Because I filled in as an associate dean a couple of years ago, I am on the mailing list of the AAC&U (American Association of Colleges and Universities). So I regularly get an e-mail alerting me to the fact that the most recent edition of their publication “Liberal Education” is online. Sometimes I look at these, and sometimes I don’t, but I was intrigued at the topic of the current issue (“Liberal Education and the Disciplines”) and excited to see that one of the six featured articles was on Classics. Since I was feeling in need of an inspirational document convincing me that my field is particularly valuable to liberal artsy goals, I clicked the link.
For a spectacular view of the Parthenon (no scaffolding visible!) check out today’s EPOD:
By Dustin Anderson, drama student
While pondering Aristophanes’ Clouds, I got to thinking about the relationship between Socrates, whose Sophist underlings are the subject of the play’s parody, and the Worse Argument, who exists only to blast his Better counterpart into pieces. When we tried to decide on a way to costume the actors in this play, my group had trouble with Worse Argument, because we didn’t know to what extent we wanted to differentiate him from Socrates and the Sophists. Do Socrates and his Argument represent the same philosophy, or two closely linked philosophies, or different things entirely? It’s quite hard to tell. Continue reading
By Carolyn Frischer (drama student)
I don’t know if it is because Medea was the first thing we read or because I enjoyed it so much, but every play we have read since always gets compared to Medea’s tragedy in my mind. Whether it is a question of motives or representation of women, I somehow find some way to use Medea with or against it. When reading Lysistrata, I kept thinking of the differences and similarities between these two leading ladies. I’ll admit I feel a little bizarre comparing two characters from two different types of plays, but it is irresistible for my mind not to compare Lysistrata and Medea. Continue reading
I spend probably more time than is healthy wondering what benefit the study of Classics (or liberal arts education generally) confers on the many many students who go through my classes but don’t go on in the field. I’m confident (most days) that it is greater than zero, but much less able to articulate what sorts of things I hope might result from the things I teach.
So I was struck by this quote from a master at Eton (and, as it turns out, expert writer of Latin verse) called William Johnson Cory:
At school you are engaged not so much in acquiring knowledge as in making mental efforts under criticism. A certain amount of knowledge you can indeed with average faculties acquire so as to retain; nor need you regret the hours you spent on much that is forgotten, for the shadow of lost knowledge at least protects you from many illusions. But you go to a great school not so much for knowledge as for arts and habits; for the habit of attention, for the art of expression, for the art of assuming at a moment’s notice a new intellectual position, for the art of entering quickly into another person’s thoughts, for the habit of submitting to censure and refutation, for the art of indicating assent or dissent in graduated terms, for the habit of regarding minute points of accuracy, for the art of working out what is possible in a given time, for taste, for discrimination, for mental courage, and for mental soberness.
Isn’t that lovely? Is that, do you think, what we can say we do? Alas, I can see no assessment measure that will capture it.
Not as elaborate as the Facebook Aeneid, but still amusing: http://www.holytaco.com/if-homers-odyssey-was-written-twitter
A couple of weeks ago, I saw (via Facebook) an article in the Guardian headlined: “Classic gags discovered in Ancient Roman Jokebook.” The article proved to be about Philogelus (discovered?!); it tried to keep up the pretense that the text had only just been discovered with the formulation: “Celebrated classics professor Mary Beard has brought to light a volume more than 1,600 years old…” Presumably she “brought it to light” for Guardian readers, or the general public, who hadn’t really been thinking about it before. But it seemed to me at the time a pretty misleading headline.
Today, again via Facebook, we are treated to “New Theory Released in Alexander the Great Burial Mystery!” As you can see if you read the story, the “release” of this “new theory” amounts to a story a friend told a friend in random conversation about something that happened decades ago.
Are headlines about recent news in science this ridiculously misleading?
So here’s a quick question just in case there’s anyone out there who has thought about this: in Horace’s Cleopatra Ode (1.37) he describes Cleopatra as traveling with her “contaminato grege” (the full phrase is “contaminato cum grege turpium/morbo virorum”, “along with her defiled-by-disease herd of foul men” or perhaps, as Bennett glosses it “along with her defiled herd of foul-with-disease men”). Bennett says that this refers to eunuchs, and virorum, in the context, is sarcastic. Did Cleopatra really travel with eunuchs? Or, more to the point, would Horace have thought she did?
Tacitus, when describing some of the antics of Nero (Annals 15.37), says that he married himself to “one of that defiled herd” (uni ex illo contaminatorum grege). Nero is clearly playing the wife in the coupling, and Tacitus implies that the “marriage” was consummated publicly (cuncta denique spectata quae etiam in femina nox operit).
So what does this mean, anyway? Is the phrase in Tacitus a reference to the similar phrase in Horace? If so, could it possibly really refer to eunuchs? This seems to me really unlikely, and I don’t know why Bennett leapt to that conclusion in the context of Horace. But if not, what herd is Tacitus talking about? He throws the phrase in there just as if everyone knew what he was talking about. Help me out with this!
Thanks to Clara for inviting me to join this blog! I hope I can learn to make the time to be a good blogger. I would like to echo Clara’s last post about the APA, namely that the round-table discussion about teaching rape texts was for me, too, one of the highlights of this year’s meeting. A format that allowed for many voices was welcome, especially at a meeting where even organized panels did not allow speakers enough time to carry on a discussion, much less hear questions and comments from the audience. This panel opened up the possibility to bring together scholarship, pedagogy and activism in our communities. Yes, Clara! This is precisely what the meeting should be about.