Book by Bryant Kirkland – his first – is honored by Society for Classical Studies

Published: November 17, 2023
Portrait of Bryant Kirkland and book coverCourtesy of Bryant Kirkland

Sean Brenner | November 17, 2023

UCLA professor Bryant Kirkland’s first book, “Herodotus and Imperial Greek Literature,” has been recognized as one of the books of the year by the Society for Classical Studies.

Kirkland, a UCLA associate professor of classics, won the Charles J. Goodwin Award of Merit, which each year honors three outstanding contributions to classical scholarship.

“This is a highly original book, a real crucible of scholarly analysis that obliges us to think in fresh ways about the interrelationships between different texts, allowing us to calibrate voice, ethos and thought across genres and time,” the award citation reads. “One of the study’s many engaging qualities is the sheer delight with which Kirkland presents his research, making it accessible to his readers and inviting us to ask, again and again: ‘What would Herodotus do?’”

“Herodotus and Imperial Greek Literature” examines how Roman-era authors used work by Herodotus, who lived in the fifth century B.C., to help understand major issues of their own era — among them, the meaning of Rome’s empire, the nature of identity and difference and the ethical obligations involved in writing about one’s past.

Kirkland said the idea for the book was born 15 years ago while he was reading Herodotus’ “Histories” — considered the foundational historical text of Western literature — as part of a master’s degree seminar in London. “The world of his text and the dizzying variousness of the city of London became fruitfully intermingled for me, and the question of how readers at other times and places felt as they read the ‘Histories’ started to swirl.” The topic would become the subject of his doctoral dissertation at Yale University.

A member of the UCLA faculty since 2017, Kirkland teaches the “Discovering the Greeks” general education course, as well as upper-division Greek language and literature classes, and a course on Black classicism.