Professor Malcolm Heath

Professor Malcolm Heath


I studied Classics ('Literae humaniores') at Oxford University, completing my BA at Wadham College in 1980 and my doctorate ('Literary Hermeneutics Theory and Practice in the Criticism of Greek Tragedy') at Merton College in 1984. I was a Junior Research Fellow at Hertford College for three years, and then  taught for one year at the University of St Andrews. I joined the University of Leeds in 1988 as a Lecturer. I was promoted to Reader in 1991, and to a Personal Chair in 2000. 

Research interests

I began my research career as a specialist in Greek tragedy and comedy.

Working on Greek drama raised questions of methodology that sparked an interest in modern literary theory (a minority interest among classicists in the early 1980s), but also in the conjectural reconstruction of the horizons of expectations of ancient audiences and readers. From that a second research focus developed: ancient literary theory and scholarship.

Anyone interested in Greek tragedy and its ancient interpreters is bound to engage with Aristotle's Poetics. I quickly concluded that the Poetics needs to be read in the context of Aristotle's philosophy as a whole, and with an understanding of his argumentative and expository strategies. So the philosophy of Aristotle has emerged as a third research field, with the Poetics as a key but not an exclusive focus. One of my current projects is to develop an Aristotelian anthropology of poetry: what, for Aristotle, is the value of poetry as a component in an optimal human life?

Since Aristotle was not the only ancient philosopher who had ideas about poetry, a broader interest in ancient philosophical poetics has emerged as a fourth area of research. Here, too, I have found that understanding philosophers' views on poetry depends on understanding their philosophical premises and methodologies. I am currently working on Longinus, a third-century CE Platonist who (against the scholarly consensus) I think was the probably author of the treatise On Sublimity. We know quite a lot about Longinus' philosophical outlook and his interactions with contemporary philosophers, including Plotinus: what difference does that make to the interpretation of On Sublimity? 

A fifth focus is Greek rhetorical theory in late antiquity. Greek rhetoricians from the second century CE onwards developed an innovative and sophisticated system of argumentation. Modern scholars, deterred by the complexity of the theory and the density of its technical terminology, have often regarded it as scholastic, impractical and detached from its late ancient social, political and cultural context. I have challenged that view by elucidating the theory, exploring its historical development, and showing that the system was both pedagogically effective and practically relevant.


<h4>Research projects</h4> <p>Any research projects I'm currently working on will be listed below. Our list of all <a href="">research projects</a> allows you to view and search the full list of projects in the faculty.</p>


  • DPhil (Literary Hermeneutics Theory and Practice in the Criticism of Greek Tragedy)
  • MA
  • BA Literae Humaniores

Professional memberships

  • Hellenic Society
  • Classical Association

Student education

Most of my teaching relates key areas of Greek literature (such as Homer, tragedy and comedy). Fom time to time I offer specialised courses related to my current research (including an innovative practical course on ancient rhetoric). 

Research groups and institutes

  • Classics
  • Literary studies
  • Theatre, Music and Performance

Current postgraduate researchers

<h4>Postgraduate research opportunities</h4> <p>We welcome enquiries from motivated and qualified applicants from all around the world who are interested in PhD study. Our <a href="">research opportunities</a> allow you to search for projects and scholarships.</p>