Classics-Humanities affiliation focuses on role of classics today


The blossoming affiliation between Contexts for Classics and the Institute for the Humanities could be a national model for studying classical antiquity across several disciplines and departments, say those sparking the initiative.

By joining forces, the two interdepartmental and interdisciplinary units that foster collaborative work among faculty and students can mount greater initiatives and reach a wider audience, says Vassilis Lambropoulos, professor of comparative literature and classical studies, and C. P. Cavafy Professor of Modern Greek, LSA.

In March, CfC and the Institute for Humanities presented the successful conference “Classicisms in the Black Atlantic” at the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology. It was organized by Ian Moyer, associate professor of history, LSA, and graduate student Paul Hebert. “Papers ranged from ancient Roman poetry to contemporary African-American theater. The two units shared publicity and resources to bring together scholars from all over the world to talk about the way the Greco-Roman tradition has been used by artists and intellectuals to fashion a distinct black classicism,” Lambropoulos says.

Following a CfC panel discussion in January on the neo-classical façade of Angell Hall, the next collaboration, “Dancing the Façade of Angell Hall” at 9 p.m. April 22, will feature DJs, live dancing, laser art and more. Under the direction of Mark Tucker, arts director of the Lloyd Hall Scholars Program, and organized by CfC graduate student coordinator Nicholas Geller, this interactive community event in April will highlight a campus monument as a staging area.”That should appeal to a lot of students and community members,” Lambropoulos says.

Basil Dufallo, associate professor of classical studies and comparative literature, LSA, says the study of classical antiquity is vital for the knowledge of deep human tradition that it offers. Such study also provides an understanding of the diverse ways that classical paradigms continue to inform the present.

“Whether we’re dealing with foundational ideas of democracy and law, influential models for literature, art and architecture, or the pop-cultural images of antiquity that seem never to lose their appeal, classical antiquity and its reception remain startlingly vibrant areas of study and creative endeavor,” he says.

Dufallo says this is evidenced in the impressive number of undergraduates flocking to classically themed courses, and by the way CfC has forged connections among a wide variety of disciplines since its formation by U-M faculty 15 years ago.

Sidonie Smith, director of the Institute for the Humanities, says the affiliation supports the institute’s mission to carry forward the heritage of the humanities, to bring the voices of humanities scholars and students to the campus and the public, and to support scholarly work and spark lively conversation across the arts and humanities.

“The institute is also a hub of activities, a presenter of events, and an incubator of ideas. We see our affiliation with Contexts for Classics as an opportunity to provide administrative expertise and financial support that advances the goals of this interdisciplinary faculty initiative to focus scholarly and pedagogical attention on the afterlife of classical texts, arts and ideas in contexts of modernity,” she says.

The CfC steering committee consists of Yopie Prins, professor of English and comparative literature, LSA; Silke-Maria Weineck, chair of the Department of Comparative Literature, and associate professor of German and comparative literature, LSA; Dufallo, Lambropoulos and Moyer. The committee emphasizes that even as CfC builds an affiliation with the Institute for the Humanities, it retains strong ties to the departments where the idea for CfC first took shape: Classical Studies and Comparative Literature chief among them.

“Through our past and future ventures, we are proud to contribute to our university’s reputation for exciting interdisciplinary collaborations in humanities,” Prins says.


  1. George Karnezis
    on April 3, 2014 at 2:36 pm

    Many thanks; I’m heartened by such news that makes it more difficult to see any alleged crisis in the humanities.

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