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Events

Speaking Greek at the American University Over the Last Two Centuries

4PM, Thursday, January 26
2175 Angell Hall, Classics Library

Yiorgos Anagnostou, Professor of Modern Greek, The Ohio State University

Celebrating the continuous presence of Greek as a language and a subject of learning on the Michigan campus since 1817 offers an opportunity to reflect on the meaning of "Greek." A host of questions arises: What do Ancient and Modern Greek studies have to say to each other?  What kind of conversation have Modern Greek studies–where Modern Greek is spoken–and Classics–where Ancient Greek is read–been carrying on over the last couple of centuries? What tensions, silences, and mutualities have defined this relationship? The lecture traces the history of this relationship, and focuses on ways in which academic multiculturalism has fostered intellectual exchange among scholars of Ancient and Modern Greek. It discusses institutions, scholars, films, fiction, and poetry that bring Classics into conversation with Modern Greek Studies, and develops its own word play on this relationship. It concludes by proposing a framework for future collaboration between the two academic fields: cultivation of a particular ethos of citizenship among students and the wider public.

Grand Unveiling: Portrait of Joseph Whiting, First Classics Professor at Michigan

4PM, Thursday, Feb. 2
2175 Angell Hall, Classics Library

John Posch, Dept. of Classical Studies

Joseph Whiting (1800–45) was the first professor of Greek and Latin languages and one of two original professors when the University of Michigan was reconstituted as a proper university at Ann Arbor in 1841. Whiting, however, died prematurely, just days before the first Michigan class he welcomed was set to graduate. The next year, a funerary monument was erected in his honor, surviving to this day as the oldest monument on our campus. Perhaps due to his untimely death, we possess no record of his image, in contrast with other founding figures of the University. Through original genealogical and archival research, a once-misidentified oil painting was found that is thought to be of Whiting himself. Thanks to the generous support of the Department of Classical Studies, this large, handsome portrait has been acquired to be preserved and displayed in the Department. A talk will recount the discovery process of the painting, the evidence for its identification, and the most complete biography of the man—including how his cenotaph, now called “The Professors’ Monument,” lies at the heart of this serendipitous find.

 

Plaque to be associated with painting:

JOSEPH WHITING (1800–45)

FIRST PROFESSOR OF GREEK AND LATIN LANGUAGES AT THE UNIVERSITY

ONE OF THE TWO ORIGINAL PROFESSORS WHEN THE REORGANIZED UNIVERSITY OPENED ITS DOORS AT ANN ARBOR IN 1841, HE STUDIED THEOLOGY AT YALE (’23 A.B., ’37 A.M.) AND WAS AN ORDAINED MINISTER WELL REGARDED FOR HIS PREACHING TALENTS. HE SERVED AS THE FIRST PASTOR OF THE HISTORIC CONGREGATIONAL CHURCH IN CHESHIRE, CONN. BEFORE TEACHING IN CLEVELAND AND THEN BECOMING PRINCIPAL AT THE UNIVERSITY’S BRANCH IN NILES. AT ANN ARBOR HE TAUGHT CLASSICS AND RHETORIC FOR NEARLY FOUR YEARS BEFORE SUCCUMBING TO ILLNESS ON JULY 20, 1845, SEVENTEEN DAYS BEFORE THE FIRST CLASS WOULD GRADUATE. THE “PROFESSORS’ MONUMENT,” A FUNERARY CENOTAPH, WAS ERECTED THE NEXT YEAR IN HIS HONOR. 

THIS PORTRAIT WAS KEPT IN THE FAMILY UNTIL BEING MISIDENTIFIED AND SOLD UPON THE DEATH OF THE GREAT-GRANDDAUGHTER. THE DEPARTMENT OF CLASSICAL STUDIES RECOVERED AND INSTALLED THE WORK IN 2017, HAPPILY COINCIDING WITH THE BICENTENNIAL OF THE UNIVERSITY.

 

"'Black Classicism': some theories, some practice and some dilemmas"

4PM, Wednesday, March 22
2175 Angell Hall, Classics Library

Tessa Roynon is a Research and Teaching Fellow at the RAI. She is a specialist in modern American literature, in Anglophone literature of the African diaspora, in Classical Reception studies, and in the interactions between all of these. 

She is currently working on two book projects. The first examines the ways in which American novelists ranging from Willa Cather and William Faulkner to Ralph Ellison, Toni Cade Bambara and Marilynne Robinson engage ancient Egyptian, Greek and Roman traditions in their representations of racial and/or ethnic politics and identities. Her second project is a study of the intellectual formation of Ralph Ellison. 

Her first monograph, Toni Morrison and the Classical Tradition (OUP 2013) was included in the University of Oxford English Faculty's REF submission (2014) and won the Toni Morrison Society Book Prize for the best single-authored work on Morrison published between 2012 and 2015. Tessa is also the author of The Cambridge Introduction to Toni Morrison (CUP 2012), contributing co-editor of the acclaimed interdisciplinary essay collection, African Athena: New Agendas (ed. Orrells, Roynon and Bhambra, OUP 2011), and has published numerous articles and book chapters on Morrison. 

Her forthcoming publications include articles on engagement with the classical tradition in Marlene NoubeSe Philip, Bernardine Evaristo and Robin Coste Lewis; and a biographical essay on Ralph Ellison between the years of 1936 and 1942. Tessa is also co-editing, with Daniel Orrells (Classics, Kings College London), a special issue of the International Journal of the Classical Tradition on the theme of ‘Ovid and Identity in the 21st Century’. She is co-writing an essay for this collection on the engagement with Ovid in Doctorow's Ragtime and Eugenides's Middlesex. 

Collegiate Lecture: Imperialism by dialogue and inclusion. The other story of the Roman expansion.

4PM, Wednesday, March 29
Rackham Ampitheatre

Nic Terrenato, Esther B. Van Deman Collegiate Professor of Roman Studies, University of Michigan

Roman expansion is an endlessly fascinating episode of human history, usually explained as a violent imposition of imperial rule, followed by the diffusion of a dominant culture. From Charlemagne to Queen Victoria, countless military conquerors have drawn inspiration and legitimation from Rome. Yet, it is possible to tell the story in radically different terms. Building on recent research, it can be argued instead that the Roman empire was made possible through intense negotiation between elites belonging to a variety of ethnic groups. A ‘grand bargain’ was reached that was based on integration, synergy and access to power for the incorporated communities. Over time, an imperial elite culture emerged that was as new for those who had joined the empire as for those who had initiated it. An alternative narrative of this kind offers an unexpected example of how some pre-modern empires could be based on consensus and inclusion more than on threat.

Gerald F. Else Lecture: The Greeks and Romans and the Future of Politics

4PM, Wednesday, November 1
Rackham Ampitheatre

Melissa Lane, Professor of Politics & Director, University Center for Human Values, Princeton University