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UI chosen to hold regional classics conference

BY LAUREN COFFEY | APRIL 19, 2013 5:00 AM

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Classic stories written by philosophers such as Aristotle and Homer have been told for centuries, and the University of Iowa is being recognized for continuing to make innovations in this ancient field.

The UI was chosen to host the Classic Association for the Middle and South Convention, in which professors from across the Midwest will present papers and research in the classics field.

“It’s good to host the convention not just because it puts a face of the University of Iowa to show, but also because it’s good for the local economy,” said Robert Cargill, assistant professor of classics and religion studies.

The conference will be held at the Sheraton Hotel, 210 S. Dubuque St.; it is open to classics students and professors only.

Classics students involved in the Classics Honor Society, Eta Sigma Phi, held their fifth-annual “Homerathon” on Thursday. The Homerathon had students each read 20 minutes of Homer’s The Odyssey. The reading started at 6 a.m. and finished roughly at midnight.

Usually the Homerathon is held on the Pedestrian Mall, but because of inclement weather, it was held inside. One member said having the event outside helps draw students’ interest in the classics program.

“It’s kind of a fun way to get the public involved,” said Lindsey McCoy, aco-head of the Homerathon. “We couldn’t have it in a public area because it rained yesterday and was supposed to rain today, so not as many people know about it.”

It is McCoy’s first year being involved in the Homerathon. She said while the Classics Department is good, there may be an issue with students not knowing all that it has to offer.

“It’s kind of funny, I didn’t know the Classics Department existed when I first came here,” she said. “I kind of stumbled into it. It is lesser known than a lot of other departments.”

McCoy said some classes in the department, such as Latin and mythology, are counted as general-education courses, and that has helped more UI students become aware of the department.

One senior read at the Homerathon and said that while the Classics Department may seem to teach out-of-date things, the subject material is applicable to many aspects in modern life.

“People think learning Greek or Latin won’t help them,” said Andrew Blodgett, a second-year participant. “Learning that is a big help or learning about mythology or history. It’s always good to look at the past.”

Cargill said the Classics Department continually changes its structure to appeal to students’ interests. He is currently teaching a class using 3-D technology.

“We’re looking at 3-D technology and ancient realities,” he said. “Students may not come to classics because they may not be interested in the ancient world, but the department came up with the idea to teach classics with a digital humanities program. We teach someone ancient civilization, but we use digital tools. We would talk about the Coliseum, but then I would show students what it looks like to walk around it.”

Cargill said he commends the university and the department for continuing to have a strong classics program, despite the trend other universities are showing.

“The administration at Iowa should be praised,” he said. “They continue to see the importance of the oldest major at the history of universities. Many other classics departments and humanities in general are being eliminated from universities. This is what universities started off from, and it is important to learn about history because otherwise we are doomed to repeat it.”


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