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Dordt professor chosen to participate in Iliad seminar

July 22, 2013

Dordt College Professor of English Dr. Mary Dengler is one of a select group of faculty members nationwide chosen by the Council of Independent Colleges (CIC) and the Center for Hellenic Studies to participate in an Ancient Greece in the Modern Classroom seminar on the Iliad.

From a pool of 52 nominees, CIC, and the Center for Hellenic Studies selected 20 faculty members to participate in “The Iliad,” a five-day seminar that is taking place July 23 to 27, 2013, at the Center for Hellenic Studies campus in Washington, D.C.

Even though her area of expertise is not the classics, Dengler was chosen for her knowledge of the 19th and 20th century British/American literature, the novel from ancient to postmodern, and women’s studies.

Designed for non-specialists, the seminar will address the challenge of keeping alive in undergraduate education classical texts such as the Iliad, Oddesy, Homeric Hymns, poetry of Hesiod, and Histories of Herodotus that a generation ago were read and understood by every college graduate.

“Strengthening the teaching of the classics at colleges and universities is of critical importance,” said CIC President Richard Ekman.

“The purpose is to keep the classical studies alive, because otherwise they’re going to fall out of college education, and then students won’t have a sense of cultural history, where stories came from, where critical theory came from, where metaphor and analogy came from,” said Dengler.

Gregory Nagy, Francis Jones Professor of Classical Greek Literature and professor of comparative literature at Harvard University, and Kenneth Scott Morrell, associate professor of Greek and Roman studies at Rhodes College, will lead the seminar.

“A lot of our focus will be on how to get students engaged, which will involve technology, collaboration, and creative approaches,” said Dengler.

The seminar will offer an opportunity to examine the many dimensions of the Iliad in historical context and explore how the poem can be studied in a variety of courses and disciplines. Participants will discuss topics ranging from the exchange of luxury goods to the adjudication of disputes arising from athletic contests. Along with providing information and background for understanding Homeric poetry in its ancient contexts, the seminar will devote a substantial portion of each day to reading and analyzing the poem itself.

“I’m looking forward to just sitting down and reading it with other people, and hearing a political theorist’s angle, a historian’s angle, a Harvard specialist’s angle, and a religious angle,” said Dengler.

During the week-long seminar, each day consists of six 90-minute seminars each participant must prepare for; a total of 2,700 class time minutes. “It’s like being back in graduate school,” laughed Dengler. “It’s exciting, it kicks you into a higher mode of thought and action…you’re a student again, under pressure again.”

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