Laura K. Field
Assistant Instructor — PhD in Government (December 2011), University of Texas at Austin
Postdoctoral Fellow, Rhodes College
- E-mail: email@example.com
- Phone: (901) 843-3481
- Office: Rhodes College Department of Political Science
I am currently a Postdoctoral Fellow in the department of Political Science at Rhodes College, in Memphis. Originally hailing from Alberta, Canada, where I received a Master’s degree in political theory, I came to UT Austin to pursue doctoral work in political theory and public law. My dissertation is entitled “Writing in Blood: Compassion, Character, and Popular Rhetoric in Rousseau and Nietzsche,” and involves a consideration of the rhetorical dimensions of Rousseau and Nietzsche’s philosophic work, with an emphasis on autobiography and the rhetoric of character.
As a political theorist, I am especially interested in questions of political and cultural change, and on the import of philosophic rhetoric in this regard. Working on rhetoric also allows me to bridge longstanding interests in ancient and modern philosophy. I have an enduring love for ancient political thought, and have taught courses at UT Austin and at Rhodes College on the ancients. I am currently developing a course on the political philosophy of nature and the environment, which will involve a survey of competing ancient and modern perspectives on the natural world.
One chapter of the dissertation, on the rhetoric of Rousseau's Confessions, is forthcoming Spring 2013 in The Review of Politics. I have an article on Xenophon's Cyropaedia that has just come out in The Journal of Politics (Vol. 74, Issue 3, July 2012).
GOV 314 • Ancient Philosophy And Lit
MWF 900am-1000am GAR 2.128
(also listed as
CTI 301, HMN 316 )
In this course we will explore some of the enduring questions of human life that arise out of the competing literary and philosophic traditions of Greek antiquity. During the first half of the semester, our goal will be to enter the cultural world of the ancients, with the help of Homer’s Iliad and Aeschylus’ Oresteia. What do these poets have to teach us about human striving, human happiness, and the place of man in the cosmos? How, according to Homer and Aeschylus, is the human condition shaped by mortality and suffering, and what does this mean for political life? For the second part of the course we will turn to Plato’s Apology of Socrates and Republic, looking especially at his critique of the poetic outlook, and his understanding of the role of reason in shaping politics and culture. What would a perfectly just society look like, and how would its citizens be educated? What is the relationship between human excellence in general, and the distinctly human activity of thinking? Can rational inquiry improve political and cultural life?
This is a writing-intensive introductory course with no prerequisites.
Homer, Iliad. Ed. Richmond Lattimore. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1961) ISBN: 0226469409
Aeschylus, Oresteia: Agamemnon, The Libation Bearers, The Eumenides (The Complete Greek Tragedies, Vol. 1). Eds., Grene and Lattimore (New York: Penguin Books, 1984). ISBN: 0226307786
Plato and Aristophanes, Four Texts on Socrates, eds., West and West (New York: Cornell University Press, 1998). ISBN: 0801485746
Plato, Republic. Ed. Bloom (New York: Basic Books, 1968). ISBN: 0465069347
Attendance, reading assignments, quizzes, and seminar participation: 30%; three short papers (2-3 pages): 25%; midterm exam (20%); final paper (5-7 pages): 25%.
For more information about my research, visit my website
"The Philosopher Doth Protest Too Much: Rousseauian Enlightenment and the Rhetoric of Despair," accepted with minor revisions at The Review of Politics, August 2012.
Abstract: The most striking feature of Rousseau’s self-presentation in the Confessions is his pathos-filled anticipation of future adversity. Never quite arriving at the depths of despair he foresees, however, Rousseau instead offers the reader glimpses of a surprisingly robust happiness. In this article I present a new political reading of the Confessions that is attentive both to the rhetorical surface of the work, and to its charming sub-plot. Guided by Rousseau’s humorous understanding of truth-telling, I argue that the Confessions is shaped by a complex literary ruse that colors much of what Rousseau has to say about frankness, happiness, and his own idiosyncrasy. Far from being undone by his shadow-dappled imaginings, Rousseau’s conscious dissimulations reflect his concerns about the public value of enlightenment and his commitment to authorial responsibility.
“Xenophon’s Cyropaedia: Educating our Political Hopes,” The Journal of Politics, July 2012.
Abstract: Xenophon's Cyropaedia is the gripping account of one young man's rise to unprecedented political prominence. As has often been noted, however, the text is marked by an abrupt and chilling conclusion. Some have taken the ending to signify not only Cyrus’ particular political inadequacy, but also the tragic inadequacy of politics in general, and political philosophy in particular, to promote stability, justice and the common good. By examining Xenophon’s portrayal of Cyrus’ nature, education, and actions, and by comparing him to other characters of the Cyropaedia, I come to a different conclusion. Cyrus’ limits prove not to be inevitable, and the failure of his empire is not ‘generalizable’ to all political endeavors. In studying Cyrus’ case, we deepen our own thinking about civic education, justice, rule, freedom and the law—matters that Cyrus neglected—and are led to prudential insights that are vital to the cultivation and support of healthy politics.
“Writing in Blood: Compassion, Character, and Popular Rhetoric in Rousseau and Nietzsche,” December 2011.
My dissertation work explores the normative role of emotional rhetoric and the social passions (with an emphasis on compassion) in politics through a consideration of the divergent perspectives of Rousseau and Nietzsche. These two invite comparison not only because of the wide range of ideas they represent, but also because each employed rare rhetorical skill to effect extensive cultural change. To analyze this dynamic relationship between theory and practice, I focus on how each philosopher sought to transform the sentimental basis of social and political life. I argue that Rousseau, through his intentional use of sentimental rhetoric, inspired cultural romanticism and the equity of the political left, and that Nietzsche, through his extreme attack on ordinary compassion, and his invocation of tragic pity and the “pathos of distance,” hoped to prevent nihilism from taking root in the modern spirit by bringing about an age of renewed cultural depth and robust individualism.
The study is unique in its investigation of the autobiographical rhetoric of the two philosophers. I argue that both Rousseau and Nietzsche wrote autobiographies that exemplify their respective philosophical teachings on the sentiments, which is to say that in the autobiographical works they employ personal rhetoric aimed at illuminating and reinforcing these teachings. Rousseau’s pathos-filled self-presentation serves his vision for a withdrawn cultural elite that, while tolerated and quietly influential, does not enjoy public honors; Nietzsche, I suggest, worries that the cost of privatizing great individual virtue will be too high; his bombastic self-portrait not only satirizes faux Rousseauian vulnerability, but also serves personally to exemplify the possibility of a new cultural super-authority. In both cases, I suggest, a fundamental consistency exists between their theoretical teachings and their self-presentations, such that their autobiographical works should be understood as integrated parts of their greater philosophic projects.
CV - Laura K. Field
*CV available for download at bottom of page
Postdoctoral Fellow, Rhodes College Department of Political Science. August 2011 – Present. Teaching in Political Science and the interdisciplinary Humanities (“Search”) program.
Dissertation: “Writing in Blood: Compassion, Character, and Popular Rhetoric in Rousseau and Nietzsche.” Graduation December 2011.
Committee: Thomas Pangle (chair), Lorraine Pangle, Devin Stauffer, Jonathan Marks, and Gary Jacobsohn.
Ph.D., University of Texas at Austin. Department of Government, 2005 – 2011. Major Field: Political Theory. Second Field: Public Law (Constitutional Theory and Comparative Public Law)
M.A. in Political Theory, University of Alberta. Department of Political Science, 2003-2005. Thesis: “A Commentary on Plato’s Greater Hippias (or "On the Beautiful").”
B.A. (Honors), University of Alberta. Department of Political Science, 1999-2003. Major in Political Science.
Formal Exchange, Université de Montréal. Faculty of Arts, 2001-2002.
“The Philosopher Doth Protest Too Much: Rousseauian Enlightenment and the Rhetoric of Despair,” forthcoming at The Review of Politics, Vol. 75, Issue 3, Spring 2013.
“Xenophon’s Cyropaedia: Educating our Political Hopes,” The Journal of Politics, Vol. 74, Issue 3, July 2012.
Manuscripts and Presentations
2012 “Why Nietzsche Loves his Destiny,” presentation at the Midwest Political Science Association conference.
2011 “Rhetoric of the Faith,” presentation at the Northeastern Political Science Association conference.
2011 “Nietzsche’s Rhetorical Self,” presentation at the Midwest Political Science Association conference.
2010 “Rousseau's Autobiographical Mask,” presentation at the Midwest Political Science Association conference.
2009 “Nietzsche’s Complex Critique of Pity,” poster presentation, American Political Science Association conference.
2009 "Judging Modernity's Cultural Icons: Nietzsche on Rousseau," presentation, Midwest Political Science Association conference.
2009 "On the Uses and Abuses of Compassion in Rousseau," presentation, Southern Political Science Association conference.
2008 “Xenophon as Novelist: The Limitations of Cyrus and New Possibilities for Political Philosophy,” presentation, Midwest Political Science Association conference.
2007 "Hobbes' Rhetorical Legacy: 'Scientism' and Political Philosophy," presentation, Midwest Political Science Association conference.
2005 MA Thesis: “A Commentary on Plato’s Greater Hippias (or "On the Beautiful"), Department of Political Science, University of Alberta.
2003 Honors Thesis: “A Consideration of the Friend-Enemies Distinction in Plato’s Republic,” Department of Political Science, University of Alberta.
Awards and Grants
2010 University Continuing Fellowship. Awarded by the University of Texas at Austin Office of Graduate Studies.
2010 Jack Miller Center Summer Fellow. Jack Miller Center for Teaching America’s Founding Principles and History, and the Program on Constitutionalism and Democracy at the University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA.
2009 Thomas Jefferson Fellowship. Awarded by the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Study of Core Texts and Ideas, University of Texas at Austin.
2009 Malcolm Macdonald Dissertation Fellowship. Awarded by the University of Texas Department of Government.
2009 Professional Development Award. Awarded by the University of Texas at Austin Office of Graduate Studies.
2008 Donors Trust Foundation award, University of Texas at Austin.
2006 David Bruton, Jr. Fellowship. Awarded by the University of Texas at Austin.
2006 SSHRC Doctoral Fellowship. Awarded by the Social Sciences Humanities Research Council of Canada. Valid through 2008.
2005 Alberta Heritage Scholarship. Awarded by the Alberta Heritage Fund.
2003 Walter H. Johns Graduate Fellowship. Awarded by the University of Alberta Faculty of Graduate Studies.
2003 Canada Graduate Scholarship - Master’s. Awarded by the Social Sciences Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC).
2003 Duncan Alexander MacGibbon Medal in Political Science. Awarded by the University of Alberta to the graduating student in Honors Political Science with the highest academic standing.
2001 Queen Elizabeth II Silver Jubilee Endowment Fund for Study in a Second Official Language Award. Awarded by the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada.
2001 Canada Exchange Scholars (CanEx) Award. Awarded by the University of Alberta.
2012 "Humanities 101: The Search for Values in the Light of Western History and Religion." Part of the core humanities sequence at Rhodes College, this seminar involves a survey of Ancient Greek Literature as well as of the Hebrew Bible.
2012 "Humanities 102: The Search for Values in the Light of Western History and Religion." Part of the core humanities sequence at Rhodes College, this seminar involves a survey of Roman, Christian, and Islamic thought from Lucretius through Dante. Writing Intensive.
2011 “Political Questions.” A discussion-based course designed to introduce students to contemporary issues in Political Science (examples include “Climategate,” free speech, populism and extremism, the Islamic headdress, campaign finance, and social justice), as well as to longstanding theoretical questions in politics (What is just? Who should rule? How does political change happen?).
2010 “Ancient Philosophy and Literature.” Introductory undergraduate course offered at the University of Texas at Austin. Writing intensive. Texts: Iliad, Oresteia, Clouds, and Republic. Method: a mix of lecture and discussion.
2009 Democratic Compassion: For and Against. Reading seminar for alumni of the University of Texas at Austin. Texts—Fall: Selections from Plato, Aristotle, Rousseau, Nietzsche; Spring: Aeschylus, Shakespeare, Austen, Melville.
2010 Classical Quest for Justice. Taught by Devin Stauffer, UT Austin.
2009 Theoretical Foundations of Modern Politics. Taught by Russell Muirhead, UT Austin.
2009 American Politics. Taught by David Edwards, UT Austin.
2008 American Politics. Taught by David Prindle, UT Austin.
2007 Constitutional Structure of Powers. Taught by Gary Jacobsohn, UT Austin.
2007 Structure of Individual Liberties. Taught by Gary Jacobsohn, UT Austin.
2006 Founding Principles of America. Taught by Dana Stauffer, UT Austin.
2006 Founding Principles of America. Taught by Dana Stauffer, UT Austin.
2006 Constitutional Development. Taught by Gary Keith, UT Austin.
2005 Introduction to Canadian Politics. University of Alberta.
2004 Introduction to Political Theory. Taught by Heidi Studer, University of Alberta.
French - Near native reading ability, high fluency. Recent experience in academic translation as a research assistant. French immersion study, one year exchange program undertaken in French at the Université de Montréal.
German - Intermediate reading ability, intermediate fluency. Three years study at the University level, one intensive summer course at the Goethe Institute in Buenos Aires.
Greek - Intermediate reading ability. Completed the intensive summer Greek program at UT Austin, and have continued to partake in small reading groups.
Spanish - High reading ability, intermediate fluency. Spent several months studying Spanish in Xalapa, Veracruz, and completed Intermediate Spanish at the University of Alberta.
Volunteer Work and Other Employment
2000-2005 Interpretive Centre, Jasper National Park, Alberta (summers only)
1999-2000 Peer Advisor and Volunteer, University of Alberta International Centre.
1999 Full Time Volunteer Child Care Worker, Sheela Bal Bhavan, Jaipur, India.
1996-1998 Various Positions, UNICEF Canada.
Books, music, travel, yoga, swimming, skiing, hiking.
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