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Beauty Transformed

Seminar Center for Global Humanities Lecture/Seminar Series

David Konstan

David Konstan

Professor of Classics, New York University

Modern aesthetics has encountered deep problems concerning the nature of beauty.  For example, beauty is associated with erotic attraction, and yet it is widely supposed that the proper response to a beautiful work of art is disinterested contemplation. Likewise, it is debated whether a work of art can be called beautiful if its subject matter is repulsive. These dilemmas seem not to have troubled the ancient Greeks. Was their conception of beauty different from our own? Did they even have a distinct idea of beauty? Eminent authorities have denied that they did, and the question remains controversial. In my lecture, I argue that the Greeks did indeed have an idea of beauty, and that scholars have been confused because they have been looking at the wrong Greek words.


David Konstan is Professor of Classics at New York University.  Among his books are Roman Comedy (1983); Sexual Symmetry: Love in the Ancient Novel and Related Genres (1994); Greek Comedy and Ideology (1995); Friendship in the Classical World (1997); Pity Transformed (2001); The Emotions of the Ancient Greeks: Studies in Aristotle and Classical Literature (2006); A Life Worthy of the Gods: The Materialist Psychology of Epicurus (2008); Before Forgiveness: The Origins of a Moral Idea (2010), and most recently, Beauty: The Fortunes of an Ancient Greek Idea (2014), published by Oxford University Press in the Onassis Series on Hellenic Culture.  He is a past president of the American Philological Association, and a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and honorary fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities.

Assigned Reading

David Konstan, Beauty: The Fortunes of an Ancient Greek Idea (Oxford University Press, 2014)


A reception will be held at 5:00 pm at the UNE Art Gallery


Center for Global Humanities


(207) 221-4435

Beauty Transformed Event Poster
6:00 PM
WCHP Lecture Hall in Parker Pavilion

Portland Campus

Free and open to the public