Slater, Niall W. 1954-

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SLATER, Niall W. 1954-

PERSONAL: Born August 19, 1954, in Massillon, OH, USA; son of John Eick (a teacher) and Thelma (a teacher; maiden name, Tourney) Slater. Education: College of Wooster, B.A. (with honors), 1976; Princeton University, M.A., 1978, Ph.D., 1981; graduate study at American School of Classical Studies at Athens, Greece, 1979-80. Religion: Lutheran.

ADDRESSES: Offıce—Center for Language, Literature, and Culture, Emory University, 1380 S. Oxford Rd., Atlanta, GA 30322. E-mail—[email protected]

CAREER: Concordia College, Moorhead, MN, assistant professor of classics, 1981-82; University of Southern California, Los Angeles, assistant professor, 1982-87, associate professor of classics, 1987-91; Emory University, Atlanta, GA, professor of classics, 1991—, chair of Department of Classics, 1991-94, director of Center for Language, Literature, and Culture, 1998—. National Endowment for the Humanities Comedy Institute, codirector, summer, 1987; Embassy Residential College, University of Southern California, faculty master, 1989-90; conference organizer for Performance Criticism of Greek Comedy, Emory University, 1991; visiting fellow at various universities.

MEMBER: Archaeological Institute of America, American Philological Association, Petronian Society, Women's Classical Caucus, Cambridge Philological Society, Classical Association of the Middle West and South, Georgia Classical Association, Pacific Ancient and Modern Language Association, Phi Beta Kappa (president, 2003—).

AWARDS, HONORS: Fellow of American Council of Learned Societies, 1984-85; junior fellow at Center for Hellenic Studies, 1987-88; Alexander von Humboldt fellow at University of Konstanz, 1988-89; Plautus in Performance: The Theatre of the Mind was named one of the outstanding academic books of 1985 by Choice. Recipient of many grants.


Plautus in Performance: The Theatre of the Mind, Princeton University Press (Princeton, NJ), 1985, 2nd edition, Harwood Academic (Amsterdam, Netherlands), 2000.

Reading Petronius, Johns Hopkins University Press (Baltimore, MD), 1990.

Spectator Politics: Metatheater and Performance inAristophanes, University of Pennsylvania Press (Philadelphia, PA), 2002.

Contributor to journals of classical studies and philology.

SIDELIGHTS: Niall W. Slater, a professor of classical studies at Emory University, has long been interested in ancient drama. In addition to teaching about the works of classical Greek and Roman authors, he has helped to arrange conferences about and performances of ancient works, participated in archaeological excavations of ancient sites, and published several studies about Greek and Roman dramatists. In his first such study, Plautus in Performance: The Theatre of the Mind, Slater focuses on performance aspects of the dramas by Roman playwright Plautus, a topic that had been little explored at that time. As Phoenix reviewer Peter L. Smith noted, the work's "achievement is to bring into focus crucial aspects of Plautine technique that we have all probably sensed but not consciously articulated." Smith praised Slater's work of literary criticism for its originality and basis in "sound philological principles." "These are not routine textual analyses: time and again, Slater offers highly original theatrical suggestions and imaginative critical insight," lauded Smith, who added that in this "deceptively slim and elegantly written volume, Niall Slater has produced a work of literary criticism that is guaranteed to instruct, challenge, delight, and provoke every student of Roman drama."

In 1990 Slater published his next study, Reading Petronius, which, according to Choice's C. J. Zabrowski, is a "sensitive narratological analysis" of the Satyricon, Petronius's fragmentary novel. Slater's study is made up of three different readings of the novel. In each reading he employs a different analytical format and method, and in the opinion of Graham Anderson, writing in the Classical Review, each subsequent reading is more difficult than the previous interpretation to understand, particularly as it pertains to methodology. One such analytical technique is the reader-response method, and Phoenix's Roger Beck pondered if this method is the best technique to use in analyzing Satyricon, in part because it begs the question "Which audience—ancient or modern" is providing the response to the work? David Konstan also expressed reservations about this method in his Classical Philology review. Yet while Konstan did not agree with all of Slater's conclusions, he appreciated Slater's interpretations for enabling "a sensitive encounter with the text." For the contemporary reader, "the achievement of Reading Petronius is that it finally lets us put to rest our scruples about anachronism and read the Satyricon as a thing marvellously ahead of its time, a novel in the fullest sense," continued Beck, adding, "Slater is a perceptive reader of Petronius and will prove an informative, witty, and genial guide for other readers of the Satyricon, both new and old." In the Virginia Quarterly Review a critic judged this study to be "erudite, brilliant, and stylishly written."

In Spectator Politics: Metatheater and Performance in Aristophanes, Slater provides "compelling readings" of eight comedic plays by Greek dramatist Aristophanes, noted a Virginia Quarterly Review contributor. Metatheater, the method by which the playwright reveals in the work that the play in question is an artifice, is the primary topic of Slater's analysis. Amy R. Cohen, who noted that Slater "demonstrates considerable theatrical sensitivity," praised the title as well. In the American Journal of Philology, she remarked that "Slater finds a welcome alternative to thoroughly ironic readings of the plays and to readings that acknowledge no unity of thought behind the performances, only laugh-creating gimmicks." Although, Cohen added, "the book shows some signs of having been put together in part from previously published works," she found its faults to be minor. "Slater's partisanship on behalf of comedy and Aristophanes is well grounded and persuasive" and his "admiration for the comedian's genius is infectious, which is by no means the least of the virtues of his book," she added. Several scholars remarked on the currency of the plays' themes, including Emily Wilson of the Times Literary Supplement, who wrote, "Slater certainly makes Aristophanes seem like essential reading for anyone interested in contemporary American or British politics." Finally, a Choice reviewer summed up Spectator Politics as "a fine and learned addition to the field."

Slater told CA: "My principal interest is in performance criticism of ancient drama. I have also excavated at Pella, Jordan, with the Wooster/Sydney expedition."



American Journal of Philology, summer, 2003, Amy R. Cohen, review of Spectator Politics: Metatheater and Performance in Aristophanes, p. 309.

Choice, January, 1991, C. J. Zabrowski, review of Reading Petronius; February, 2003, D. Konstan, review of Spectator Politics, p. 979.

Classical Philology, January, 1992, David Konstan, review of Reading Petronius, pp. 85-90.

Classical Review, Volume 41, number 2, 1991, Graham Anderson, review of Reading Petronius, pp. 340-341.

Phoenix, summer, 1986, Peter L. Smith, review of Plautus in Performance, pp. 218-220; spring, 1992, Roger Beck, review of Reading Petronius, pp. 69-72.

Times Literary Supplement, January 17, 2003, Emily Wilson, "Cut the Orchestra," review of Spectator Politics.

Virginia Quarterly Review, spring, 1991, review of Reading Petronius, p. 48; summer, 2003, review of Spectator Politics, p. 84.


Emory University, (September 29, 2003), Eric Rangus, "A Classical President."*