Joe MacDonald

Doctoral Candidate
Office of the Provost: Analyst, Academic Initiatives
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    Joe’s research and teaching include topics like Greek Imperial literature, Senecan tragedy, and the conservation of ancient sculpture. His primary research concerns the Ancient Novel, and he is writing a dissertation on Achilles Tatius’ Leukippe and Kleitophon.

    Joe’s dissertation focuses on narrative, gender, and metanovelistic discourse in Achilles Tatius. He examines the descriptions of paintings, landscapes, artefacts, animals, and romantic pursuit to demonstrate how narrators –at each diegetic level– assimilate these descriptions to erotic literature and sexual metaphors. Careful scrutiny of these descriptions shows how narrators consistently rework erotic models to shape the politics of consent and coercion, privilege adherence to erotic tropes and metaphors (even at the expense of consistency of detail), and structure space around protected interiors. This approach, common to narrators in the embedded and embedding narrative, inasmuch as it suggests a sustained program of metalepsis involving not only particular images or verbal echoes but also the very processes involved in constructing narrative, calls into question the autonomy of speakers in the text and exposes a tension between the story ‘in actuality’ and in its assembled form. Within this tension lies hints of a ‘truer’ story still to be told, one both corrective of the self-interested distortions in the characterization of Kleitophon and inclusive of suppressed voices and plotlines. The promotion of some perspectives and suppression of others participate in the work’s broader metageneric commentary and provides further insight into generic thinking on the novel in antiquity. Joe’s interest in the novel originates in a project on visuality in the Greek Novel undertaken during a summer-long seminar on image and text at the Getty Villa, funded in part by the Getty Foundation. This training in visual culture, along with coursework on narratology and gender, informs the methodology undergirding his dissertation. He has presented research related to his dissertation at the Society for Classical Studies Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C. and the Rethymnon International Conference on the Ancient Novel in Rethymno, Crete.

    At WashU, Joe has welcomed the opportunity to cultivate his interests in pedagogy and academic administration. He has served as a T.A. for Greek Mythology, Ancient Magic, and Greek Art and Archaeology. He has acted as Instructor of Record for a freshman seminar on Neronian Literature, introductory Latin language classes, and an intermediate Latin literature course. In 2018, The Graduate School of Arts & Sciences recognized his efforts with the Dean’s Award for Teaching Excellence. Along with some of his fellow graduate students, he also designed a module for departmental outreach in conjunction with the University’s Institute for Civic and Community Engagement. He presented an overview of this program at the Missouri Classical Association Annual Meeting.

    At the invitation of then-Executive Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Holden Thorp, Joe joined the Office of the Provost in 2018. Now, as Analyst for Academic Initiatives, his portfolio includes a variety of projects across the University. His work ranges from engineering opportunities for furthering undergraduate academic support to exploring potential university partnerships with regional stakeholders. He has also represented the Classics department as both the Graduate Student Senator and Graduate Council Representative. In 2019, he was named to the Search Committee for the Dean of the School of Arts & Sciences. 

    Prior to enrolling in the PhD program, Joe taught Greek and Latin at Saint Louis Priory School. There, he quadrupled the size of the Greek program, developed a curriculum for a discussion-based Classical texts course taught in translation, and led the Classics department in integrating a Learning Management System into elementary Latin courses. He also served as an advisor, moderator of the Mock Trial program, and head coach of the Ultimate Frisbee team. In addition to his roles on the admissions, instructional technology, and faculty peer-mentoring committees, Joe served as the Director of Summer Academic Programs. In this capacity, he oversaw budgeting, faculty hiring, curriculum development, and marketing, increasing program offerings considerably and growing revenue by almost 400%. Even as a doctoral candidate, Joe has remained involved in secondary education. He teaches as a substitute at John Burroughs School, has helped start a Latin program at a local elementary school, and contributes to the Strategic Planning committee for the Board of Trustees at Villa Duchesne.

    In recent years, ultimate frisbee and pick-up basketball have given way to chasing his son around the playground and reading Thomas the Tank Engine. He still manages to find time to lose to his partner in darts.


    MA, Classics, Washington University in St. Louis

    BA, Classics, Middlebury College