Summer Reading Groups ’22: A Report from Classics

14 September 2022
By Chico Zimmerman, Hazel Lillian Amland Grose Professor of Classics

Three members of the Classics department (Jake Morton, Clara Hardy, Chico Zimmerman) met on three occasions this summer to discuss the following readings:

  • Joseph Henrich, Steve J. Heine, and Ara Norenzayan, “The Weirdest People in the World?” Behavioral and Brain Sciences 33 (2010), 61-135.
  • Richard A. Shweder et al. “The ‘Big Three’ of Morality (Autonomy, Community, and Divinity) and the “Big Three’ Explanations of Suffering,” in Morality and Health, ed. Allen M. Brandt and Paul Rozin, 119-172 (Routledge, 1997). Carleton InterLibrary Loan.
  • L. Hardwick, Reception Studies, Chapter 1: From the Classical Tradition to Reception Studies and Chapter 6: (Re)Evaluations – (why) Do Reception Studies matter? (Greece and Rome: New Surveys in the Classics 33) (Oxford, 2003)

These readings helped to extend and broaden conversations that started two summers ago that focused on race and ethnicity in the ancient world, as well as the scholarship of Black classicists and the (ab)uses of Classics to justify systemic oppression of Black Americans.

The first two readings for this summer were suggested by Zimmerman who has used them in his Epic course to help students better contextualize their own modern and (primarily) Western assumptions about values and relationships with the non-Western and non-modern perspectives that are featured in ancient classical literature. Both readings stress that contemporary American students and academics often do not appreciate the role of community and the sacred as integral parts of the human experience in other places and times.

The last readings were suggested by Hardy as a way to help stimulate thinking about how the department can better and more consistently deliver our Student Learning Outcome: “demonstrate how subsequent cultures, including their own, reference and are informed by the ancient world.” In our discipline, this dynamic is known as “reception studies” broadly speaking, and it is a rapidly growing sub-discipline in our field that often attracts and features the work of non-white scholars highlighting less visible and less studied responses to classical texts and culture. While we all do discuss “reception” to some extent in our courses, it is sporadic and less visible to our students generally. We’d like to develop a more systematic approach in this area.