University of Vermont

The College of Arts and Sciences

Department of Classics

Faculty - M. D. Usher, Professor

Mark on Beatch at Alnwich

M. D. Usher, Professor

Area of expertise

Greek and Latin literature, orality studies, the classical tradition

Contact Information
Phone: (802)656-4431
Office: Room 303, 481 Main Street
Office Hours: On Sabbatical AY17-18

I am a UVM alumnus (BA in Greek and Latin) and joined the UVM faculty in 2000. Before attending UVM as an undergraduate I apprenticed in Germany as a post-and-beam carpenter. Upon graduation from UVM, I earned my PhD in Classics at The University of Chicago. For a profile of me and my work in Tableau, the magazine of The University of Chicago's Division of Humanities, click here.

I teach courses in Greek and Latin language and in classical civilization. I have also taught in UVM's Integrated Humanities Program, the Teacher-Advisor Program (TAP), and the Honors College. In 2013 I was commissioned by the newly formed American University of Mongolia to draft its Humanities curriculum (for a story about that experience, click here). I also have close connections with the University of Malawi in Zomba, where I served as a visiting professor in 2010-2011 and as external examiner in 2015.

My academic interests include orality studies, Near Eastern influences on classical literature, especially on Greek literature of the archaic period (Homer, Hesiod and the lyric poets), and ancient philosophy (the writings of Plato and Seneca in particular). I am also deeply interested in the reception of classical texts in modern works of art, music, and literature. At the moment I am working on a book that traces modern notions of sustainability and of complex systems science back to their unacknowledged roots in ancient Greek and Roman literature and philosophy. I am also working on a prosimetric creative work of original poems with commentary that is poised somewhere between Dante's confessional La Vita Nuova and Nabokov's satirical Pale Fire. In addition to publishing books and articles in the field of Classics, I have written two opera libretti in Greek and Latin (for text, music, and video see and children's books. Non-academic interests include carpentry (I built my own house and outbuildings) and farming (my wife Caroline and I own and operate Works & Days Farm in Shoreham, where we produce lamb, eggs, honey, and maple syrup on 125 acres).

Selected Publications

Academic Books:
  • A Student's Seneca: 10 Letters with Selections from De providentia and De vita beata (University of Oklahoma Press, 2006)
  • Homerocentones Eudociae Augustae (B. G. Teubner/K. G. Saur, 1999)
  • Homeric Stitchings: The Homeric Centos of the Empress Eudocia (Rowman & Littlefield, 1998)
  • Texts and Their Transformations: Continuity and Change in the Classical Tradition (Joseph Regenstein Library, 1995)
Academic Articles:
  • “An African Oresteia: Field Notes on Pasolini’s Appunti per un’ Orestiade Africana,” Arion, A Journal of Humanities and the Classics 22.1 (2014) 111-149.
  • Teste Galba cum Sibylla: Oracles, Octavia, and the East,” Classical Philology 108.1 (2013) 21-40
  • "Diogenes' Doggerel: Chreia and Quotation in Cynic Performance," Classical Journal 104:3 (2009) 207-223
  • "Theomachy, Creation, and the Poetics of Quotation in Longinus Chapter 9," Classical Philology 102:3 (2007) 292-303
  • "Carneades' Quip: Orality, Philosophy, Wit, and the Poetics of Impromptu Quotation," Oral Tradition 21:1 (2006) 190-209
  • "Satyr Play in Plato's Symposium," American Journal of Philology 123.2 (2002) 205-28
  • "Variations: On the Text of Homer," In Speaking Volumes: Orality and Literacy in the Greek and Roman World. Ed. by Janet Watson (Leiden: Brill, 2001) 81-91
  • “Στέλλεται at Bacchae 1000: The Emperor’s New Clothes?” Classical Philology 95.1 (2000) 72-4
  • "Prolegomenon to the Homeric Centos," American Journal of Philology 118.2 (1997) 307-21
  • "The Strange Case of Dr. Syntax and Mr. Pound," Classical and Modern Literature 16.2 (1996) 95-106
  • "The Sixth Sibylline Oracle as a Literary Hymn," Greek, Roman, and Byzantine Studies 36.1 (1995) 25-49 [Reprinted in Greek Literature, Vol. 9, ed. by Gregory Nagy (Routledge, 2001) pp. 55-79]
Children's Books:
  • The Golden Ass of Lucius Apuleius, a creative reworking of the classic comic novel for young readers of all ages, with illustrations by T. Motley (David R. Godine, 2011).
  • DiOGenes (about Diogenes the Cynic philosopher, cast literally as a dog), with illustrations by Michael Chesworth (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2009)
  • Wise Guy: The Life and Philosophy of Socrates, with illustrations by William Bramhall (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2005)
  • Voces Vergilianae, Latin libretto and translation for an opera-oratorio by composer John Peel, selected, adapted, and arranged by M. D. Usher from the poetry of Vergil (Performed March 10 and 14, 1999 at the Mary Stuart Rodgers Music Center, Willamette University, by the Willamette Chamber Choir, the Salem Chamber Orchestra and five vocal soloists.).
  • NERON KAISAR: A Poetic Opera in 10 Scenes by John Peel, libretto in ancient Greek, Latin, and English by M. D. Usher. Commissioned, in progress; selections performed March 13, 2013, in Salem, Ore. and the entirety of Scene 1, "Incipit," for 4 soloists and chorus with harp and piano accompaniment in conjunction with the Archive for the Performance of Greek and Roman Drama's conference "Performing Epic into the Twenty-First Century" (, Jacqueline du Pré Music Hall, St. Hilda's College, Oxford University, September 18, 2014.

Department Faculty

Adjunct Faculty

Emeriti Faculty