James Loeb Professor of the Classics
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.
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), and two Loeb Classical Monographs, Images for Classicists (2015), arising from the presidential panel that she organized at the annual meeting of the American Philological Association in 2012, and Albert’s Anthology (2017), a collection of short papers dedicated to Albert Henrichs (1942–2017) by 76 colleagues and students who worked with him over his long and distinguished career.
In addition to her work on Latin poetry, Kathleen Coleman is also interested in prose authors, especially the younger Pliny, who was the subject of her presidential address to the American Philological Association, “Bureaucratic language in the correspondence between Pliny and Trajan,” Transactions of the Philological Association (2012), 189–238. Alongside her literary scholarship, she has published extensively on the spectacles of the Roman arena, starting with the article “Fatal charades: Roman executions staged as mythological enactments,” Journal of Roman Studies 80 (1990), 44–73. As a result of her connections with southern Africa, she has also published several articles on the influence of the Classics on the South African poet, Douglas Livingstone, most recently “Antiquity’s undertone: classical resonances in the poetry of Douglas Livingstone,” in Grant Parker, ed., South Africa, Greece, Rome: Classical Confrontations (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2017), 410–441.
Other recent articles by Professor Coleman include “Getting away from it all" (on Statius, Siluae 3.5.85–86), in Albert’s Anthology, 37–39; “Virgil, Aeneid 4.379–380,” in Paul Corcoran, ed., Line of Enquiry: Favourite Lines from Classical Literature (Dublin: Trinity College Dublin Press, 2017), 66–67; “Recent advances in understanding violent spectacle at Rome,” Seiyoshi Ronso (Studies in Western History) 39 (2017), 51–59 (translated into Japanese by Yuko Fukuyama); and “The fragility of evidence: torture in ancient Rome,” in Scott A. Anderson and Martha C. Nussbaum, eds., Confronting Torture: Essays on the Ethics, Legality, History, and Psychology of Torture Today (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2018), 105–119. Her current book-length projects include an expanded version of the Jerome Lectures that she delivered in 2010 on “Q. Sulpicius Maximus, Poet, Eleven Years Old,” to appear with the University of Michigan Press; a study of arena spectacles for Yale University Press; and a monograph on Roman public executions for OUP.
Professor Coleman’s research has been recognized in honors and awards locally and internationally. 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 2002 she delivered the 15th Todd Memorial Lecture at the University of Sydney and in 2003 the opening lecture in the series of Wolfson Lectures at Oxford to honor the centenary of Sir Ronald Syme. 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, in 2012 a Corresponding Member of the Bayerische Akademie der Wissenschaften (Bavarian Academy of Sciences and Humanities), in 2020 a Corresponding Fellow of the British Academy, and in 2021 a Member of the American Philosophical Society, the oldest learned society in the United States, founded by Benjamin Franklin in 1743. In 2010 she delivered the Thomas Spencer Jerome Lectures at the American Academy in Rome and the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. In 2013–14 she spent a profoundly stimulating year in Germany as a Fellow of the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin, and in 2017–18 a similarly stimulating and productive year as the Elinor Lunder Founders’ Circle Member in the School of Historical Studies at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. Later in 2018 she delivered the Syme Lecture at Wolfson College, Oxford.
Professor Coleman has taught widely across the Classics curriculum at both the undergraduate and graduate level, in the Harvard College Program in General Education, and in the “great books” course for first-year students at the College, Humanities 10. She has received four teaching awards at Harvard: in 2003 she was appointed Harvard College Professor, a five-year appointment in recognition of contributions to teaching; 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 2019 she received the Phi Beta Kappa Prize for Excellent in Teaching at Harvard College; and in 2020 she received the Everett Mendelsohn Excellence in Mentoring Award from the Graduate Student Council in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences at Harvard University. In 2021–22 she served as Professor in Charge at the Intercollegiate Center for Classical Studies in Rome (the “Centro”), a fascinating experience that she described in an interview released as a podcast towards the end of her year’s appointment.
Professor Coleman has supervised several doctoral dissertations on Latin authors, including Cicero, Martial, and Statius, on literary and epigraphic topics, and on cultural issues in the Roman world ranging from social mobility in Campania to 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.
Professor Coleman is also concerned to promote Classics more widely, and spoke about the opportunities and challenges of studying the ancient Mediterranean world in East Asia at the annual meeting of the Society for Classical Studies in 2016, "Nondum Arabes Seresque rogant: Classics Looks East.” She 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. She has recently contributed some thoughts about the problematic authenticity of the Nile Mosaic at Palestrina on Hestia, the Classics blog at Trinity College Dublin.
Professor Coleman has edited volumes 105 and 106 of Harvard Studies in Classical Philology, and she is currently a member of the Editorial (or Advisory) Board of Acta Classica; The American Journal of Philology; Eirene; Exemplaria Classica; Giornale Italiano di Filologia and its monograph series, Bibliotheca; Guangqi Classical Review; Mnemosyne and Mnemosyne Supplements; Rivista di Filologia e Istruzione Classica; and Trends in Classics. She served on the Comité scientifique of the Fondation Hardt in Vandoeuvres, Switzerland, 2006–2014, and as co-editor with Richard Rutherford (Christ Church, Oxford) of Oxford Approaches to Classical Literature, a series published by Oxford University Press (USA), which produced nine volumes. She is co-editor, with R. R. R. Smith and Oliver Taplin, of Oxford Studies in Ancient Culture and Representation. 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 on the website of the Society for Classical Studies, which also features a page containing tips for the acquisition and use of images for teaching and research by text-based scholars. Since 2020 she has been President of the Internationale Thesaurus-Kommission of the Bayerische Akademie in Munich, Germany, to which she is the American delegate. A lecture she delivered about the TLL under the auspices of the Paideia Institute is available on YouTube.