Ancient Studies Week at UMaryland

Nice bit of outreach reported on in the Retriever:

Last week the Ancient Studies Department hosted its annual “Ancient Studies Week.” This event held a number of events designed not only to display the wide range of fascinating topics that the department of Ancient Studies explores, but also to give students and faculty who may have not otherwise had the opportunity to become involved in the study of ancient artifacts, literature and art.

There were many interesting events offered to students between October 17 and October 21. Among these was an illustrated lecture by Esther Reed on “Excavating Baltimore Synagogues”; a lecture by Professor Helene Foley from Barnard College on “Medea as American Other”; a presentation by UMBC students on their excavations titled, “Ancient Studies Students Excavate”; and a free trip to the Walters museum.

Professor Foley’s lecture on “Medea as American Other,” like many of the other events, offered students insight into one of the most prominent aspects of ancient culture, and in this case, of Greek Tragedy.

“I discovered the Medea is the most popular Greek tragedy in the United States,” said Professor Foley.

In her lecture, she went on to describe why it has become so popular, in terms of the many relatable contexts that different modernized productions of the play have offered. She showed clips, photos and dialogues from productions where the character Medea represented different cultures, including African American versions and Japanese kabuki.

“I thought it was very interesting how they look at this ancient Greek play and used different American contexts,” said freshman Dominick DiMercurio II, a Biology major.

It is clear based on this lecture and the other events offered to students this week that the field of Ancient studies, which is sometimes overlooked for more current topics, has a lot to offer students and faculty, even if they are studying in another discipline.

The many applications and contexts that can be derived from these ancient texts and artifacts are notably valuable.

“I think that our society today is intensely preoccupied with the present and that it is very important for us to learn about the past and about our history…there is enormous wisdom in the tradition of Ancient Studies,” said Dr. Ellen Spitz, Honors College Professor.

The overwhelming response and attendance at all of these events highlighted the week’s enormous success. To everyone who participated in running or attending the events throughout Ancient Studies week, there seemed to be a universal feeling of connection to and reverence for the ancient traditions that helped to shape many of our own cultural constructs.

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