Spirited discussion at student-faculty colloquium on the Aeneid

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A student group projects and analyzes passages from Books 1 and 12 of the poem.

Troy? The gods? Love? Nature? Arms and the man? These topics and more were the subject of spirited discussion among students and faculty from Holy Cross and beyond at the Classics Department colloquium “Vergilian Beginnings: Looking Ahead from Aeneid 1-4” on the afternoon of April 14.

The colloquium was centered around presentations by groups of students from Prof. Aaron Seider’s spring seminar on the Aeneid. After each presentation, Professors Sarah McCallum of Harvard University and James Uden of Boston University offered commentary and questions, as did members of the audience.

Jack Champagne ’19, Nicholas Jalbert ’16, Liam Prendergast ’19, and Melody Wauke ’17 began the event with a consideration of the epic’s deer similes, a group of passages which lend an air of inevitability to Turnus’ doom at the end of the poem.

Questions of Fate were taken up once more by the following student group, as Toni Armstrong ’19, Claude Hanley ’18, and Julia Spiegel ’19 provocatively questioned whether Fate, like so much else in Vergil’s masterpiece, may simply be a matter of perspective.

Sarah McCallum of Harvard University (second from left) talks with students during the break.
Sarah McCallum of Harvard University (second from left) talks with students during the break.

Offering one last bit of intellectual sustenance before the colloquium’s first break for cheese, cookies, and drinks, Maretta Guiendon ’16, Michael Kelley ’18, Andrew Morfill ’18, and Corey Scannell ’18 provided a bracing take on Aeneas’ leadership or, rather, lack thereof. In the colloquium’s final student presentation, Luke Griese ’18, Chris Ryan ’16, Charlie Schufreider ’17, and Jason Steranko ’17 wove together many of our themes in a nuanced consideration of how the same divine forces that set the epic’s plot in motion return once more in its final scenes.

Lastly, Professors McCallum and Uden treated the group to presentations of their own scholarship on the Aeneid. Professor McCallum spoke about how the genre of elegy enriches Vergil’s epic and Professor Uden discussed the intersection of medicine and poetry in Aeneid 12.

Debate among students over Aeneas' leadership qualities spills over into the break.
Debate among students over Aeneas’ leadership qualities spills over into the break.

With our colloquium complete, all joined in to continue the conversation over refreshments and to begin mulling over questions that will remain with us for the remainder of this academic year and, hopefully, much longer.

Post post by Prof. Aaron Seider.

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