Derrida’s Mal d’Archive) and the death drive (in Freud as well as Bersani, Butler, Edelman, Deleuze, Lacan, Rancière, and Žižek) can help us understand the aesthetic experience of tragedy. Through an engagement with the texts of ancient plays, art (Francis Bacon, Cy Twombly), architecture (Daniel Libeskind), and film, I locate Greek tragedy’s aesthetic allure beyond catharsis in a vertiginous sense of giddy suspension, in a spiral of life-death that resists equilibrium, stabilization, and all forms of normativity.
Watch the Townsend book chat that took place on December 9, 2020: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5mEgL3GhlNw and hear this podcast on the New Books Network: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/new-books-in-literary-studies/id426178886?i=1000506165963.
In March 2022, there was a Syndicate symposium on the book, with responses by Karen Bassi, Sean Gurd, Paul Kotman, Helen Morales, and Daniel Orrells: https://syndicate.network/symposia/literature/archive-feelings/
I have finished a new book on comedy and political theory entitled Resistant Form: Aristophanes and the Comedy of Crisis (forthcoming in 2023 from Tangent, Punctum Books), which is centered around theoretically engaged readings of Birds, Frogs, Lysistrata and Women at the Thesmophoria as well as the comic style of critical theory. Here is the link to the webpage: https://punctumbooks.com/titles/resistant-form-aristophanes-and-the-comedy-of-crisis/
Here is a podcast on the book:
Another book Greek Tragedy in a Global Crisis: Reading through Pandemic Times just came out with Bloomsbury. With Sean Gurd, I am co-editing The Before and the After: Critical Asynchrony Now.
With Sarah Olsen, I edited Queer Euripides: A Re-Reading (18 Plays, 20 Readers) (Bloomsbury 2022). For a podcast on the book, see https://www.bloomsburyacademicpod.com/2022/07/queer-euripides-part-one/
With Sarah Nooter, I edited another volume entitled Radical Formalism: Reinventing the Literary in Antiquity and Beyond, forthcoming with Bloomsbury in January 2024.
With Andrew Benjamin I also co-edited a volume on Niobes entitled Niobe's: Antiquity Modernity Critical Theory (forthcoming with OSU press in February 2024).
With Damon Young and Debarati Sanyal, I edited a special issue of Representations entitled Proximities: Reading with Judith Butler. A book entitled Reading Greek Tragedy with Judith Butler is under contract with Bloomsbury for the series Classical Receptions in Twentieth-Century Writing. A monograph on Roman comedy and interobjectivity, entitled The Thing about the Title: Roman Comedy against the Subject is forthcoming with Oxford University Press.
I am the chief editor of the journal Classical Antiquity (https://online.ucpress.edu/ca). I also serve on the editorial board of Representations.
With Dan Orrells, I am organizing an international conference on Jean-Luc Nancy and Classics, sponsored by the Rhetoric department, which take place at Berkeley in September 2024.
With Jim Porter, I am also putting together a book on William Kentridge, which is planned to come out in 2025.
I also write about classics, American literature, and critical theory for "La Domenica del Sole 24 Ore" (https://www.archiviodomenica.ilsole24ore.com/#browsemagazinemonth/10476/05-2020)
The Before and the After: Critical Asynchrony Now, co-edited with Sean Gurd, Punctum Books 2024
Roman Comedy Against the Subject, Oxford University Press, forthcoming 2025
Reading Greek Tragedy with Judith Butler, Bloomsbury, forthcoming 2024
Shorter and spalding's Iphigenia: Interdisciplinary Readings, co-edited with Helen Morales, Ramus 52.1, 2023
Greek Tragedy in a Global Crisis: Reading through Pandemic Times, Bloomsbury 2023
Resistant Form: Aristophanes and the Comedy of Crisis, Tangent, Punctum Books 2023
Radical Formalisms: Reading, Theory, and the Boundaries of the Classical, co-edited with Sarah Nooter, Bloomsbury, forthcoming 2024
Before and After: Critical Asynchrony, co-edited with Sean Gurd, Tangent, Punctum, forthcoming 2024
Niobes: Antiquity Modernity Critical Theory, co-edited with Andrew Benjamin. OSU Press, forthcoming 2024
Proximities: Reading with Judith Butler, co-edited with Debarati Sanyal and Damon Young, Representations, 158, 2022
Queer Euripides: Re-readings in Greek Tragedy (Bloomsbury), co-edited with Sarah Olsen, 2022
Archive Feelings: A Theory of Greek Tragedy (OSU Press, series "Ancient Memories, Modern Identities"), 2020
The Materialities of Greek Tragedy (Bloomsbury), co-edited with Melissa Mueller, 2018
Aristophanes and the Cloak of Comedy: Affect, Aesthetics, and the Canon (University of Chicago Press), 2016
Comedy and the Discourse of Genres (CUP), co-edited with E. Bakola and L. Prauscello, 2013
Eupolis Demoi (Florence, Le Monnier), 2007
Recent and forthcoming articles:
"Fear of Flaying: Sontag, Language, Animality." In Sontag's Tangential Classicisms, edited by Laura Jansen, Oxford University Press
"Medea in the Courtroom: Foucault, Alice Diop, and Abolition." Forthcoming in Arethusa
"Media/Medea: James IJames's Glitchy Counterfactual." Forthcoming in Classical Receptions Journal
"Queer Philology and Luis Alfaro's Oedipus El Rey." Forthcoming in CP (Classical Philology)
"Dystopic Cyberpunk and Heraclitus's River." In Kongkee: Warring States Cyberpunk
"The Problem with Theory: Classics Critique Postcritique." Forthcoming in Multidisciplinary Theory, edited by Jeffrey Di Leo
"Iphigenia's Stigmatologies," in Shorter and spalding's Iphigenia: Interdisciplinary Readings, edited by H. Morales and M. Telò, Ramus 52.1, 2023, 85–89.
"Improvisational Solidarity: In Conversation with Judith Butler," in Shorter and spalding's Iphigenia: Interdisciplinary Readings, edited by H. Morales and M. Telò, Ramus 52.1, 2023, 13–20.
"Derrida, Blanchot, and the Gimmick: Writing Disaster in Euripides' Bacchae " in S. Gurd and M. Telò, The Before and the After: Critical Asynchrony Now (Tangents, Punctum Books)
"Literary Critical Intensities: Pathos, Affect and Greek Tragedy," in J. Connolly and N. Worman, Oxford Handbook of Ancient Literary Criticism and Theory (OUP)
"Heraclean Overhaul(s): Par-a-noia, Badiou's Un-thought, and Neurodiversity in Anne Carson's H of H." Classical Antiquity 42.2, 2023, 280–92
"Chal Chal Chal: Apollonius's Talos Tales (and Medea's). In Radical Formalisms: Reading, Theory, and the Boundaries of the Classical, edited by S. Nooter and M. Telò, Bloomsbury 2024, 248–64.
"Ancientmodern Objects: Viewing Freud's Oedipus Complex." In Freud's Antiquity: Object, Idea, Desire, edited by R. Armstrong, M. Leonard, D. Orrells, Publications of the Freud's Museum, 79–88.
"Queer Interspeciesism, or Oppian's Wild Loves," in The Routledge Handbook of Classics and Queer Theory, edited by Sara Lindheim, Kirk Ormand, and Ella Haselswerdt, Routledge 2023, 423–36.
"Foucault and Oedipal Virality," Symplokê 30.1–2, 2022, 383–93.
"Niobe's Cryo-Ecology," in A. Benjamin and M. Telò, Niobes: Antiquity Modernity Critical Theory (OSU Press, series "Ancient Memories, Modern Identities") 2024, 85–97.
"Suppliant Women. Adrastus's Cute Lesbianism: Labor Irony Adhesion," in S. Olsen and M. Telò, Queer Euripides, Bloomsbury 2022, 86–98.
"Queer A(e)di-(m)ology: On Callimachus's Aetia Prologue," Ramus 51.1, 2022, 21–46.
"Colonial Convulsions: Akram Khan's Xen(os) and the Digital Prometheus," in Greek Tragedy and the Digital, edited by G. Rodosthenous and A. Poulou, 182–98 (Bloomsbury)
"Laughter, or Aristophanes' Joy in the Face of Death," in P. Swallow and E. Hall, Aristophanic Humour (Bloomsbury 2020), 53–68.
"Between Emotion and the Emetic: Francis Bacon and the Tragic Body at the Margins of the Oresteia," Literary Imagination 22.2, 2020, 109–20.