Professor Melissa Lane appointed as the 50th Professor of Rhetoric

Professor Melissa Lane

We are delighted to announce the appointment of Professor Melissa Lane as the 50th Professor of Rhetoric at Gresham College.  

Professor Lane is the Class of 1943 Professor of Politics at Princeton University and is also Director of the University Center for Human Values at Princeton. She was previously a University Senior Lecturer in the History Faculty of the University of Cambridge, and a Fellow of King’s College, Cambridge, as well as the Carlyle Lecturer at Oxford, where she will return as the Isaiah Berlin Visiting Professor in Michaelmas 2024.

Professor Lane’s specialist areas are ancient Greek political thought and the ethics and politics of climate change.

Professor Melissa Lane said:  “As someone fascinated by the history of political ideas, the lineage of Gresham Professors sharing ideas for free with the public of London (and now the world) for over four hundred years is one I am absolutely delighted and honoured to join.

“Rhetoric is an ancient Greek word for the practice of persuading through logos, ethos, and pathos. 

“Whether it is understanding the demands of political office or diagnosing why climate change is so hard to address, ancient Greek philosophers like Plato and Aristotle can help us to rethink the ideas we take for granted and so open the way to new political possibilities.”

Professor Martin Elliott, Provost of Gresham College, said: “We are privileged to have appointed Professor Melissa Lane to be the 50th Professor of Rhetoric at Gresham College. 

“She is an acknowledged expert on the political structures and ideas of ancient Greece, and she will compare and contrast those times with the rather challenging politics of the current era. 

“She will remind us of the origins of political thought and institutions and make us think about what works and what does not. I can’t wait to hear her.”

In 2023-4 Professor Lane will speak about: The Political Imagination: Ancient Greek Ideas.
This series explores the vocabulary of ancient Greek political ideas which lie at the intersection of rhetoric, philosophy, ethics and politics. The six ideas - political office, justice, equal law, democracy, expertise, and the nature of social growth - are central to the organization of power and the values it might serve. By drawing on Greek literature, history and philosophy to articulate these ideas, and testing them against contemporary dilemmas such as climate change, these lectures will expand listeners' political imaginations.  

Tickets and online registration open in August when our full 2023-24 programme is published.