Friday, January 25, 2013

The Greeks, Again

It's been a year since I've sat in a classroom.  I've missed it.  Between the wedding and the rehab, there wasn't much time for extraneous activities.  Only that which demanded my attention received it in 2012.  GRIN got off the ground, numbness was banished, children were married, and novels were read.  So many, many novels were read last year, and I can't say that I learned nothing from any of them.  But, there were no facts, there was no analysis, there was no conversation surrounding them.  I needed a classroom experience, and Ms Levine's kindergarten was not what I wanted.

I needed to feel challenged, to stretch my brain, to keep ideas and places and people in context. Amidst the plethora of opportunities presented by the University of Arizona's Humanities Seminars this semester, I found many smiles and one giant grin.  Mike Lippman, who introduced me to Rome, is presenting Greece in 2013.  My check was in the mail the day the brochure hit my desk.

I drove and parked and found a front row seat, smiling at old acquaintances and adjusting my book bag under my too-short-to-reach-the-floor-feet.  No, I wasn't at the luncheon last March where a new classmate thought she'd met me.  A quick trip back to January 8th brought her up to speed on the last two years of my life; it's nice to be less of a celebrity, to blend into the background, not to have everyone staring.  Of course, my less-obvious-than-12-months-ago limp probably has a lot to do with that, too.

After introductions and explanations (you'd be amazed at how much can be said about a name tag), we started, as the syllabus stated, From the dawn of time.  The Greeks had a Dark Ages, just as the Europeans had theirs.  Our course begins as they emerge into the light of the 5th century before the birth of Christ.

It was a powerful hundred years, from Leonidas at Thermopylae to Pericles in Athens. Herodotus, Thucydides, Aeschylus, the Oerestia, Lysistrata... they're all in the curriculum.  It's at once an over-view and an in-depth look at the birth of the humanities, using drama and history to tell the tale.  Today's lecture was designed to bring us all up to speed, to be sure we were all at the same place, knowing the same actors, understanding the basic underpinnings of the polis.

We're talking basics, denizens. Did you miss the gods and goddesses in the 7th grade?  Dr. Lippman sent those few raised hands to the D'Aulaire's Book of Greek Myths.

I had to smile.

That book sits on Big Cuter's shelf, on Amster's kids' shelves, and on the shelves of every birthday boy or girl I've known, over the age of  8.  The authors pull no punches; Cronos all but licks his chops as he devours his children. But the pictures are great, the story telling is mesmerizing, and if a UofA professor is assigning it to his students there just must be something to it.

I took notes, I nodded sagely, I raised a quizzical eyebrow now and then.  It was a perfect morning in the classroom. I spent the early part of the afternoon with Herodotus and Plutarch, imagining those big Persian ships sloshing around in the tidal waters of Salamis, harassed by their more nimble Greek enemies.  I marveled at Themistocles's arrogance and Xerxes's tolerance and wondered about bias in ancient texts.  I studied maps of the Peloponnese and tried to trace rivers through mountain ranges.

I was in heaven.

There will be more, I am sure, throughout the semester.  For now, treat yourself to an afternoon with the D'Aulaire's.  I know you'll enjoy them. As for me, I'm going back to those maps. There is so much more to learn.

4 comments:

  1. I love studying mythology. We didn't use D'Aulaire's book in school, but Edith Hamilton's "Mythology". I just went and pulled it off the book shelf. I didn't keep many book from when I was younger, but this is one that I did. I'm going to check out the D'Aulaire's because that one looks way more fun.

    I love going to school and try to take classes as much as I can; although, my classes are Web development and design now. It's harder to get to the other ones I would like to attend.

    Have fun in class. It's a great way to keep your mind engaged and an engaged mind keeps us young. :)

    Happy Friday.


    Megan xxx

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  2. It amazes me that I have to introduce Prometheus every year prior to teaching Anthem. Aside from a few movie references, students knowledge of mythology and archetypes are nonexistent.

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    1. Myths, nursery rhymes, fairy tales..... they are all going the way of the winds, it seems. It would be wonderful if your generation could bring them back to your kids....
      a/b

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  3. I devoured the Gods and Goddesses when I was a kid. When 8th grade around rolled around I was gold when we had a semester devoted to them. So glad you are enjoying them again!

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So.... what did you think? I'm interested.....

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