James O'Donnell has been professor of classics and provost at Georgetown since 2003. Before that he taught for 21 years at the University of Pennsylvania and held visiting appointments at Johns Hopkins, the University of Washington, and Yale. He is a classicist who specializes in the history and culture of the Roman world, from 100 BCE to 600 CE, but he has written and spoken widely as well on the cultural consequences of information technologies ancient and modern. His most recent books are Avatars of the Word: From Papyrus to Cyberspace, Augustine: A New Biography, and The Ruin of the Roman Empire. He is finishing a volume entitled Pagans and looks beyond that to a study of Cicero intended to explore the links between ancient figures and texts and their modern readers and students.
Past president of the American Philological Association and a fellow of the Medieval Academy of America, he is a member of the board of trustees of the American Council of Learned Societies and previously served on the board of the National Humanities Center.