Message from the Interim Chair (2020)

Jonathan Burgess, Interim Chair

Jonathan Burgess, Interim Chair

The Department of Classics had a productive year in 2019-2020. Courses were taught, research was conducted, articles and books were published, and PhD degrees were justly earned by several graduate students. Not that everything was perfect. There was the pandemic, unfortunately still ongoing, while much else in recent news has been disheartening. Nonetheless, the department has managed to keep its focus on its pedagogical mission. We bravely and resourcefully finished the spring term with online instruction. A crack team of graduate instructors and TAs are now teaching online summer courses. And now we are all puzzling over how to implement dual delivery—online, and to some degree, in-person—in the coming academic year.

This electronic newsletter surveys the breadth and depth of our achievements. It opens with two historical essays. Ben Akrigg provides a discussion of the Athenian plague as described by Thucydides, with interesting commentary on the relevance of this ancient event to current circumstances. And on the basis of archival material that fell into my hands this year, I contribute a piece on the origins of Lillian Massey Building and the Household Science Department that first occupied it.

Next in the newsletter is a sample of all the great things accomplished by our graduate and undergraduate students this year. We will be lucky to have helping us teach this coming year three of our recent doctoral graduates, John Fabiano and Brad Hald as lecturers, and Chiara Graf in her capacity as a post-doc; along with Alex Cushing, they provide brief reports of their recent and ongoing experiences in the graduate student section of the newsletter. As for undergraduates, CLASSU displayed enormous leadership in initiating a high school outreach event last November. In late February, the department initiated a monthly coffee hour for undergraduates, unfortunately the last one of the year due to the pandemic. It will arise again some day! Both graduate and undergraduate students also industriously re-organized student space in the building, something that will be of great value as we learn how to safely use our building again.

Stuck at home as we are, unable to travel, we all appreciate reports of department faculty and staff working hard on archaeological digs abroad. Though Sarah Murray will be able to do some work on site this summer, other international archaeological plans have necessarily been cancelled. It’s nice that we have reports and pictures of last summer’s season from Sarah, Seth Bernard, and Carrie Atkins.

Assistant Editor Emelen Leonard conducted fascinating interviews with current post-doc Flavia Amaral and the Athenians Project team of John Traill and Philippa Matheson. Flavia describes her interesting research and provides colorful comparisons of study and life in Brazil and North America. John and Philippa describe the long and complex history of the very important Athenians Project, with some instructive commentary of the beneficial role of computers for Classics research.

The upcoming retirement of Ernest Weinrib of the university’s Faculty of Law provides an opportunity to share his memories of his experiences in our department as a student and instructor—more welcome historical material for the newsletter. Finally, I ask readers to note the final item in the newsletter, the opportunity to donate to many fine scholarships and fellowships belonging to the department. Last year’s newsletter heralded our most recent initiative, a diversity bursary for introductory study of Latin and Greek in our summer program. I’m pleased to report that, with generous contributions by Arts & Science, and donations by Christer Bruun, John Traill, and myself, the department was able to triple the bursary funds for this summer. Please consider making a contribution to this noteworthy fund, or one of our many other fellowships or awards