Location: Bowdoin / mnerdahl


Michael D. Nerdahl

Lecturer in Classics

Contact Information


Sills Hall - 9

Teaching this semester

CLAS 3306. Leadership, Morality, and the Ancients: The Works of Plutarch

“One cannot read Plutarch without a tingling of the blood.” A prolific author, Plutarch produced dynamic writings on such topics as education, self-improvement, the nature of the soul, the virtues of men and women, music, natural science, vegetarianism, and love. His eclectic philosophical thought culminated in his greatest work, the “Parallel Lives,” a collection of biographies on statesmanship designed to present examples from Greco-Roman history—like Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, Antony and Cleopatra, not to mention preeminent leaders from Sparta and Athens—to serve as mirrors for ethical self-reflection. Considers the context of Plutarch’s philosophy and literary presentation and how they relate to modern leadership, ethical behavior, multi-cultural understanding, and the utility of moral instruction. Readings likely to include works of Plato as well as selections from Plutarch’s “Moralia” and “Parallel Lives.” All readings in English. Research Seminar.

GRK 2204. Homer

An introduction to the poetry of Homer. Focuses both on reading and on interpreting Homeric epic. All materials and coursework in Greek.

Michael Nerdahl

Michael is a lifelong Badger, having received his B.S., M.A., and Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin. He teaches classes of all levels in Latin and Greek, as well as courses in ancient culture (Mythology, Greek Civilization) and Roman history and politics, particularly of the Roman Republic. 

Michael specializes in Greco-Roman historiography, with a particular focus on literary and ideological filtering in historians of the Roman empire. His focus has been on the Imperial Greek philosopher/moralist Plutarch, and he has published and lectured extensively on the Parallel Lives.  Plutarch, a mainland Greek who became a Roman citizen, was primarily concerned with instructing his students on how to become better individuals and statesmen through a process of self-reflection and critical thought, and his Parallel Lives are an attempt to present universal examples that instruct and teach citizens and politicians across the ages.  As Emerson wrote, "One cannot read Plutarch without a tingling of the blood."

Michael hosts Latin Tea Friday afternoons, where we read original texts and cookies in order to buck up before facing the drudgery of a weekend without Latin class.  He is also an advocate of oral Latin, Nero, Themistocles, and the Milwaukee Brewers.