Exploring Rome’s glories … and its gelaterias

Ciao! I’m Julie Booth, a junior Classics major currently studying in Rome, Italy. When I first arrived in Rome, I was astounded by how immense the city was. With the large, metropolitan streets and busy Italians running here and there, the task of navigating this city was daunting, to say the least.

However, in the couple months that I have been here, I have learned to navigate this bustling city, converse with the locals, connect with the culture, and see the very monuments and sights I have been learning about my entire life. I have also had the opportunity to do so many things I never would have been able to do anywhere else, like attend mass presided by Pope Francis, eat pizza with the Swiss Guards, and enjoy a back room tour of the Vatican Museums with my class.

Julie Booth and Kelsey Littlefield in front of the Temple of Poseidon in Paestum in southern Italy.
Julie Booth and Kelsey Littlefield in front of the Temple of Poseidon in Paestum in southern Italy.

Rome is really a great location for studying abroad. You are never at a loss for something new and exciting to discover, as the city itself offers a rich, tangible history. Whether it is one of the many museums Rome has to offer or stumbling upon your new favorite gelateria, Rome never leaves you bored.

The city, at the heart of the country, also offers you easy access to the beautiful cities and countryside of Italy. Just a short train ride from Rome, you can see the amazingly preserved cities of Pompeii, Herculaneum, and Ostia Antica. You can see Michelangelo’s David and Botticelli’s Birth of Venus in Florence. You can explore the wineries of southern Tuscany and the cliff sides of Sorrento and the Almafi coast.

Recently, our program went on a three-day trip to Sicily, during which I got to visit the archaeological sites of Selinunte and the Valley of the Temples in Agrigento. To end the trip, we visited the ancient Greek theater in Taormina, overlooking Mt. Etna. I got to learn a lot about the island and its immense Greek influence in its early settlement, while also seeing some of the best-preserved temples from the ancient world.

Throughout my time here in Italy, my understanding of the ancient world has grown exponentially by simply being immersed in its history. And I have found that having knowledge of the Classics makes one’s time in Rome all the more richer. I am constantly amazed at the beauty and ambiance of Rome and the rest of Italy, and in my last month here in Rome I’m looking forward to exploring the city more, improving my Italian, and continuing my search for Italy’s best cup of gelato.

Drawing connections between Latin grammar & photographic grammar

In February students in Introduction to Latin 2 visited the Cantor Art Gallery to visit Prof. Matthew Gamber’s exhibition Grammar, which explored the rules that govern the medium of photography. The exhibition included a variety of photographs in different styles. Prof. Gamber gave a brief introduction to the group; and students considered how their study of Latin grammar might inform their understanding of this exhibit – and vice versa. Here is the reflection by Melissa Gryan ’18.

Photography is a language that operates through images, and Latin is a language that operates through written and spoken words. In both cases, grammar facilitates creativity.

In visual images, grammar often goes unnoticed. In a two-dimensional space, aspects such as values, ground lines, and scale communicate the amount of light, the light source, distance, and size. Rules for constructing images create a methodology for understanding something abstract.

Hannah Nguyen '19, Melissa Gryan '18, and Tori Jackson '18 discuss Matthew Gamber's 3D photograph 'Stanford Bunny.'
Hannah Nguyen ’19, Melissa Gryan ’18, and Tori Jackson ’18 discuss Matthew Gamber’s 3D photograph ‘Stanford Bunny.’

Professor Gamber discussed how composition influences our perception. He explained that black and white photos are often associated with documentation and facts, although this assumption is often an underlying one that is not explicitly expressed. When viewing the exhibit as a whole, which in a way is a type of image, the arrangement forms another layer of rules that tell viewers how to process the artwork presented to them. The relative proximity of images can imply association between pictures, or spotlighting can signal importance.

Latin operates similarly. The grammar works as a necessary structure to communicate ideas. We have learned the importance of case, tense, and voice, so that we can understand the meaning and function of each word in a sentence. At this point in Latin we are learning the structure. Although confining at the moment, it is ultimately freeing. Grammar allows Latin authors to do with literature what Prof. Gamber does with photographs. These rules act as a conduit through which the combinations of words can express countless thoughts and ideas – giving a space in which to express and exchange ideas.

The masters of these rules of language can use them to create art, through poetry and prose, which communicates to its readers with precision and elegance. We have seen glimpses in the passages we have translated, especially from the Aeneid, where the positioning and placement of words and the ideas communicated employ the necessary rules of grammar to convey a delicate, carefully constructed image. Without the support and structure of grammar, Virgil would have no framework in which to convey his story.

At this point, our study of Latin is the beginning of a process, while the exhibition Grammar is the end product of an analogous process. The results of Grammar help us envision the application of Latin grammar, and anticipate the endpoint of the artistry of Latin literature.

Life after Fenwick 4: alums reflect on their Classical education

On Thursday, February 18, three Holy Cross Classics alums returned to campus to discuss how their education in Greek and Latin has informed their lives after college. Meg Moran ’08, a human resources executive at Johnson & Johnson in New Jersey, Ryan O’Malley ’09, an elected representative on the city council in Malden, Mass., and Colin Clark ’11, a film and television production professional in New York, reflected back on their paths since graduation and shared some wisdom with current students.

Meg Moran '08, Colin Clark '11, and Ryan O'Malley '09
Meg Moran ’08, Colin Clark ’11, and Ryan O’Malley ’09

Ryan, who worked in real estate and project management before his successful election bid this past November, singled out the semester he spent in Rome among its age-old monuments – many of which still survive and function. His public service now includes infrastructure planning, and he draws on that time in Rome when thinking about lasting solutions. “Those of us who studied ancient Rome and Greece are better prepared to look at things from a longer perspective,” said Ryan. “We think not in quarters or years, but in decades, centuries, and millennia.”

Meg, who went on to earn an MBA at Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business, highlighted how her Classics major has always distinguished her from others in her field. One distinguishing factor she emphasized was her ability to read things closely. “In my first internship I became known as the person who could read and edit documents with a critical eye,” she said. “Little details – little mistakes – matter, and that was something instilled in me during my Greek and Latin courses.”

Meg talks with Maggie MacMullin '16.
Meg chats with Maggie MacMullin ’16.

Colin, who has worked on television shows such as HBO’s “Boardwalk Empire” and films such as the upcoming Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2, echoed Meg’s thoughts. “My Latin and Greek courses were a mental boot camp. The structure of sentences and of language is ingrained in the heads of Classics majors – whether we want it or not!” said Colin. “I’ve been able to use these ingrained reading and editing skills for reviewing production materials.”

Colin talks with Prof. John Hamilton, whose course on the Roman satirist Juvenal has informed the stand-up comedy that Colin does along with his film production work.
Colin talks with Prof. John Hamilton, whose course on the Roman satirist Juvenal has informed the stand-up comedy that Colin does in New York, along with his film production work.

During the Q-and-A discussion with current students, Ryan brought up another habit of mind that unites Classics majors – and that has daily relevance for his work in government. “Classics majors are inquisitive people. We’re the types who get excited about the discovery of a lost scroll,” he said. “And this can spread to all aspects of our lives. We’re the ones asking more questions and deeper questions.”

Bringing 10th-century Gregorian chant to life

By Allyn Waller ’18

On Friday afternoons, Fenwick 4 comes alive with the sounds of students in the Manuscripts Club decoding the works of Jerome, Homer, and Euclid. Along with these famous authors, however, one group is working on a digital edition of a manuscript of Gregorian chants written by anonymous monks in the late tenth century.

Chanters
Allyn Waller ’18, Nicholas Guarracino ’18, and Michael Shun ’18 at work on letters and neumes.

Studying this kind of manuscript brings unique challenges. The manuscript contains text, as most manuscripts do, but also contains musical notation for the chants in the form of neumes, markers that signify the note or notes to be sung on a given syllable.

One challenge for the group working of this manuscript has been figuring out how to represent these neumes in digital form. Also, unlike the Iliad or other classical texts, there is not a way to canonically refer to a specific line of a chant. Much of the group’s work last semester was spent on ways to try to overcome these problems.

Thankfully, there is a talented troupe of teammates trying to tackle this treatise. This team includes Allyn Waller ’18, Classics major and Computer Science minor, Michael Shun ‘18, Classics and Music double major, Nicholas Guarracino ‘18, Classics major; Classics major Julia Spiegel ’19; and Ying Hong ’19, presently undeclared. Consulting the students on their work are Prof. Neel Smith of the Classics Department, the Manuscripts Club adviser; and Prof. Daniel DiCenso of the Music Department.

Of their work on the project Michael said, “I really feel like I’m in my element here. This research covers both of my fields of study; so even though I’m not taking a Latin course this semester, I still get to use some of the Latin muscles I’ve built over the years. Plus, it’s really comforting to know there are others out there that are interested in the same things I am.”

Nicholas shares Michael’s excitement about exploring these manuscripts: “After so many years of training, it feels good to finally get my hands dirty and work with real manuscripts.”

Julia, who is beginning her second semester at Holy Cross, is enthusiastic about this research opportunity: “It’s exciting to dive into research like this early in my college career. These chants are really interesting and the more we learn about them, the more interesting they get.”

“My favorite part of the Manuscripts Club, and this project in particular, is that I feel I am contributing to the overall store of human knowledge,” commented Allyn. “I’m not just reading old texts; I’m using my knowledge of those texts to create new knowledge and understanding.”

In case you missed it: more HC Classics stories from 2015

Click on the hyperlinks for the following stories about Holy Cross Classics students, alums, and faculty:

*In March Jason Steranko ’17 presented his paper on war and peace in the Roman historian Sallust at an undergraduate colloquium at the Center for Hellenic Studies in Washington, D.C.

*In May Nik Churik ’15 was awarded a Fulbright to study Byzantine Greek texts at Leiden University in the Netherlands.

*In May Stephanie Lindeborg ’13 and Prof. Neel Smith spoke on the panel “Let’s Get Digital” at a meeting of the Classical Association of Canada in Toronto.

*In June Steve Stack ’94 began his term as the president of the American Medical Association, becoming the youngest AMA president since 1854.

*In June Ed Brzytwa ’99 was named the director of global policy for localization, trade, and multilateral affairs for the Information Technology Industry Council.

*In July Robert Dudley ’08, a Ph.D. candidate at Duke University, was awarded his second Fulbright, to study Cicero’s reception of Plato at Freie Universität in Berlin.

*Over the summer Brian Clark ’15, Claude Hanley ’18, Stephanie Neville ’17, Charlie Schufreider ’17, Alex Simrell ’16, and Melody Wauke ’17 unraveled the mystery of a Homeric scholion.

*In July the website Academic Minute interviewed Prof. Neel Smith on his work with digital texts.

*In September Nik Churik ’15 and Prof. Neel Smith spoke at a conference on the digital humanities in Grenoble, France.

*In November David Bonagura ’03, Classics instructor at Regis High School in New York, inquired about the poet Virgil and Catholicism. In December David discussed his work with Cardinal Dolan of New York.

*In December Tabitha Lord ’93 published her first science-fiction novel, Horizon.

Prof. Martin reports on pioneering student-faculty collaborative work at national conference

In November Prof. Tom Martin traveled to Atlanta to the annual meeting of the American Academy of Religion and the Society of Biblical Literature, the largest meeting of scholars of religion in the world. At the meeting Prof. Martin and Prof. David Levenson of the Dept. of Religion at Florida State University presented a talk on the Latin manuscripts of the works of Flavius Josephus, the most important (and controversial) historian of the history of the Jews in antiquity.

Atlanta
Prof. David Levenson (FSU) and Prof. Tom Martin at the annual meeting of the the American Academy of Religion and the Society of Biblical Literature.

The presentation came out of their current collaborative project, a commentary on Book 6 of Josephus’ The Jewish War. Their talk concentrated on the so-called Latin Josephus, until now mostly unstudied but critical evidence  for understanding the relationship between Jews and Christians from the time of the early Roman Empire to the modern era. In their presentation Prof. Martin and Prof. Levenson enthusiastically recognized the substantial contributions to their project made by undergraduate students in Classics at Holy Cross and undergraduate and graduate students in Religion at FSU. This group of students took a joint course on Josephus during the Fall 2014 semester, offered simultaneously on both campuses through video conferencing.

The course was a pioneering one at Holy Cross in two significant ways. It was a bilingual course; that is, the students were looking at Josephus’ writings in the original Greek as well as the ancient Latin translations made during the later Roman Empire (the “Latin Josephus”). Secondly, it was the first Classics seminar at Holy Cross in which a cohort of graduate students was also contributing to the conversation – through the wonders of Skype.

Josephus course
(Clockwise, left to right) Meagan Freeze ’16, Joe MacNeill ’16, Brian Clark ’15, Andrew Boudon ’15, Nik Churik ’15, Michael Russo ’15, Melody Wauke ’17, Steven Merola ’16, and Melissa Luttmann ’15 enjoy discussion and an e-banquet last December with fellow Josephus students at FSU (on the screen at the back of the seminar table).

“The course was different from all the classes I had previously taken in that it provided students with the opportunity to read both Greek and Latin,” recalled Melody Wauke ’17. “This allowed us to compare the works of Josephus in both languages in order to debate ambiguities and to obtain a better sense of the meaning of the text.”

“Comparing the Latin and Greek texts highlighted both similarities and differences between the two languages,” said Maggie MacMullin ’16. “Where one language may be more precise, the other is more ambiguous, which resulted in lively discussions about the author’s and the translator’s intended meanings. For example, if the Latin says ‘freely’ and the Greek says ‘happily,’ how does the translator compose his English? Of course, Classics students are often faced with challenges of interpretation, but this course introduced even more. We not only considered the two languages side by side, but also variations in manuscripts, and attempted to derive accurate translations with these considerations.”

Of the opportunity to work with the FSU graduate students, Joe MacNeill ‘16 remarked, “It was very helpful for me to see how philological research operates on a graduate level. This course gave me the philological tools I would need for tackling my investigation of John’s logos [in Joe’s Fenwick Scholarship thesis; see further here].”

The opportunity to work with two professors in one course also proved to be fruitful.

“We all greatly benefited from Prof. Levenson’s expertise in all matters Josephan and paleographical,” remembered Steven Merola ’16. “He and Prof. Martin were the founts of erudition that sustained the mutually semi-virtual table extending from Tallahassee to Worcester.”

“Skyping in class with Prof. Levenson and the FSU students was intimidating at first, because there were now two professors present with whom to discuss our insights,” recalled Maggie. “However, we quickly learned that Prof. Martin and Prof. Levenson were just as happy on opposite sides of a given point as on the same side.”

The work of the collaborators in this course has taken on much life since class meetings wrapped up a year ago. Meagan Freeze ’16 published her translation and commentary on Josephus’ brief account of the life of Jesus Christ (Jewish Antiquities 18.63–64) in the May 2015 issue of Holy Cross’ undergraduate Classics journal, Parnassus. And their findings continue to live on, in conference presentations and in the Josephus commentary by Professors Martin and Levenson that is now in the works.

Shakespearean Roman Comedy in New York

By Corey Scannell ‘18

On Saturday, August 14, Professor Ellen Perry’s Roman Comedy class, along with a few erudite guests from the Department, made its way to New York City to see a performance of Shakespeare’s Comedy of Errors. Throughout the semester, the Roman Comedy class has been reading Plautus’ Menaechmi, from which Shakespeare drew inspiration for his comedy. In both the Menaechmi and the Comedy of Errors, the narrative focuses on twins who were separated at birth and reunited as adults, amid much laughter and confusion. Although we would have loved to see a live performance of the Menaechmi, the Comedy of Errors proved to be the next best thing – plus, it’s always rewarding to see the Classical world’s influences in today’s culture.

Lombardi's
Nicholas Guarracino ’18, Corey Scannell ’18, Alex Simrell ’16, Allyn Waller ’18, Steven Merola ’16, Michael Kelley ’18, and Claude Hanley ’16 flash their Mona Lisa smiles after post-play pizza at Lombardi’s.

After a four-hour van ride to Lafayette Street in Greenwich Village, the RomCom class and co. packed into The Public Theater’s small performance hall at around two o’clock. From the start of the play, it was clear we weren’t in for a traditional interpretation of Shakespeare: within five minutes we saw border patrol police, college sports caps, and even a Donald Trump mask. The Public Mobile Theater Unit prides itself on making Shakespeare accessible to anyone. Because of this, their interpretation shirks much of Shakespeare’s highbrow humor, so as to accommodate easy comprehension and laughs galore.

The ninety-minute performance wasn’t all slapstick, though. A cast of only seven actors played sixteen roles, creatively and skillfully making the most of limited stage props, including an ingenious use of hats to distinguish characters. Sound effects were performed live, sexual innuendos were extravagantly stressed, and audience members played a surprisingly large role in a play that felt perhaps a bit more Roman that Shakespearean, after all.

Following the play, everyone had a few hours to split up and explore New York City. Some visited friends, others family, and a large team of us went to find dinner. Of course, we stumbled into a bookstore and decimated its Classics section on the way (first things first), but soon found America’s oldest pizzeria, Lombardi’s in Little Italy. The pizza was great, company better, and the day a success.

Fittingly, the marks of old and new pervaded our entire trip: in an effort to witness the vestiges of antiquity, we went to watch a sixteenth-century play that happened to incorporate more markings of modernity than anything else. Plautus’ Epidamnian merchant at one moment can be Shakespeare’s Duke of Ephesus at another, before becoming a satirical Donald Trump near the U.S.-Mexico border today. Our trip served as a reminder of just how relevant our subject is: though Classical influences change and adapt, they never really disappear.

Four students journey to Bucknell to present Homeric research

By Charlie Schufreider ’17 and Alex Simrell ’16

Friday afternoons on Fenwick 4 tend to be dominated by the Holy Cross Manuscripts, Inscriptions, and Documents (MID) Club. Yet last Friday, August 6, the club’s presence was reduced just a bit, as four of its members traveled to Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, home of Bucknell University. There Claude Hanley ‘18, Stephanie Neville ‘17, Charlie Schufreider ‘17, and Alex Simrell ’16 attended the Bucknell Undergraduate Digital Scholarship Conference. Fearing to miss our 2 p.m. Sophocles seminar, the team didn’t depart until 3:30 on Friday afternoon. This left us battling Hartford rush hour traffic, rubberneckers all along I-84, and indigestion from Oreo overindulgence.

Conference at Bucknell
Stephanie Neville ‘17, Claude Hanley ‘18, Charlie Schufreider ‘17, and Alex Simrell ’16 prepare to present at Bucknell.

After a late night arrival at the Country Inn and Suites, the team arose with the sun in order to run over the final details of our presentation before the conference breakfast, for which we were first in line. Our talk was part of the panel titled, “Student Success through Digital Scholarship Initiatives.” Our talk, which followed two presentations by administrators about their respective undergraduate research programs, offered an example of the type of work that can be accomplished when undergraduates are given ample opportunity. For it focused not only on the structure of the MID Club, but it also highlighted our recent summer research on the Venetus A manuscript of Homer’s Iliad.

For the abstract to our presentation, click here: http://dsconf.blogs.bucknell.edu/2015/09/14/digital-editions-of-primary-documents-a-collaborative-modern-approach-to-ancient-texts/

We were pleased by the overwhelmingly positive response to our presentation. Audience members expressed genuine interest in our club, and many even asked how to create such a dedicated research club on their own campuses. What really amazed us was the incredible response all over the Twitter-verse (the hashtag of the conference was #BUDSC15; our Twitter handle is @HCMID). It certainly made for fun reading as we, with lightened hearts, re-embarked to make our seven-hour trek back to Worcester. So now, the Friday after our adventure, we return to Fenwick 4 to resume our studies of manuscripts, inscriptions, and documents, carrying on the tradition we represented the Friday before.

Fenwick Scholar MacNeill hosts student / faculty reading group

Students and faculty from around the College gather to read the Gospel of John

Classics and Catholic Studies major Joe MacNeill is this year’s Fenwick Scholar, an opportunity awarded to one or two seniors each year to work on a yearlong research project. Joe’s Fenwick thesis, titled “God As Logos: A Philological, Philosophical, and Theological Investigation,” examines the relationship between language and liturgy, specifically through the lens of John’s Gospel, in which the Greek word logos is used to refer to God.

This fall Joe is also auditing Prof. Nancy Andrews’ advanced Greek seminar on the playwright Sophocles. And, after a few encouraging conversations with Prof. Andrews, Joe assembled a group of students and faculty to read the Gospel of John with him on Friday afternoons. “Joe occupied the driver’s seat in getting the group started,” Prof. Andrews said. “I had hoped that he would, since he is steeped in the material.”

MacNeill
Prof. Andrews, Joe MacNeill ’16, and Steven Merola ’16 at the reading group’s first meeting.

Of the group’s objectives, Joe said, “The reading group has two general goals. First, to facilitate discussion about the text with which I will be working for the duration of the year — the Gospel of John — a text that is not often read in its original Greek.  Second, to bring together students and faculty from a variety of disciplines and with varying degrees of familiarity with Greek.”

In the handful of meetings this fall, the group of participants has included fellow senior Classics majors Meagan Freeze and Steven Merola, as well as Prof. Andrews (Classics), Fr. John Gavin (Religious Studies), Prof. John Little (Mathematics), and Prof. John Manoussakis (Philosophy). The group is open to more participants.

“We have all benefited from the interchanges between Joe and Steven Merola, who is writing a thesis on the early Christian theologian Origen,” Prof. Andrews said. “My role has been the interested interlocutor, with very basic questions. It is a stimulating and refreshing change of pace for me!”

The reading group is living up to and even exceeding Joe’s expectations. “After two meetings, we already achieved our goals by delving into the subtleties of the text with members from such diverse departments,” Joe said. “Discussion topics range from investigating the philosophical concepts underpinning challenging words as logos and phos, to understanding John’s use of verb tenses and moods.  We have already found that the text is deceivingly difficult, with a simple grammar and vocabulary disguising a rich philosophical and theological tradition.”

About that time when 5,000 people came to Holy Cross to watch Euripides’ “Hecuba” in Greek . . .

Hecuba at HC-1