William H. F. Altman

At my son Philip's wedding

Biography


Having been persuaded by Plato’s Republic that justice requires the philosopher “to go back down into the Cave,” I have devoted my professional life to the cause of public education, presently as a Latin and world history teacher at E.C. Glass High School in Lynchburg, Virginia. Born in Washington D.C., with degrees in Philosophy from Wesleyan University, the University of Toronto, and the Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina, I have been a public high school teacher in Vermont, California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Virginia and have taught History, Social Studies, Philosophy, English, Drama, and Latin. I began publishing scholarly articles in Intellectual History, Classics, and Philosophy in 2007, and Plato the Teacher: The Crisis of the Republic, the first volume of my study of the reading order of Plato's dialogues, was published by Lexington Books in 2012 (see review in BMCR). Lexington is also the publisher of "a German Trilogy," the last volume of which, The German Stranger: Leo Strauss and National Socialism, appeared in 2011. Its first two parts, Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche: The Philosopher of the Second Reich and Martin Heidegger and the First World War: Being and Time as Funeral Oration were published together in October, 2012; at present, I am working on Cicero. Fascinated by the devastating impact of the First World War on modern intellectual life, I am also writing a trilogy of novels of which the first, Kipling’s Sons, is now complete. Since 2014 will mark the centennial of the Great War, I am presently seeking a Literary Agent interested in this timely project. My wife Zoraide and I divide our time between the United States and her native Brazil. I have two sons: Philip and his wife Erin teach at the American College in Sofia (Bulgaria), and Elias, who lives in New York City, is an Associate Editor at Lapham's Quarterly.

Selected Works

Chapter 2 of Couperin’s Tomb, second of “A Great War Trilogy.” Within the architecture of the trilogy, Couperin’s Tomb is the French novel; Kipling’s Sons is, of course, English, while The Sixteenth Satire introduces the narrator of the entire series, an impossibly old German teacher of Latin living in contemporary Brazil whose guilt for having encouraged his students to volunteer in 1914 prevents him from being able to die.
Scholarly Article
Allen Miller, author of Subjecting Verses: " ...an original and well-conceived contribution to the field...one of the most thought-provoking articles I have read in quite some time."
Book
F. A. Grabowski writing in Choice: "How Plato’s dialogues ought to be arranged and, accordingly, how they are to be read, has provoked much debate. Some scholars believe that identifying their chronology of composition (the order in which they were written) is crucial to understanding Plato’s philosophical development; others believe their dramatic order is of paramount importance. High school teacher Altman opts for a different yet altogether refreshing approach, advocating a paideutic scheme that focuses on the order in which Plato intended his dialogues to be taught. As its title would suggest, Altman’s book is, most immediately, an exegesis of Republic; however, its broader purpose is to show that Republic, or more specifically the allegory of the cave, occupies a central position in a complex philosophical curriculum. In his effort to defend this provocative thesis, Altman is impressively successful. His scholarship is impeccable, his familiarity with the Platonic corpus thorough, and his reading of individual passages meticulous. Given its high level of erudition and frequent reference to the original Greek, this book will appeal mainly to scholars; nevertheless, it is a book with which all students of Plato will want to become familiar. Summing Up: Highly recommended."