Fall 2023 Saturday Seminars Descriptions and Registration

All designed for a general audience except for “Teaching the Odyssey with Visual Art,” which is intended for high school teachers. All are Eastern/NYC time. All are 60-90 minutes in duration.

Heroic Intersections: Achilles and Hamlet | October 7, 12 pm ET

To be or not to be, to fight or not to fight. Hamlet must choose to live for a short time so that he might avenge his father and purge Denmark of murderers—including himself. He must accept his role not as a monarch, but as a transitional figure ushering in a new era of peace. Achilles must live for a short time by returning to the Trojan war to avenge his philos, Patroclus, and in doing so accepts his role in a divinely orchestrated purgation of the age of heroes. Dying at the zenith of their lives and achievements, neither hero lives to see the next generation, but each in his own way sets the stage for generations to come, and each will be divinely sung.

Juxtaposing the two bards—Homer and Shakespeare, Lauren Heilman will present an analysis of both heroes and their composers, which taken in tandem help to contextualise each other. Addressing the traditional ‘problems’ of delay and excess, the dramatic necessity for pity and fear, will reveal that both Hamlet and Achilles revolve in worlds not so far apart as imagined. Gods and ghosts may urge either hero to take the field, for in Homer and Shakespeare, “There’s a divinity that shapes our ends/Rough hew them how we will—” (Hamlet 5.2.10-11).

Teaching the Odyssey with Visual Art | October 14, 12 pm ET

Homer’s Odyssey continues to connect to readers through the universal appeal of family and home. The quest of an adventure that transports Odysseus far from home connects us all because the search for one’s true self is the most essential journey one can undertake. 

In this session, Patricia Vandigriff will share classroom activities for teaching Homer’s Odyssey in conversation with the visual art of Romare Bearden. Special attention will be given to activities that encourage active reading and that engage students through multiple perspectives—art, music, and oral stories that map life’s journey through the wisdom of the immortals, and the resilience of the mortals.   

A Tale of Two Empires: East Roman Survival in the Fifth Century | October 21, 12 pm ET

The year 476 is ascribed great significance by ancient historians and classicists. In that year, the last Western Roman Emperor was dethroned and not replaced, bringing an end to Roman rule in Western Europe. Yet in Constantinople (modern-day Istanbul), Roman emperors continued to reign supreme for another thousand years, helping to preserve much of the knowledge and classical texts that became popularised again in the West during the Renaissance. The survival of the East Roman state while its western twin disintegrated is one of the great stories of Late Antiquity, and there are numerous reasons for why this happened.

In this session, Henry Anderson will discuss some of the significant factors that contributed to the survival of the eastern empire, in the process helping to paint a picture of the Late Roman world and how classical civilisation did not simply stop in 476 but in many respects continued to flourish.

Translating Ancient Texts: Orpheus and Eurydice | October 28, 12 pm ET

The myth of Orpheus and Eurydice is a favourite subject for modern retellings. But how did the ancients tell it? And how did their various versions differ?

In this seminar, Hillary Yip will compare Ovid and Vergil’s accounts of the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice. Comparing Virgil’s Georgics and Ovid’s Metamorphoses will reveal how myths and storytelling change to suit the broader narrative and suggest why the poets made the choices that they did. 

Apollonius of Rhodes’ Ancient Readers in Alexandria and Beyond | November 4, 12 pm ET

The Argonautica is a Greek epic poem by Apollonius of Rhodes, a scholar-poet who worked at the Library of Alexandria in the third century BC. In this talk, Lisa Doyle will discuss the scholia (marginal notes) which comment on this poem. Although the Argonautica-scholia are found in the margins of a Medieval manuscript, they derive from commentaries that were written in the Hellenistic and Imperial periods.

This session will consider what the scholia reveal about ancient scholarship and education, exploring how ancient readers and commentators oriented themselves in relation to the vast array of knowledge presented in Apollonius’ poem, especially mytho-historical material. Comparisons with other works of ancient scholarship, notably the Homeric scholia, will also be noted.

Translating Ancient Texts: Curse Tablets | November 11, 12 pm ET

Our modern engagement with inscriptions is often through printed editions of the text and translations. However, the process of transferring the text of an inscription is tricky and open to the interpretations of the transcribers. We often miss nuances, such as how text and the surfaces onto which they are inscribed interact and how individuals would have engaged with these texts as objects. Furthermore, we are relying on someone else’s reading of the text; would we have identified the letters the same way? This is a particular issue with fragmentary texts. 

In this session, Dr. Charlotte Spence will discuss how to read the epigraphic conventions which are used to encode details about the text and its restoration, how critical editions of inscriptions are created, and how these texts are translated. We will begin by looking at an inscription in English before examining some unusual inscriptions from the ancient world.

The Necessity of Dialogue: Phaedrus and the Purpose of Education | November 18, 12 pm ET

In discussing the art of speech-creation, Plato’s Socrates presents a living word—ἔμψυχον, meaning to animate with the breath of life. For Socrates, the spoken word possesses psyche, a soul. It does not lie dormant on a page, nor is it given cursory mental acknowledgement by a reader of the literate age. Rather it is akin to the winged words of epic escaping the barrier of the speaker’s teeth and contains the power to transform its audience. Bridging the oral and the literate, the dialogue genre invites us to participate in a simulated dialogue between Socrates and Phaedrus, and to use its method to carry on our own questions beyond.

In this session, Dr. Eirene Allen and Lauren Heilman will jointly dialogue on the wisdom of the Phaedrus, its connection to Homer and myth, and its reception of oral culture. As the closing line of the Phaedrus invites us, ἴωμεν (‘Let’s go’).

Ancient Roots of Modern Genres: The Ancient Greek Novels | December 2, 12 pm ET

“… and they lived happily ever after.” We’re all familiar with fairy tales ending in this way, and such a conclusion provides us with a sigh of relief, contentment, and satisfaction. The roots of the familiar convention can be found in five surviving ancient Greek novels that date to the second through fourth centuries. Each concludes with a happy ending in which the protagonists are reunited and all is well.

In this session, HM Classics Academy’s Helen McVeigh will illuminate the little-known genre of ancient Greek fiction, exploring their plots, protagonists, happy endings, and cliff-hangers.

Translating Ancient Texts: Homer’s Epic Women | December 9, 12 pm ET

The Iliad’s Helen and Andromache and the Odyssey’s Penelope are three of the most important heroic figures in the Homeric epics as they have come down to us. Yet, historically, all three have been dismissed: Helen as a ‘disloyal’ wife, Andromache as a wife who does not ‘know her place’, and Penelope as the ‘ideal’ wife, passive and loyal. These interpretations miss the mark in part due to the challenged posed by translating ancient Greek into modern English.

In this session, Dr. Eirene Allen will track the use of the Greek word daimon in four scenes: Helen and Aphrodite’s interaction in Iliad book three, Andromache and Hector’s interaction in Iliad book six, and Penelope and Odysseus’ interactions in Odyssey books nineteen and twenty-three.