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Classics Symposium

Hannah talks about presenting at the annual Classics symposium.

Hannah talks about presenting at the annual Classics symposium.

This term I am taking a 300 level capstone Classics course called: Expectasne Patronum? Magical Practice in the Greco-Roman World. I chose to take it because it sounded quite interesting and also it is the capstone class to the major and minor of Classics. Though students often take it their senior year, a Classics minor who plans on going abroad in the winter of my senior year, I decided to take it this fall so I wouldn’t be doing my comps for my major at the same time as this.

One of the special things about this class is we work on a long term research project, where we present some of our progress in 8th week at the Classics Symposium, before turning in a 12 page research paper at the end of the term. For majors, those 12 pages will be the starting place for their comps, and for minors it is the final thing they have to do to get their minor (besides of course completing the general class requirements).

classics poster
The poster for this years symposium.

What has been my research topic?

Since the entire course has been based around magic within the Greco-Roman world–a wildly dense, interesting, complicated, and confusing topic–my project has been based around the magical quality of shipwrecks. While that might sound silly, there are multiple examples of literature–such as Apuleius Metamorphoses–and primary spell and curse examples, that contain mentions of shipwrecks as ingredients.

There is very little written by scholars about why shipwrecks could be magical, so I decided to look into it, and wow has it been fascinating! There are so many factors that go into making something magical, and shipwrecks are no exception.

What is the Classics Symposium?

The Classics Symposium is an annual event where majors and minors give a 15-20 minute talk on their research, followed by 15 minutes of questions. Since we had six students in the class, the symposium was four hours long (don’t worry, we take breaks in-between some of the speakers).

All of the topics of talks involved some sort of magic theme, and ranged from magical plants, ancient laws regarding magic, the magic of makeup and beauty, Christian versus pagan magic, and how inns are associated with witches. Quite a repertoire!

Who attends?

Anyone who wants to come, including friends and family. On top of that, all the professors within the Classics department attend, as well as a couple from the history department who are particularly interested. The department professors all listen intently and then provide feedback on our talks through the form of questions and suggestions: what was unclear about our research, some other texts and concepts to explore, and how to keep furthering our ideas as we write our final research paper.

Overall experience

I forgot to mention… I am not a huge fan of public speaking. As someone who notoriously is known for talking fast, I talk faster when I get nervous. I tried to slow things down, and while I talked “a bit slower” according to my professor, it was still a bit speedy. I also had a bit of trouble with my slides and skipped too far ahead a couple times so I fell out of rhythm and got a bit flustered but thats okay. A prime time to grow is in the moment, and I ended up with some good ideas for my research paper and a bit more speaking experience. At the end of the talk I got to shake hands and meet with a lot of the department that I hadn’t met before, and they assured me that my talk went well.

I made the choice to speak first, which worked out because though it was nerve-wracking I was able to stop thinking about my talk and listen intently to the rest of my classmates. Overall it was quite an enjoyable experience, and afterwards we all went to dinner as a group.

Hannah is a junior majoring in Geology and minoring in Classics. As a Minnesotan she considers herself somewhat of an expert on MN winters. At Carleton, she fills her schedule with writing for the Admissions blog, working as a CCCE Communications Fellow, doing geology research and TAing geology classes, and increasing voter engagement on campus. When Hannah isn’t in class, she can be found tossing a frisbee with Syzygy, crocheting, reading, walking and skiing in the Arb, thrifting, and hanging out with her besties. Meet the other bloggers!