Eirene Visvardi teaches and writes about Greek literature in its performance context, its role in ancient intellectual and political life, and the ways in which it can offer insights into current thinking about democratic practices. The questions that drive her work regard the nature and structure of the emotions and their motivational power; the relationship between individual and collective, especially in the context of democratic institutions; and the role of different aesthetic, discursive, and performative forms including theater, philosophy, law-court oratory, and medical texts in shaping perceptions of the “subject” and political dialogue.

In her book Emotion in Action: Thucydides and the Tragic Chorus (Brill Mnemosyne Supplements 2015), she juxtaposes her analysis of choral discourse in the three major tragedians to Thucydides’ depiction of collective emotion and decision-making to show that how tragedy and historiography confront an issue that dominates Athenian public life: how to channel the motivational power of collective emotion into judicious action that contributes to collective prosperity. She argues that the choral discourse of the emotions, especially pity and fear, suggests a variety of ways to experience, envision, and practice social and political participation and offers paradigms of affective participation to be taken outside the theater. 

In her current book project, she examines approaches to the legal subject in Athenian democracy and brings them to dialogue with current debates. She focuses on discourses of truth and approaches to privacy, autonomy, accountability, and the right to participation in legal and political practices. More specifically she examines confessional discourse in the Athenian law-court and in story telling before the genre of confession comes to be delineated as such; the relationship between torture, truth, and constructions of natural or “necessary” identities in democracy; the autonomy of the female body and the believability of the female voice; and other conceptions and practices of surveillance, privacy, and individual rights in Athenian democracy and utopian polities.

Visvardi is Associate Professor of Classical Studies and core faculty at the College of Letters. She teaches courses on Greek drama and its reception; ancient aesthetics; gender and sexuality in antiquity and today; utopias/dystopias in Greek literature and across time in different genres and media; Greek law and legal ethics and their contribution to our engagement with current law and political theory. She also teaches all levels of ancient Greek.