Interview with Thornton Lockwood (Quinnipiac), Editor of Polis

I am continuing a series of interviews with journal editors (see the previous entry with Anna Marmodoro) with Thornton Lockwood, editor of Polis: The Journal for Ancient Greek and Roman Political Thought.

Thornton is Professor of Philosophy at Quinnipiac University and the Program Director of the First-Year Seminar. He received a BA in history from Hamilton College, a MA in the Liberal Arts from St. John’s College (Annapolis), and a Ph.D. in Philosophy from Boston University. His scholarly research focuses on ancient Greek and Roman ethical and political thought and its subsequent reception. He has co-edited two volumes, Aristote Politique VII: La constitution « selon nos vœux » (Polis, 2019) and Aristotle’s Politics: A Critical Guide (Cambridge University Press, 2015). His research on Aeschylus, Herodotus, Plato, Aristotle, and Cicero has been published in journals such as Phronesis, the Journal of the History of Philosophy, History of Political Thought, Interpretation, Apeiron, Ancient Philosophy, Review of Politics, Dialogue, and Archiv für Geschichte der Philosophie.

I first asked Thornton to share some of the relevant data on Polis:

For the five years from 2016-2020:

  • We received a total of 130 submissions. We accepted 37 submissions for publication and rejected 93 (for an average acceptance rate during that period of 28%).
  • We aim to provide a final decision for submitted manuscripts within 60 days and to provide every manuscript with two referee reports.
  • There was a wide range of time from article submission until final decision: the shortest period was 1 day (and that happens not infrequently for desk rejections) and the longest was 422 days.
  • The average wait for a final decision was 98 days, or slightly more than three months.
  • Our submission remit is scholarship on ancient Greek and Roman political thought and its subsequent reception in the hellenistic, medieval, modern, and postmodern periods. We’re rather catholic (lower case c) both in disciplinary focus and in our understanding of the term ‘political.’ We welcome submissions from political theorists, ancient philosophers, ancient historians, and classicists (and beyond) and have published articles on subjects such as Greek and/or Roman politics, ethics, social philosophy, literature, rhetoric, reception, and history (and beyond).
  • We currently accept submissions in English, French, and German.
  • Polis has a superb staff of associate editors who referee submissions in their subject areas and do much of the heavy-lifting involved with fair, prompt, careful peer-review. In alphabetical order:
    • Carol Atack (Newnham College, University of Cambridge): oversees submissions on Greek political thought (esp. Plato and Xenophon)
    • Benjamin Gray (Birkbeck College, University of London): oversees submissions on Hellenistic Greek political thought
    • Daniel Kapust (University of Wisconsin-Madison): oversees submissions on Roman political thought
    • Demetra Kasimis (University of Chicago): oversees submissions on political aspects of Greek literature and drama
    • Manuel Knoll (Turkish-German University Istanbul): oversees German-language submissions
    • Peter Liddel (University of Manchester): oversees submissions on Greek political thought (esp. historical aspects)
    • Dimitri El Murr (Ecole Normale Supérieure, Université Paris Sciences et Lettres): oversees French-language submissions
  • We publish approximately a dozen book-reviews in every issue, with a target length of 1500 words per review. We also offer the option of writing extended “review essays” (c. 5,000 words) of books, although only at the invitation of the book review editor. Polis generally commissions book reviews, although review authors can self-nominate. Matt Simonton is our Book Review Editor and interested parties may email him.
What drew you to the study of ancient philosophy?
As an undergraduate student I was a history major interested in intellectual history, esp. enlightenment thinkers (Rousseau, Voltaire, Hume, etc.). I wrote my senior thesis on Thomas Jefferson’s moral philosophy and discovered that I knew almost nothing about the thinkers he engaged with frequently in his correspondence. So I began my study of ancient thought at St. John’s College (Annapolis), ultimately with the goal of returning to 18th century American intellectual history, after I had figured out “ancient philosophy.” Still working on that. (Although I did note, the other day, that Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Thomas Ricks just published First Principles. What America’s Founders Learned from the Greeks and Romans and how That Shaped our Country [Harper Collins, 2020], so maybe I can let that urge dissipate–that’s basically the book I hoped to someday write!)
What’s the most helpful piece of advice you have received about working on ancient philosophy?
Back in the 1990s I proposed to my mentor (Charles Griswold, Boston University) that I wanted to write my Ph.D. on the Eudemian Ethics. I knew I wanted to write on Aristotle, but thought that EE would be a growth industry (not so much NE). Charles warned me that if I wrote on EE, I’d be met with blank faces in most job interviews since most philosophy faculty (outside the most high-power R1 universities) never would have read EE, although many would be basically conversant with NE. He said write on NE, and then once I have a TT job, go write on EE (or whatever more obscure ancient philosophy work I’m interested in). And that advice worked splendidly. Remember that except for the most amazing graduates of the most high-powered programs, most Ph.D.s in philosophy are landing jobs in small departments with 3/3, 3/4, or even 4/4 teaching loads. The more narrow one’s research, the less one will be able to converse with those colleague (whether at a job interview or in subsequent departmental life).
Which texts or concepts in ancient political thought do you think should be discussed more often in ancient philosophy survey courses?
There’s a broad range of texts in ancient Greek history that fall outside of the usual suspects (e.g., Plato’s Republic, Book 1 of Aristotle’s Politics). Xenophon’s Constitution of the Spartans, any number of Thucydides’ “debates,” the Old Oligarch’s Constitution of the Athenians, Aeschylus’ Persians, etc., are enormously rich and interesting political texts. I’m especially keen on Greek tragedy in this context—all of them overflow with complicated social, ethical and political themes (so too comedies—although they come with some additional challenges).
What are you currently working on and why?
For most of my professional career I’ve focused my research on Aristotle (and to a lesser extent Plato, although he’s usually in the background somewhere). About five year ago I opened up a research interest on Cicero and am trying to expand my research and publications in that direction. The problem is that the sort of scholarship I do at least tries to remain historically contextualized–and so has required an immersion in Roman history, at least from Regal Rome up through the late Republic.
Thornton is also working on a translation of Aristotle’s Oikonomica for the forthcoming Hackett edition of Aristotle’s Complete Works (C.D.C. Reeve, ed.).

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