Black Nobel Prize Winners

NewsOne has a list of the 16 persons of African descent who have won Nobel prizes of some sort. Included in the list:

Derek Alton Walcott is a Saint Lucian poet, playwright, writer and visual artist who was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1992 and the T. S. Eliot Prize in 2011 for White Egrets. His works include the Homeric epic Omeros. Robert Graves wrote that Walcott “handles English with a closer understanding of its inner magic than most, if not any, of his contemporaries”

I’d never heard of Omeros before … the comments of Robert Graves had me thinking I’d missed a Classicists along the way. Turns out he isn’t a Classicst, but the Omeros (according to Wikipedia) does sound like an interesting ‘adaptation’ (not sure what the word for this sort of thing is …

Greek Farmers and Their Livestock

Okay … I’ve waited a couple hours to see if my spiders bring back something with a little more detail. They haven’t, so I’ll post this for now … from the Straits Times:

Archaeologists in northern Greece have found a rare group of ancient graves where farmers were interred with their livestock, a Greek daily reported on Friday.

At least 11 adults and 16 farm animals were found buried together near the town of Mavropigi in the northern region of Macedonia, some 21km from the city of Kozani, Ethnos daily said.

The men, women and a child lay alongside horses, oxen, dogs and a pig in two rows of graves, the area’s head archaeologist told the newspaper.

‘It is the first time that this strange custom is found at such a scale, and from this particular period of time, the late 6th century and early 5th century BC,’ head archaeologist Georgia Karamitrou-Mentesidi said.

… barring more details, we might speculate (and I’m only speculating here)  that we’re dealing with some sort of epidemic a la the plague at Athens (although it is earlier); something like anthrax that affects both animals and humans?

A Classics Student Does the Math

Interesting item by India Lenon in the Telegraph:

This afternoon I paid my tuition fees for the fourth and final time. A few minutes later, I received the lecture lists for the new term, and I’ve undertaken some mercenary calculations. Oxford, along with all other government-subsidised universities in the UK, charges the maximum tuition fee currently allowed: £3,375. With three terms, each eight weeks long, this means that every single undergraduate here will be paying £140.63 per week for their teaching this year.

At this point, value and money diverge, since different degrees offer different amounts of teaching. Personally however, each week this term I will have four hours of lectures to attend, 1.5 hours of classes and two hours of one-on-one tutorials. This means that per hour of contact time this term, I will be paying £18.75. It goes without saying that this is excellent value. Paying less than £20 to be lectured for an hour by academics who are experts in their field, let alone being taught on a one-to-one basis by them, is a privilege. Moreover since I do a humanities subject, my contact time is significantly less than those doing sciences, who have labs and classes all morning (if not all day) Monday to Friday: their value for money is even greater.

But what about next year, when the new batch of undergraduates are paying £9,000 instead of £3,375? For me this term, it would work out at £375 per week, and exactly £50 per hour of contact time. Research has shown that many others will be in the same boat. Now I love my subject, which is quite exceptional in its breadth (I study history, philosophy, literature and language), and I am also lucky enough to be being taught by some of the most eminent classicists around at the moment. But every undergraduate classicist would admit that the subject does not hold easily recognisable value in the “real world”. I believe it is valuable, but that does not mean that the employers on whose doors I will very soon be knocking will think the same.

For £20 an hour, diminished “employability” relative to someone with a law or an engineering degree was a risk I was willing to take. But for £50 an hour, I am very far from sure that it would have been. At this point, many will cry “why should the government pay the £30 difference?”, which is in effect what they do at the moment. This is a fair question – perhaps they should not. But it seems inevitable that the direct result will be that students – in particular underprivileged students – will no longer consider humanities degrees to be worthwhile. Optimists may argue that universities will be forced to provide better value for money. But to a realist, a sharp decline in the study of history, English, classics and many other such subjects is a far more likely outcome.

Theater of War Interview(s)

Very interesting items put up at Didaskalia today … here’s a bit from the page as a bit of a tease:

To describe Theater of War (hereafter ToW) as ‘theater,’ or ‘a theatrical event,’ or even a ‘performance’ is to surely miss the point. Working from the argument that Attic Greek drama was primarily (though not exclusively) a mode of performance “by veterans, for veterans,” Bryan Doerries—ToW’s creator, creative director, and one of its producers—focuses the event on multiple activities that dramatize the experience (and costs) of warfare and provoke discussion about them.1 The event itself falls into three stages. First, four to five professional actors sit at a table on a bare stage—no costumes, no props, no sets, no make-up, no special lighting—and perform a reading of Sophocles’ Ajax or Philoctetes. Next, the actors are replaced by another small group, made up of citizens, including veterans, often a veteran’s spouse, and usually a therapist with experience treating combat veterans, all of whom offer their own comments and experience. Finally, Doerries (in the role of emcee) invites the audience to talk about their reactions to the performance and comments, passing the microphone around. The entire event lasts approximately two hours, although discussions linger afterward.

In other words, ToW sits at the interstices between theatrical event and social tool. It is part classical homage, part Sophoclean revival, part town-hall meeting, part therapeutic group session, part social-impact project. Were it not for Doerries’s careful management of the audience, always steering the audience conversation back to the text of the performance, there is no little risk that ToW could also become part heated—even explosive—public debate on contemporary American military policy. In the open discussion, audience members speak thoughtfully, tearfully, passionately, even angrily. There is a simmering of communal emotion among the audience reminiscent not of the darkness of contemporary theater, but rather of the colorful, emotion-filled anecdotes found in the vitae of the Attic dramatists themselves. In short, ToW is a unique kind of event, a compelling amalgam of artifice and grassroots activity that asks (and answers) how ancient drama can serve society more than 2,400 years after the genre’s initial apogee.


Scholars may rightfully wonder whether ToW offers any meaningful insight into ancient performance. With its clear social aim, does ToW belong rather to the annals of contemporary theater history or reception studies? In Part Two, Doerries at one point suggests that part of his aim with ToW is in fact archaeological, to “excavate” and uncover the emotions and ideas of an ancient Athenian (male, citizen-soldier) audience.5 Doerries’s claim places him somewhat in league with a contemporary scholarly trend to examine the role of emotion in classical drama.6 We leave it to others to ask at least two further questions. First, how would we go about substantiating such a claim? Second, does or should this claim change the way we read, study, and perform Attic drama? […]

The rest of the page is worth reading and on the page as well is a two-part video interview that is definitely of interest …