Collins’ research at Stanford focused on ancient philosophy, intellectual and social history, and performance theory, with an emphasis on the cultural and discursive practices of philosophical disciplines in ancient Greek and Roman culture. His dissertation, completed at Stanford University, examined the development of philosophical schools and the rhetoric that philosophers use to advertise their respective discourses and lifestyles. His current research develops the notion of philosophy as a political and social pursuit among other competing and similarly commodified lifestyles. This project aims at determining the pragmatics of a “marketplace of ideas” (i.e., the economy, cohesion, identity and mobility of intellectual communities) in the larger marketplace of a variety of political and social landscapes.
Professor Collins also co-founded the interdisciplinary Philosophical Stages program while completing his Ph.D. at Stanford. Philosophical Stages develops strategies for introducing people of all ages and walks of life to philosophy as an active, live discipline through dramatic and rhetorical performance. The program has moved in new directions at USC, through partnerships with the Levan Institute for Humanities and Ethics, the Joint Educational Project, and the Thematic Option honors program. In Spring 2008, the undergraduate participants of “Performing Wisdom” (CORE 499) combined close readings of Pre-Socratics, Sophists, Plato and Stoics with a weekly drama lab which used the techniques of Stanislavski, Mamet, Johnstone and Boal to explore philosophical characters and everyday virtues. Participants also conducted and recorded Socratic dialogues of their own outside the classroom. Past participants of the Philosophical Stages program have also written, directed and performed multiple adaptations of Aeschylus’ Agamemnon, Sophocles’ Antigone and Aristophanes’ Birds.
Professor Collins has taught a variety of other courses at USC, including undergraduate courses in Ancient Epic and Classical Mythology, major courses on Greek and Latin poetry and prose, and graduate surveys of Latin literature.