Alex Purves

A photo of Alex Purves
E-mail: Phone: 310-825-8873 Office: Dodd Hall 226B

I joined the UCLA faculty in 2002 after completing my Ph.D. at the University of Pennsylvania and my BA and MA degrees at the University of Nottingham (UK). My main area of interest is Greek literature from the archaic and classical periods. My first book was on space and landscape in the early Greek epic and prose tradition, Space and Time in Ancient Greek Narrative (Cambridge University Press, 2010). More recently, I have written on embodiment and repetition in Greek epic as well as on the senses. In my most recent book, Homer and the Poetics of Gesture  (Oxford University Press, 2019),  I isolate particular expressions or frames of movement which I call gestures (falling, running, leaping, standing, reaching), sometimes looking at one specific gesture in isolation and sometimes reading various articulations of the same gesture from different parts of the epics in juxtaposition. I argue that the poem places formulaic language and gesture in an analogous relationship, in order to articulate what we might best describe as Homer’s kinetic sensibility; the sensory, bodily “habits” of epic structure and verse. In various articles and in two edited volumes, Synaesthesia and the Ancient Senses (with Shane Butler, Acumen/Routledge, 2013), and Touch and the Ancient Senses  (Routledge 2018) I have also written on the ancient senses, focusing especially on the haptic. My current project, Micro-Sappho, considers the ontological status of tiny, minute or immaterial words and things in Sappho’s poetry. This coincides somewhat with an interest in the elements in poetry (specifically air and water).

I have served on the editorial boards of Classical Antiquity and Classical Receptions Journal.

I teach graduate and undergraduate courses in ancient Greek language, literature, and thought, as well as GE courses on Classical Mythology (CL 30) and The Fantastic Journey: Antiquity and Beyond (CL 60). In 2017, I was the recipient of UCLA’s Distinguished Teaching Award, with a special commendation for graduate teaching.

Students interested in pursuing graduate work with me are encouraged to get in touch. You can listen to this interview to learn more about my work, mentoring, and research.


  • BA (Hons) English and Classical Studies, University of Nottingham, UK 1993
  • MA in Classical Studies, University of Nottingham, UK 1995
  • Post-baccalaureate program in Classical Studies, University of Pennsylvania 1997
  • PhD in Classical Studies, University of Pennsylvania, 2002




  • GRK 1–3 Introduction to Ancient Greek
  • GRK 20 Intermediate Greek I (Lucian)
  • GRK 100 Intermediate Greek II (Xenophon, Plato)
  • GRK 100+ Advanced Greek (Homer; Hesiod; Lysias; Euripides; Sophocles; Apollonius)
  • CL 30 Classical Mythology (GE)
  • CL 60 The Fantastic Journey: From Homer to 2001: a space odyssey (GE)
  • CL 191 Capstone Seminar (The Immortal Experience; Aeschylus’ Other Plays)
  • Hon 13 Honors Collegium Seminar
  • CL 19 Fiat Lux Seminar (Sappho)
  • GRK 200A Archaic Greek Poetry MA Survey
  • GRK 200B Classical Greek Literature MA Survey
  • CL 287 Graduate Proseminar
  • GRK 200+ Graduate Seminars (Homer’s Iliad; Homer’s Odyssey; Hesiod; Sappho; Herodotus; Aristophanes; Sappho & Alcaeus)

Fellowships and Awards

  • UCLA Distinguished Teaching Award, with special commendation for graduate teaching. 2017.
  • Spinoza Visiting Research Fellow. Leiden, Netherlands. 2016.
  • UCLA Faculty Career Development Award. 2009–2010 & 2004–2005.
  • American Council of Learned Societies, Fellow. 2005–2006.
  • Center for Hellenic Studies, Junior Fellow. 2005–2006.
  • National Endowment for the Humanities. Summer Stipend. 2005.