Making Classical Connections at Emory

From an Emory news release thingy:

Oxford College of Emory University
Oxford College of Emory University (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In a time defined by the Internet, social media and constant technological change, is it possible to excite students with literature written 2,000 or more years ago in languages sometimes referred to as “dead”? At Oxford College, the answer is a resounding yes.

The study of Latin and classical Greek is thriving on the campus where Emory began and in a building dating to 1874 — the aptly named Language Hall — where students in the 19th century also went through the rigors of Latin and Greek grammar.

Henry Bayerle, assistant professor of classics, joined Oxford in the fall of 2006, when 21 students enrolled in his classical language courses, and seven students studied classical literature in English translation. Five years later, the total numbers have more than doubled, with 42 students in classical language courses and 22 studying classical literature in English translation.

Bayerle, who received his doctorate in comparative literature from Harvard University, is essentially a classics department of one. He has a teaching repertoire of Latin, Greek and classical literature in translation, but as his program has grown, offering elementary and intermediate Latin and classical literature meant that there was no room in the schedule for Greek. In the spring of 2011, Bayerle and Peter Bing, Chair and Samuel Candler Dobbs Professor of the Classics at Emory College, came up with a cooperative solution: someone from the Emory College faculty would come to Oxford to teach the intermediate course in Latin, freeing Bayerle to offer elementary Greek. “It was a win-win situation,” says Bing. “Expanding the study of classics at Oxford benefits all of us.”

Asked what motivates students to study the classics, Bayerle says, “They take these courses for a wide variety of reasons. Part of it may be a response to popular culture — think ‘Gladiator,’ ‘300,’ numerous video games. Many mention that they know that knowledge of Latin may help them with vocabulary on standardized tests such as the GRE. But they are, after all, students who have chosen a liberal-arts intensive environment at Oxford; they also know these languages are part of the liberal-arts tradition.”

But why do they stay?

“I find that many of the students who enter our courses for those first reasons eventually discover other sources of intellectual pleasure and value in the classics and return for more,” says Bayerle.

He and Bing say that many fall in love with philology and analysis of the language. For others, it is finding relevance in the writings of great ancient authors whose words have been meaningful for generations.

In this past year, Bayerle found yet another way of helping students find relevance in the classics. Using Oxford’s Theory-Practice/Service Learning (TPSL) model, he devised a TPSL plan in which students in his literature course on the Romans would visit and interview veterans of World War II, the Vietnam War and the recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Having read about ancient war in Virgil’s “Aeneid,” they were challenged to compare and contrast the experience of war as seen through the eyes of the warrior Aeneas with the words of the U.S. war veterans they spoke with.

Bayerle says that the classics have much to offer students, regardless of what they choose as their major.

“Words matter. I believe the classics teach them about rhetorical choices and make them better listeners and readers. They read timeless literature that is a conversation about what it means to be human-these words are about us.”

Classical Tradition Gone Wrong II: Bestial Leda?

This is turning into one of those mornings where all I do is shake my head; this time, though, the artist got it right … it’s the ‘authorities’ who need some educatin’ … from the Telegraph:

The Scream gallery in Mayfair had exhibited the artwork for a month with no complaints from the public. The work is intended as modern depiction of the Greek myth of Leda and the Swan.

But a Metropolitan police officer who saw the Derrick Santini image from a bus was alarmed.

He alerted his colleagues and two uniformed officers went to the gallery, which is owned by the Rolling Stones guitarist Ronnie Wood’s sons, Tyrone and Jamie.

Jag Mehta, the sales director at the gallery, said she spoke to the officers and asked what the problem was.

“They said the photograph suggested we condoned bestiality, which was an arrestable offence,” she said.

“It’s crazy. Perhaps the cultural references were lost on them.”

As the exhibition was already over, they took down the artwork, which shows the animal ravaging the naked woman.

“They stood there and didn’t leave until we took the piece down.”

Jamie Wood said the work, entitled A Fool for Love, was not meant deliberately to shock or offend. It was due to be taken down anyway to be replaced by another installation.

He added: “We would of course have fought to keep the piece up otherwise. If anyone wants to view it, we still have it at the gallery.

“The purpose of art is to provoke debate and Derrick’s piece has certainly done that.”

According to Greek mythology, the god Zeus took the form of a swan to seduce or rape Leda. She was later said to bear his children, Polydeuces and Helen of Troy.

Some versions of the story suggest they were formed in eggs.

Miss Mehta said the myth of Leda’s rape by Zeus was an acceptable form of erotica in Victorian times. However, this argument failed to impress the police.

“They said they didn’t know anything about the myth,” she said. “They asked if we had had any complaints and we said quite the contrary. Lots of people were intrigued by it.”

The photographer grew up in Scarborough, North Yorkshire, and is well known for his work with musicians and fashion models. His art has been displayed in London, Istanbul and New York.

A spokesman for the Metropolitan Police said the incident had not been recorded as a crime.

Interestingly, the Telegraph piece doesn’t include a photo of the picture in question, but prefers to include this oft-seen sixteenth century piece:

The Scream gallery’s page for the exhibition includes a photo of Santini’s work which is presumably the one which offended the cops so much:

… wow. I’d link to other, rather more racy versions, but they seem to be blocked from my school … Better keep the Metropolitan types away from the Classics section of the bookstore. Don’t anyone say ‘Ovid’ to them … (WTF redux)

Classical Tradition Gone Wrong: Romanian Trajan Hover Dog Snake Thing

This one just hit my email and Twitter feed (tip o’ the pileus to Lisa Trentin for the latter) at almost the same time and is generally bizarre … here’s the BBC version:

A statue representing the birth of the Romanian nation has been greeted with derision by the public and critics.

The sculpture, unveiled outside Bucharest’s National History Museum, portrays a naked Roman emperor Trajan carrying a wolf.

It is supposed to represent the fusion of the Roman empire with the ancient tribes of Dacia.

But the work by Vasile Gorduz has been described as a “monument to Romania’s stray dogs”.

Gorduz, who died in 2008, was a central figure in Romania’s art establishment for decades, and in the 1990s was the professor of sculpture at the National University of Arts in Bucharest.
‘Doubtful artistic quality’

The nudity and apparent awkwardness of the Trajan figure, the impracticality of the pose (neither arm supports the wolf’s weight), and the appearance of the wolf, have all attracted negative comments.

“I have never seen anything so grotesque, a wolf with a pitbull’s head, a lizard’s tail and a tumour on its neck, carried by a guy who is visibly embarrassed by his nudity,” said one woman passer-by.

Even the curator of the museum has joined in the criticism of the work.

Ernest Oberlander Tarnoveanu told AFP news agency that, sooner or later, it would have to go.

“I am not a prude or a conservative, but the statue should never have been erected here because of its doubtful artistic quality,” he said.

Satirical website Times New Roman (in Romanian) commented that “Bucharest’s mayor has just inaugurated the first monument dedicated to Romania’s stray dogs”.

Other commentators have wondered why “the dog is levitating”, and why the animal wears a scarf “while the emperor isn’t even wearing any underwear”.

via: Howls of derision in Bucharest as Romania statue unveiled (BBC)

… and, of course, we HAVE to show the statue … this comes from Romanian Times:

So we have Trajan’s head on a nude athlete’s body, with a capitoline-she-wolf-headed hound of some sort hovering in front of him, while a decapitated snake flies between them. This does, of course, prompt the ever-popular academic acronym: WTF?

This Day in Ancient History: ante diem vi nonas maias

ante diem vi nonas maias

Finding of the true cross by St Helena. Illust...
Finding of the true cross by St Helena. Illustration from MS CLXV, Biblioteca Capitolare, Vercelli, a compendium of canon law from Northern Italy, ca. 825. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

ludi Florae (possible day 7) — a festival originally ordered in response to an interpretation of the Sybilline books in 238 B.C., it fell into desuetude only to be revived in 173 B.C.; it was a general festival of drinking and other merriment in honour of Flora, who presided over (of course) flowers and their blossoms

c. 62 A.D. — martyrdom of James the Lesser in Jerusalem

c. 80 A.D. — martyrdom of Philip the Apostle in Heirapolis, Phrygia

115 or 116 A.D. — martyrdom of Pope Alexander I in Rome

c. 286 — martyrdom of Maura at Thebias (Thebais?)

326 — traditional date for Helena finding the ‘True Cross’ in Jerusalem …