Skip to Content

Search: {{$root.lsaSearchQuery.q}}, Page {{$}}

The Gerald F. Else Lecture in the Humanities

From Wikipedia: Gerald Frank Else (1908, Redfield, SD – 1982) was a distinguished American classicist. He was professor of Greek and Latin at University of Michigan and University of Iowa. Else is substantially credited with the refinement of Aristotelian scholarship in aesthetics in the 20th century to expand the reading of catharsis alone to include the aesthetic triad of mimesis, hamartia, and catharsis as all essentially linked to each other.

Else studied classics and philosophy at Harvard University and finished his PhD there in 1934. He taught at Harvard University until he joined the U.S. Marine Corps as a Captain in 1943. After completing his service, in 1945 he became chair of the University of Iowa Classics Department, and in 1954 went to the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, where he remained for the rest of his career. He was chair of that department from 1957-1968. During that time he founded the Center for Coordination of Ancient and Modern Studies, seeking to unite the humanities and to show how the study of the ancient world is relevant to modern literature and modern concerns.

Else's magnum opus is titled, Aristotle's Poetics: The Argument. It is a meticulous, comprehensive reading of Aristotle's treatise that was published in 1957. Widely regarded in its time as a central work of literary theory, Else's other important contribution is The Origin and Early Form of Greek Tragedy, which was published in 1965. In this work he argued against the view of tragedy as having arisen from religious ritual. Else wrote several other works on Greek literature and philosophy.

Up to Else's time, Aristotle's concept of catharsis was almost exclusively associated with the reading of Jacob Bernays who defined it as the "therapeutic purgation of pity and fear." In a convincing manner, Else refined this definition to understanding literary catharsis as, "that moment of insight which arises out of the audience's climactic intellectual, emotional, and spiritual enlightenment, which for Aristotle is both the essential pleasure and essential goal of mimetic art." For Else, catharsis is an Aristotelian concept which must be read alongside the literary concepts of mimesis and hamartia as well. These latter two concepts are usually paraphrased as "literary representation" and "intellectual error" in Else's appraisal of Aristotle's literary aesthetic theory.

Else was a member of the National Council for the Humanities, appointed by President Lyndon Johnson, and was President of the American Philological Associationin 1964. Else retired in 1977 and died in 1982. A Festschrift in his honor (Ancient and Modern: Essays in Honor of Gerald F. Else, ed. J. D'Arms and J. W. Eadie) was published in 1977. A volume of collected essays written by Else was edited by Peter Burian, an editor at the University of North Carolina Press, in 1987 fourteen of Else's essays titled Plato and Aristotle on Poetry. The volume is notable for the inclusion of the biography on Else by Burian included in the prefatory section of the book., pp xi-xvi. Gerald Else is commemorated at Michigan by an annual lecture in the humanities.


The Gerald F. Else Lecture in the Humanities

Mary Norris, author & former copy editor for The New Yorker, "Intrepid Women Travelers in Greece" - November 2nd, 2021 || View lecture


Professor Barbara Graziosi, Princeton University, "Classics, Love, Revolution: The Legacies of Luigi Settembrini" - September 29th, 2021 || View lecture


Melissa Lane, Class of 1943 Professor of Politics and the Director of the University Center for Human Values at Princeton University, "Office and Anarchy as Constitutional Ideas in Ancient Greece and Today" - November 1st, 2017.


Paul Cartledge, A.G. Leventis Professor of Greek Culture Emeritus, University of Cambridge, “Tragic Democracy Revisited; Freedom and Equality or Else Tyranny?,” Oct. 6, 2016


Mark Griffith, Klio Distinguished Professor of Classical Languages and Literature, University of California, Berkeley, “The Gender of Ancient Greek Music,” Oct. 29, 2015


Leslie Kurke, Gladys Rehard Wood Professor of Classics and Comparative Literature, University of California Berkeley, “Pindar’s Material Imaginary: Dedication and Politics in Ollympian 7,” Nov. 13, 2014


Professor Blakey Vermeule, Stanford University, “Some Belated Peasant Notes on the Lateness of Consciousness”, October 17, 2013


Professor Peter Bing, Samuel Candler Dobbs Professor of Classics, Emory University, “Inscribed Epigrams In and Out of Sequence”, Oct. 31, 2012


Oliver Taplin, Professor Emeritus, Oxford University, “Where did Tragic Theatre Come From in the First Place?”, March 29, 2012


Professor Francois Hartog, Ecole de Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, Paris, France, “The Ordering of Times: Chronography, Chronology, History”, September 29, 2010


Professor Mogens Herman Hanson, Copenhagen University, “Ancient Democratic Eleutheria and the Modern Liberal Democrats’ Conception of Freedom”, April 12, 2010


Professor Heinrich von Staden, Princeton University, “Experiments on Animals and Humans: Greek and Roman Perspectives”, November 10, 2008


Professor Stephen Halliwell, University of St. Andrews, “Is there a Poetics in Homer?”, October 22, 2007


Professor Christopher J. Gill, University of Exeter, “Concepts of Self and Therapy in Hellenistic-Roman Thought”, October 26, 2006


Professor David Quint, Yale University, “Imitation and Epic Coherence: The Odysseys of Paradise Lost, Books 2-4”, March 22, 2006


Professor Margalit Finkelberg, Tel Aviv University, “Aristotle and Episodic Tragedy”, September 30, 2004


Professor Danielle Allen, University of Chicago, “Last Words: Rhetoric, Death, and Authority,” October 30, 2003


Professor Jonathan Lear, University of Chicago, “The Efficacy of Myth in Plato’s Republic,” January 17, 2003


Professor Daniel Mendelsohn, Princeton University, “Cavafy and the Erotics of the Lost,” March 15, 2002


Professor Helene Foley, Barnard College, “The Greek Tragic Chorus: Ancient and Modern,” March 9, 2001


Professor Dr. Bernd Seidensticker, Freie Universität Berlin, "The Chorus in Greek Satyr Play," March 31, 2000


Professor Charles Segal, Walter C. Klein Professor of the Classics, Harvard University, "Rewriting Genre and Gender: Ovid's Meleager and the Greeks," March 12, 1999


Professor Claude Calame, Professor, University of Lausanne, Switzerland, "Between Author and Audience? The Choral Voice in the Performance of Greek Tragedy," March 20, 1998


Professor Froma J. Zeitlin, Charles Ewing Professor of Greek Language and Literature and Chair of Jewish Studies, Princeton University, "Redeeming Matricide? Euripides Re-reads Aeschylus' Oresteia," March 19, 1997


Professor Edmund Keeley, Professor of English and Director, Program in Hellenic Studies, Princeton University, "Nostos and the Modern Greek Sensibility in Cavafy, Seferis, and Ritsos," March 9, 1994


Professor Robin Lane Fox, Reader and Fellow in Ancient History, New College, Oxford, "The Birth of the Gods, "April 7, 1993


Professor Martha Nussbaum, University Professor and Professor of Philosophy, Classics, and Comparative Literature, Brown University, "Tragedy and Self-Sufficiency: Plato and Aristotle on Fear and Pity," January 29, 1992


Professor W. Robert Connor, Director, National Humanities Center, Research Triangle Park, NC, "Encoded Sovereignty: The Sacred Marriage Ritual of Classical Athens," November 13, 1990


Professor Dr. Albrecht Dihle, Universität Heidelberg and Visiting Professor of Classics, Harvard University, "Odysseus in Attic Tragedy," January 23, 1990


Professor Jean-Pierre Vernant, Professor Emeritus, College de France, Paris, "Feminine Figures of Death in Greece," April 14, 1986


Professor Keith Hopkins, Professor-Elect of Ancient History, Cambridge University, "The Origins of Sexual Guilt in Western Culture," March 18, 1985


Professor Fergus G.B. Millar, Ancient History, University College London, "The Political Character of the Classical Roman Republic," March 28, 1984


Professor Meyer Reinhold, Byler Distinguished Professor, Emeritus, University of Missouri and Visiting University Professor, Boston University, "Human Nature In Greco-Roman Thought," March 23, 1983


Professor Bernard Knox, Director, The Center for Hellenic Studies, Washington, D.C., "Homer and History," November 1, 1981