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Department of Classics

Cornell University Cornell University Cornell Univeristy Department of Classics

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Red-Figure Bell Krater

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Roman Glass Bottle

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Lid of an Etruscan cinerary urn


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Fontaine, Michael

Associate Professor

phone: 607/255-5541
room: Goldwin Smith Hall, Room 121

Department Appointments

  • Classics (CLASS)

Graduate Fields

  • Classics


Latin Literature



Spring 2015 Office Hours:
MW 11:00-11:30, and by appointment

Spring 2015
Latin Historiography (LATIN 2208)
Survey of Latin Literature (LATIN 4204)

I teach a lot of Latin. In the last five years, graduate courses covered Plautus, Sallust, Lucretius, Suetonius, Ovid, and the survey of Latin literature; undergraduate courses covered Virgil, Catullus, Cicero, Sallust, and Livy + Tacitus.

I teach an undergraduate course in English titled "Paranoia and Conspiracy in Ancient Fact and Fiction" (CLASS 2632/COML 2632) and in the Winter Term I teach Greek Mythology (CLASS 2604). In fall 2015 I'll offer a new course titled 'Introduction to Ancient Rome.'

Selected Publications

Newer major publications:

2016. 'Is the Story of Susanna and the Elders based on a Greek New Comedy? The Evidence of Plautus' Casina and Burmeister's Susanna.' In Roman Drama and its Contexts, de Gruyter, 2016 (forthcoming).

2015. 'Freudian Bullseyes in Classical Perspective--The Psycholinguistics of Guilt in Virgil's Aeneid.'  

2015. (ed., tr.) Joannes Burmeister:  Aulularia and other Inversions of Plautus.  Leuven University Press (Bibliotheca Latinitatis Novae).

Joannes Burmeister of Lüneburg (1576-1638) was among the greatest Neo-Latin poets of the German Baroque. His masterpieces, now mostly lost, are Christian ‘inversions’ of the classical Roman comedies of Plautus. With only minimal changes in language and none in meter, each transforms Plautus’ pagan plays into comedies based on biblical themes. Singular Renaissance curiosities in their day, they have since been entirely forgotten.  This volume offers the first critical edition of the newly discovered Aulularia (1629), which exists in a sole copy, and the fragments of Mater-Virgo (1621), which adapts Plautus’ Amphitryo to show the Nativity of Jesus. The introduction offers reconstructions of Susanna (based on Casina) and Asinaria (1625), his two lost or unpublished inversions of Plautus. It also provides the only biography of Burmeister based on archival sources, along with discussions of his inimitable Latinity and the perilous context of war and witch burning in which he wrote. Scholars of early modern literature will take special interest in the poetic German plot summaries (also translated), while students of the Thirty Years War or Holy Roman Empire will want to add Burmeister's views on military abuses to those of Grimmelshausen's Simplicius Simplicissimus.

2014. 'On Religious and Psychiatric Atheism: The Success of Epicurus, the Failure of Thomas Szasz.' (August 26).

2014. (ed.) The Oxford Handbook of Greek and Roman Comedy. Co-edited with Adele Scafuro.  Oxford University Press.

2014. ‘Dynamics of Appropriation in Roman Comedy:  Menander’s Kolax in Three Roman Receptions (Naevius, Plautus, and Terence’s Eunuchus),’ in Ancient Comedy and Reception. Essays etc. De Gruyter.

2014. ‘The Reception of Greek Comedy in Rome,’ in The Cambridge Companion to Greek Comedy.

2013. ‘On Being Sane in an Insane Place—the Laboratory of Plautus’ Epidamnus,’ Current Psychology. (reposted with comments at; an oral version here)

2010. Funny Words in Plautine Comedy. Oxford University Press. (BMCR review here)


For older, minor, and forthcoming publications, see