Gund Affiliate, Lyman-Roberts Professor of Classical Languages and Literature, College of Arts and Sciences

Mark D. Usher is a UVM alumnus and joined the UVM faculty in 2000. Before attending UVM as an undergraduate, Mark apprenticed in Germany as a post-and-beam carpenter and later earned his Ph.D. in Classics at The University of Chicago. For a profile of his work in Tableau, the magazine of The University of Chicago’s Division of Humanities, click here.

Mark became a member of the Geography faculty in 2021 and is also a faculty member in The Environmental Program and the Food Systems Graduate Program. At UVM he teaches a variety of courses about the ancient world and in environmental studies, and has also taught in the Liberal Arts Scholars Program (LASP), the Teacher-Advisor Program (TAP), and the Honors College. In 2013 he traveled to Ulaanbaatar on a Fulbright to draft the Humanities curriculum for the then newly formed American University of Mongolia. Mark also has close ties with Chancellor College at the University of Malawi in Zomba, where he served as a visiting professor in 2010-2011 and as an external examiner in 2015.

Mark specializes in the ancient Mediterranean world, particularly the languages, literatures, and cultures of Greece and Rome. His interests include orality studies, ancient ecologies, and ancient philosophy. He is also deeply interested in the reception of classical texts in modern works of art, music, and literature. His book Plato’s Pigs and Other Ruminations: Ancient Guides to Living with Nature (Cambridge University Press, 2020) traces modern ideas about sustainability and systems science back to their origins in antiquity, on which topic he also teaches a course: “Sustainability: A Cultural History.” (See here, here and here for more information.) Since 2018, Mark has been overseeing research and a UVM internship in archaeology, paleobotany, sustainable agriculture, and food systems in Italy’s Sabine Hills. (See a video précis of this work, The Roman Villa Project, here.)

In addition to publishing books and articles about the ancient world, Mark has written two opera libretti (for text, music, and video see here) and children’s books. Non-academic pursuits include carpentry and farming (Mark and his wife Caroline own and operate Works & Days Farm in Shoreham, where they produce lamb, eggs, and maple syrup on 125 acres). His experiences with farming have come to fruition recently as an anthology of texts translated from Greek and Latin about country living: How to Be a Farmer: An Ancient Guide to Life on the Land (Princeton University Press, 2021).

Research and/or Creative Works

Cover of Plato's Pigs and Other Ruminations









  • How to Be a Farmer: An Ancient Guide for Life on the Land (Princeton University Press,  2021)
  • Plato's Pigs and Other Ruminations: Ancient Guides to Living with Nature (Cambridge University Press, 2020)
  • A Student’s Seneca (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)

Books for Children

  • 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)


  • 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 in Salem, Oregon and St. Hilda’s College, Oxford University.
  • Voces Vergilianae, Latin libretto and English translation for an opera-oratorio by composer John Peel, selected, adapted, and arranged by M. D. Usher from the poetry of Vergil (Premiered 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.)

In Progress

  • POEM: A Mashup. Illustrated by T. Motley. A pastiche, picture-book introduction to the conventions of poetry that incorporates lines and phrases of famous poems by Donne, Marvell, Shakespeare, cummings, Whitman, Dickinson, and others to form a new, organic and itself poetic whole (Fomite Press, forthcoming in 2021).
  • How to Say No: An Ancient Guide to the Art of Cynicism, under contract and forthcoming from Princeton University Press.
  • How to Think about Animals, an anthology of ancient passages about our complex relationships with non-human creatures.
  • Oral Landscapes: The Worlds of Ancient Epic, an interpretation of some of the world’s great epics using a method that combines oral-poetic theory and landscape studies (with chapters on Gilgamesh, the Iliad, the Odyssey, the Kalevala of Finland, the Icelandic Vinland Sagas, the Bhagavad Gita, and the Sundiata epic from medieval Mali).
Mark Usher

Areas of Expertise and/or Research

Ancient Mediterranean world, sustainable systems, orality studies, environmental humanities, ancient ecologies


  • PhD, Classical Languages and Literatures, University of Chicago
  • MA, Classical Languages and Literatures, University of Chicago
  • BA, Greek and Latin, University of Vermont


  • (802) 656-4431
Office Location:

Old Mill, Room 215