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New Classics Courses

Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2011

Faculty in Classics continue to develop new courses, both in the core and across disciplines.

In the Spring of 2011, students quickly filled two new classes: Professor Turkeltaub's Ancient and Modern Laughter, and Professor Schlude's Jews Under Empire. Dan Turkeltaub's course cross-listed with English and Theatre, led students through a variety of texts and ended with class performances of Greek and Roman comic plays:

Why do we (or don't we) laugh at chickens crossing roads, baseballs hitting men in their groins, children spouting profanity, brainless blondes, dead babies, blenders, dysfunctional relationships, Canadians, and farts? Why, when it comes right down to it, do we laugh at all? In this course we will investigate the nature of humor and the role it plays in ancient Greek, Roman, and modern American societies, with a particular eye to the Greek and Roman roots of western comedy. Our readings will focus on Aristrophanes' wonderfully scatological mockeries of classical Athenian life and politics, whimsical "situation comedies" written by the Roman playwright Plautus, and some oddly distrubing ones from Terence. Alongside these and a few other ancient masters, we will examin analogous humor from modern comedians as well as movies such as South Park and The Birdcage. Selections from Plato, Aristotle, Bakhtin, Freud, Frye, and othe scholars of laughter from various disciplines will help us understand how the humor in these works...well...work. By the end of the course, you will have a better understanding of the things that you already find funny and gain a new appreciation for the very serious ways in which comedy helps you live your life.

Students also flocked to Jason Schlude's new course, Jew Under Empire, cross-listed with the History Department:

Empire was a defining feature of the ancient Mediterranean. In the Hellenistic and Roman periods, Greek kings and the Roman elite exercises influence over large areas of the Mediterranean and its peoples. The experience of and response to such empires by their foreign subjects are often as challenging to elucidate as fascinating to imagine. Yet there is one case in which the subject people have left behind a substantial literature documenting their experience: the Jews. In this course, we will explore the consequences of empire for the Jews and the strategies they employed to explain and live under empire. In the process, our conversation will often focus on religion, as the monotheistic religion of the Jews was a driving force in their lives and experience. We will also discuss, however, many other areas of culture, as well as politics, society, economy, and the military. As for specific topics, we will consider a wide range: the Jews of Ptolemaic Egypt, the Maccabean Revolt, the Hasmonean dynasty, herod the Great, the Alexandrian riots of 38 CE, and the First Jewish Revolt. While modern readings will provide context for the subject, we will devote our main attention to the ancient texts produced by the Jews themselves in these periods. And students will have the opportunity to take part in well-informed discussions and to engage more deeply with particular issues through thoughtful presentations and papers.

This coming Winter, Professor William Greenwalt will offer a new Civic Engagement core course entitled Democracy: Ancient and Modern, which compares and contrasts the political functioning of fourth-century Athens with contemporary America. And in Spring quarter Professor Carolynn Roncaglia will teach a new course on oman imperialism. Stay tuned for details.

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