Research interests: Latin literature, especially Flavian poetry; history and culture of the early Empire; arena spectacles; Roman punishment; reception of the Classics by the twentieth-century South African poet, Douglas Livingstone.
Kathleen Coleman was born and raised in Zimbabwe. She studied at the University of Cape Town (BA 1973), the University of Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) (BA Hons 1975), and Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford (DPhil 1979). Before joining the Harvard faculty in 1998, she taught at the University of Cape Town (1979–1993) and held the chair of Latin at Trinity College, Dublin (1993–1998). She is a former Fellow of the Alexander von Humboldt-Stiftung. In 2002 she delivered the 15th Todd Memorial Lecture at the University of Sydney (see photos below), and in 2003 the opening lecture in the series of Wolfson Lectures at Oxford to honor the centenary of Sir Ronald Syme. In the same year she was appointed Harvard College Professor, a five-year appointment in recognition of contributions to teaching, and in 2005 she was the recipient of the Joseph R. Levenson Teaching Prize for Senior Faculty, awarded by the Undergraduate Council of Harvard College. In 2007 she was awarded a Walter Channing Cabot Fellowship, an annual award given to Harvard faculty members in recognition of achievements in literature, history or art. In 2008 she received the Ausonius-Preis from the University of Trier, and delivered the Syme Lecture at Victoria University Wellington, in New Zealand. In 2009 she was elected an Honorary Member of the Society for the Promotion of Roman Studies and in 2012 a Corresponding Member of the Bayerische Akademie der Wissenschaften (Bavarian Academy of Sciences and Humanities). In 2013-14 she spent a profoundly stimulating year in Germany as a Fellow of the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin.
Professor Coleman is the author of Statius, Silvae IV: Text, Translation, and Commentary (Oxford University Press, 1988, re-issued in paperback by Bristol Classical Press/Duckworth, 1998) and Martial, Liber Spectaculorum: Text, Translation, and Commentary (Oxford University Press, 2006), and co-editor, with J. Diggle, J. B. Hall, and H. D. Jocelyn, of F.R.D. Goodyear. Papers on Latin Literature (Duckworth, 1992) and, with Jocelyne Nelis-Clément, L’Organisation des spectacles dans le monde romain, Entretiens 58 (Fondation Hardt, 2012). She is the editor of Le jardin dans l’Antiquité, Entretiens 60 (Fondation Hardt, 2014). In addition to her work on Latin literature she has written numerous articles on Roman spectacle, including "Fatal charades: Roman executions staged as mythological enactments", Journal of Roman Studies 80 (1990), 44–73, and "Launching into history: aquatic displays in the early Empire", JRS 83 (1993), 48–74. Her most recent articles include “Sailing to Nuceria: evidence for the date of Xenophon of Ephesus,” Acta Classica 54 (2011), 27–42; “Experiments in pattern poetry by Douglas Livingstone,” Literary Imagination 14 (2012), 312–21; “Bureaucratic language in the correspondence between Pliny and Trajan,” Transactions of the American Philological Association 142.2 (2012), 189–238; with Rebecca Benefiel, “The graffiti,” in Excavations at Zeugma Conducted by Oxford Archaeology, ed. by William Aylward, vol. 1 (Los Altos, CA: Packard Humanities Institute, 2013), 178–191; ; and “Melior’s plane tree: an introduction to the ancient garden,” in Le jardin dans l’Antiquite (mentioned above), 1–26.
Professor Coleman has participated in several radio programs and television documentaries about the Roman amphitheatre, and she was the featured "Scientist on the Spot" on the Science Buzz feature at the Science Museum of Minnesota for August–September 2007. Her current book-length projects are a monograph on Roman public executions for Oxford University Press, and a study of arena spectacles for Yale University Press. She is also preparing the manuscript of her 2010 Jerome Lectures for the University of Michigan Press, entitled "Q. Sulpicius Maximus, Poet, Eleven Years Old."
Professor Coleman edited volumes 105 and 106 of Harvard Studies in Classical Philology, and she is currently a member of the editorial boards of The American Journal of Philology, Eirene, Exemplaria Classica, Mnemosyne and Mnemosyne Supplements, and Rivista di Filologia e Istruzione Classica. She is also a member of the Comité scientifique of the Fondation Hardt in Vandoeuvres, Switzerland, and co-editor with Richard Rutherford (Christ Church, Oxford) of Oxford Approaches to Classical Literature, a series published by Oxford University Press (USA). She is a member of the Ausschuss (Executive Committee) of the Internationale Thesaurus-Kommission of the Bayerische Akademie in Munich, Germany, to which she is the American delegate. In 2011 she served as President of the American Philological Association (now the Society for Classical Studies). Her interviews with the prize-winners who received awards at the Annual Meeting that year are available here. A web site containing tips for the acquisition and use of images for teaching and research by text-based is also available; users are encouraged to contact her with suggestions for additional material.
Professor Coleman has supervised several doctoral dissertations on Cicero, Martial, and Statius, and on cultural topics ranging from social mobility in Campania to Roman temple robbery. She has also served as a committee member for dissertations in the History Department and the Department of the History of Art and Architecture, as well as in Classics. In the process she has learnt about topics ranging from fragments of the Sesonchosis novel preserved on Egyptian papyri to the use of columnar sarcophagi at Aphrodisias as vehicles for constructing social identity.