Journeying through ANCIENT GREECE

Black Issues in Higher Education, August 2, 2001 | Go to article overview
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Journeying through ANCIENT GREECE

Black Issues asked the HBCU faculty members attending Brethren Colleges Abroad's June seminar in Greece to take us along on their journey and share their experiences with our readers firsthand. Below, in their own words, they recall the most memorable aspects of their trip.

`A Revelation'

Greece was a revelation. On the ride from the airport I gawked at the stunning blue sea and sky and recognized the names of cities like Corinth and Delphi on ordinary highway signs -- mythical places that I'd read about for years. But a moment of true epiphany came the next day as our gracious seminar coordinator, aptly, named Aphrodite, led us through the ancient Agora up to the Parthenon. I touched the history in the stones under my feet and hands and will carry that tangible experience into my teaching of The Apology and Oedipus.

On a bus trip out of Athens, we saw the Mycenaean excavations, which illuminate Homer's Illiad and Odyssey, and the ancient theater at Epidaurus, whose amazing acoustics still echo with the words of Aeschylus. Perhaps the most impressive evidence of the country's long history came on a simple subway ride to Syntama Square. Embedded in the walls that led to the train platform lay ancient gravesites and water conduits discovered during the construction of the station.

With no apologies for my own literary bias, I must also confess that the seminar fed the appetite as well as the intellect. We ate wonderful Greek olives (gift of Athena) with almost every meal, and every meal included lively discussions in the Greek tradition. We met and talked with the faculty on the campus of the University of La Verne-Athens, and were received by the mayor's office, the American embassy and the Parliament. These occasions showed how lovingly critical our Greek hosts were of their native land, and taught us how modern Greece struggles to reshape itself as a 21st-century democracy facing internal and external conflicts.

Our last day took us to the Goulandris Museum of Cycladic art. Among these enigmatic, compelling stone figures, we were transported to a culture that predates all those texts that I love. This seemed the perfect atmosphere as our stay in Athens drew to a close. My time in Athens leaves me enriched as an individual, and as a teacher. I begin to understand how much our cultures share, and yet how completely unique each culture remains.

-- Dr. Amee Carmines, Associate Professor of English, Hampton University

`A First-Row Seat'

In addition to providing some intellectual distance from the familiar, the trip to Greece brought into focus the value of experiental teaching and learning, the means to forge new collaborations that promote and expand upon efforts to internationalize the curriculum, and the importance of engaging in the study of the evolution of human history and our individual places within that context.

As an administrator and a former faculty member, the obvious advantages of faculty and students being able to not only visually see and physically experience the places where much of Greek civilization arose and flowered, but to also gain understanding through those experiences, was made startlingly real. To stand stage center in the ancient theatre of Epidaurus, to test the acoustics and to sit in the extraordinary site lines engendered more understanding of the ancient Greek theater than all of the texts that I had previously studied.

If our students were able to experience historical places and settings in real or virtual reality, I believe that their understanding of the value of history and literature would be enhanced.

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