Congratulations, Graduates!

This past year has been a little… different, of course. In common with most colleges in the United States, Reinhardt did not hold a graduation ceremony on account of the plague – which meant that I, regretfully, neglected to acknowledge our history graduates on this blog. To rectify this, please allow me to present, and congratulate:

Abigail Merchant.

Caitlin Neighbors.

Joshua Carver.

IDS 498

This past semester I tried something new, an Interdisciplinary Studies course on Homer, the ancient Greek epic poet whose works act as one of the cornerstones of Western Civilization. But rather than focussing on the great mountain of Homeric scholarship produced ever since the Archaic Age, we simply read one book of the Iliad and the Odyssey before for every class meeting and got together to discuss it. We used Ian Johnston’s translations, which I like and which are also available online. I was very impressed with my students’ insights, and I’m pleased to say that the course got even better as the result of the lockdown: we simply conducted it by email, and writing out one’s thoughts, and responses to those thoughts, concentrates the mind even better than open-ended discussion. For the record, I preserve some of this discussion, none of which is of my composition. Well done! 

Book 6

Starting at line 31, when Athena appears to Nausicaa, she comes as a friend of similar age. I found this funny because the way Athena talks to Nausicaa, she sounds more like a mom criticizing her cleanliness than a friend. She acts like the “mom-friend” to Nausicaa; the friend who always tells her friends what they are doing wrong and “how to get a man.”

I observed a Homeric Simile in lines 127-138 describing how Nausicaa stands out in her group of servants like the goddess Artemis in a group going for a hunt. I found this simile especially interesting since Odysseus says, “If you’re one of the gods who hold the wide heaven, then I think you most resemble Artemis… in your loveliness, / your stature, and your shape” when he first addresses her (189-192). Homer must have made this connection deliberately to either emphasize his simile or to prove the loveliness of Nausicaa—or both.

When Odysseus is first introduced in this book, he covers himself with thick bushes since the waves made him naked (159-160). This reminds me of Adam in the book of Genesis when he feels ashamed of his nudeness after eating from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Odysseus is also introduced with a Homeric Simile in lines 161-169. This simile compares him to a mountain lion to emphasize his stealthy movements. This simile seemed weird since the mountain lion would be hunting prey, and Odysseus is hiding from fear. 

Book 7

I would LOVE to find a study on the society of Phaeacia, and how well Homer’s mythic status for the place correlates to its place in real-world history. Homer sets up this society as an idyllic, heavenly society blessed by a multitude of gods. I find it interesting how godly blessings seem to get passed down from generation to generation – women continually receive blessings from Athena with the loom, and men receive the same with their skill on the sea from Poseidon. (Piggybacking on what Jamie said-maybe Odysseus receiving help and honor from people blessed by Poseidon could be a form of irony in the story? Or maybe a way for Homer to take Poseidon down a peg, if that makes sense?) However, despite receiving blessings from the gods to the point of being the perfect Greek society, they do not hold an important Greek ideal – hospitality. From what we can tell, other Greeks are always ready to receive strangers into their homes and treat them with hospitality and warmness, but the Phaeacians are said to treat strangers with wariness, not being the friendliest people. I feel like that is an important point in the story, thought I am not sure if there is any commentary Homer is trying to make here.

Book 8

I found it interesting that only one Muse loved and gifted Demodocus, but Homer does not state which Muse it is (line 74). It also says that she destroyed his eyes and gave him this gift at the same time, so he traded one kind of sight for another. This feels like a typical theme/occurrence in mythology. I also wonder if this sight helped him identify the “honored guest” since his first unprompted song was about Odysseus and Achilles arguing at Troy (line 90). Alcinous also notices how this and a later song about Troy make his guest weep, but does not ask who he is or why this is his reaction. Instead, Alcinous simply asks Demodocus to change songs. 

After the feast and first song, Alcinous changes the subject by inviting the Phaeacians to compete in games. This reminded me of funeral or festival games. This scene makes it seem like the Greeks took any opportunity to show their strength and practice athletic challenges. They find honor in this competition as expressed in Laodamas’ words: “there’s no greater glory for a man / than what he wins with his own hands and feet” (line 181-182). Euryalus also guilt trips Odysseus into competing in discus by claiming Odysseus is an all show no work kind of person. Odysseus proves him very wrong and spends a lot of time bragging about his competitive prowess. 

The Phaeacians conclude the games with more feasting and songs, and they give expensive gifts to Odysseus before his journey. One song is about Aphrodite and Ares cheating on Hephaestus. This song, of the three, is written in more detail than the other two. It includes detailed storytelling and dialogue among the gods, including Apollo and Hermes discussing how they would like to be the ones trapped with Aphrodite in a total male-ego led conversation (lines 422-431). 

I also found it interesting that Odysseus promises Nausicaa he will pray to her like a god until the end of his days (line 583-585). He is honoring her for saving him, but will his prayers mean anything since she is a living (younger) human and not an immortal deity? Or is he just saying this to be polite and show gratefulness?

He also ass Demodocus to play a song about the Trojan Horse (line 318-326). Is this so he can reminisce and grow sad again, or because he wants to hear of his glory days and have everyone hear about his greatness? Although he has avoided telling them who he is for this long. It’s is odd that the Phaeacians have gone through all this trouble to honor him and have no clue who he is.

Book 9

My first observation about this book is a criticism on Odysseus’ character. In lines 40-51 he describes how painful it was to be trapped with Calypso and kept away from his homeland. He did not mention his wife, his parents he misses, his wife? Nah. Not even mentioned. Neither is his son, he only misses the terrain of Ithaca. 

I also found it interesting that the behavior of his men mimics the behavior of the suitors—they want to drink, slaughter (other people’s) animals, and be merry. They have no concern for returning home. When Odysseus does get them back in the ships, he assures the ritual sacrifices are made before they leave, unlike Menelaus (lines 87-89). However, this sacrifice did not do him any favors; his ships were still attacked by storms at sea. 

In telling his tale, Odysseus spends little time discussing Ismarus or the Lotus-Eaters. He gives small summaries about how he and his men acted in those situations, but most of his summaries and descriptions center on the appearance of the land and oceans they traveled through. I wonder if this is in response to his longing for his homeland.

After these two events are chronicled, Odysseus spends most of his tale focusing on the detail of his encounter with Polyphemus. My guess is he does this because it shows more cunning in Odysseus than the other two encounters, and this portrays him as a stronger hero than simply avoiding a mesmerizing flower. 

Odysseus’ first appeal to Polyphemus is interesting because in it, he describes how:

“…Zeus protects
All suppliants and strangers—as god of guests,
He cares for all respected visitors.” (line 354-356)

This is the first time I’ve heard this quality attributed to Zeus. Usually I would think of Hermes as god protecting travelers, and I guess my brain associated these two things together. Zeus never seems great at caring for his guests either which makes this more interesting. 

Looking onto Odysseus’ craftiness, we notice he gives Polyphemus the name “Nobody” when he introduces himself (line 486). He thought ahead enough to realize that, if Polyphemus asks for help and names his attacker, other Cyclopes will think he is alone. However, he does not remain nameless. When he screams his name as the ship is leaving, this is an act of Hubris because he wants everyone to know his power and cunning (line 664). Hubris is Odysseus’ fatal flaw—all heroes have one. His pride will likely cause him more problems throughout his journey. His flaw makes him more human though, he is not some perfect hero travelling and winning every battle. 

Of course, after revealing his name we learn of a prophecy that conveniently existed before Odysseus met Polyphemus. So Polyphemus belittles Odysseus by claiming he his puny and weak, and he brushes it off by saying he couldn’t protect himself because it was meant to be. So even monsters blame their negative situations on the gods. But at least he can send his dad after Odysseus for the rest of his journey. This is where we learn why Poseidon has been angry at Odysseus for the whole epic. 

Book 10

1. Odysseus is… oddly patient with his crew. I can definitely see his mourning as proportional to his circumstances, but if I were him I definitely would have had a much more violent reaction to their stupidity in getting the crew off-course from Ithaca. I guess you can’t really go on a violent rampage when you’re dependent on a crew to keep your ship moving.

2. The reaction of Aeolus reminds me of that old Jewish belief that someone with lots of misfortune must have done something wrong in the eyes of God to deserve their punishment. I’m writing this with a massive headache so I don’t think I can provide much more commentary on this point.

3. Before reading this book, I was under the impression that Odysseus was a massive playboy that slept with a bunch of women outside of marriage but held up a double standard and got mad at his wife for possibly being unfaithful (though she did remain faithful in her marriage bed). However, so far in this book, the nature of Odysseus’s sexual relationship with women is much more DARK than I expected. Thus far, Odysseus has been held at the mercy of powerful women, who keep him captive on their islands, far from civilization. The only way he’s been able to be safe in these situations has been to perform sexually for these women. In the case of Circe, of course, he has the power to attack her, but Hermes explicitly tells him that the only way to save his crew is to sleep with Circe so she’ll turn them back. That does NOT sound consensual to me, at all. Of course we got told that he eventually has sex with these women voluntarily, as was the case with Calypso, but from a psychological standpoint this does not make his situation better, as plenty of victims of abuse end up believing they are volunteering and complacent in their abuse due to Stockholm Syndrome. The implication of this interpretation is troubling to me, so if I get this wrong I will not be offended! These are just my first impressions upon reading this passage.

4. Did Circe explain why Odysseus had to travel to the Underworld to talk to the prophet? Or is this just a random task she’s making him complete?

The John Inscoe Award

Very pleased to have attended the presentation ceremony this evening for the John Inscoe Award, which recognizes the best article published in the Georgia Historical Quarterly in the previous year. As reported, that article is entitled “Black Student Experiences in the Racial Integration of Reinhardt College, 1966-1972,” and was composed by Dr. Kenneth Wheeler and nine of his students in the fall of 2017. Seven of the co-authors were present tonight to receive certificates from W. Todd Groce, president of the Georgia Historical Society, in the Ken White Atrium in Reinhardt’s Falany Performing Arts Center. 

L-R: Kailey Payne, Madeline Gray, Madelyn Montgomery, Pres. Kina Mallard, Dr. Kenneth Wheeler, W. Todd Groce, Abigail Merchant, Aliyah Reeves, and Jessica Fanczi. Dane Nidal, David Busman, and Gladys Guzman-Gomez, unfortunately, could not attend. 

This is a great honor and a testament to the opportunities available at Reinhardt, where professors can work closely with students to produce genuinely original scholarship. Props to the African-American students who integrated Reinhardt in the late 1960s and early 1970s, such as Stanley Porter and Jay Jordan, for their courage and for their willingness to contribute to this project. 

Congratulations!

Congratulations to Prof. Kenneth Wheeler and his students in IDS 317, whose article, “Black Student Experiences in the Racial Integration of Reinhardt College, 1966-1972,” published this spring in the Georgia Historical Quarterly, has won the 2019 John C. Inscoe Award. From Reinhardt’s Jordan Beach:

“I am surprised and thrilled to hear the news that I and my students have been awarded the John Inscoe Award by the Georgia Historical Society for the best article to appear in the Georgia Historical Quarterly in 2018,” said Wheeler, professor of history. “I’m so proud of my hard-working students. The award is a happy reminder of how talented our Reinhardt students are, and what a wonderful course we had together that led to the article.”

The award honors the legacy of Dr. John Inscoe, an editor of GHQ from 1989-2000, a professor at the University of Georgia and a mentor for historians in the South. The award presents the authors with a framed certificate and a $500 cash prize.

Wheeler previously co-authored articles published in GHQ in 2009 and 2013, however, this is the first time an article received an award.

“We were delighted to have that article accepted by and, after review by a number of historians, published in the Georgia Historical Quarterly. Winning this award from the Georgia Historical Society is the cherry on top,” Wheeler said.

The publication and award are just several of many examples that showcases the benefits of Reinhardt University’s low student-professor ratio.

“In a multitude of ways, Reinhardt professors provide opportunities for our students to go above and beyond,” said Wheeler. “This article and the John Inscoe Award are just one manifestation of how our students seek excellent educational experiences at Reinhardt.”

Congratulations, Graduates!

Congratulations to our history graduates of the class of 2019!

Grant Ashton, cum laude, Phi Alpha Theta, History Program Student of the Year 2019.

Madeline Gray, magna cum laude, Phi Alpha Theta, History Program Student of the Year 2018, Engaged Learner of the Year Award 2019, Arts and Humanities Student of the Year 2019.

Paige Oglesby, cum laude, Phi Alpha Theta, History Program Student of the Year 2019.

Aliyah Reeves, Phi Alpha Theta.

Georgia Regional PAT Conference 2019

On Friday, March 30, Reinhardt students Jessie Fanczi and Grant Ashton traveled to the University of West Georgia in Carrollton to participate in this year’s Georgia Regional Phi Alpha Theta Conference. There were four concurrent sessions of three panels each over the course of the day, and the overall quality of the papers was very good. Jessie presented a paper on Stanley Porter, one of the pioneers of racial integration at Reinhardt College in the late-1960s, while Grant gave a paper on the Gaelic Revival of late nineteenth century Ireland.

Grant Ashton and Jessie Fanczi, UWG, March 30, 2019.

There was no keynote speaker for this conference, but a poster session, a novelty for me. I especially liked one by Lesley Jones of the University of North Georgia on women and the occult in the nineteenth century, complete with Edward Gorey-style original illustrations:

Other interesting papers I heard addressed the Astor Place Riot, the German Student Movement of 1968, NBA star Allen Iverson as a hip-hop icon, US Senator and Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black, Presidents James Madison and John Adams, and Baptist minister John Leland. A session that I chaired featured papers on Catherine the Great, the policy of “salutary neglect” toward the American Colonies in the eighteenth century, and the Spanish Civil War as represented in the Daily Worker, the official organ of the Communist Party of Great Britain.

I repeat that the quality of these papers was very high. The swag was good, too! It was kind of the nursing school to lend us their beautiful new building for this conference. Thanks to Colleen Vasconcellos and Stephanie Challifoux of UWG’s History Department for organizing such a great event.

Reinhardt in the GHQ

Congratulations to Ken Wheeler and the students of his IDS 317: Town and Gown course in the fall of 2017, whose research on the racial integration of Reinhardt College in the late 1960s has been published in the most recent number of the Georgia Historical Quarterly, and which provided the cover illustration to boot:

Anne Good and Madeline Gray ’18

On February 14, Associate Professor of History Anne Good and alumna Madeline Gray ’18 presented their research on “Mrs. Knight’s Receipt Book, 1740,” at the February Community Gathering. The Center for Engaged Teaching and Learning funded a trip to the Folger Shakespeare Library in November, where they examined Mrs. Knight’s book in person. It contained more than recipes for food – humorism was alive and well in the eighteenth century, and many home remedies based on this theory were also included. Attendees, however, were treated to gingerbread treats made according to the book.

Phi Alpha Theta, 2019

L-R: Levi Cochran, Guest Speaker Dr. Richard Utz, Zoe Roberts, Madelyn Montgomery, Abigail Merchant, Dr. Jonathan Good, Aliyah Reeves, Josh Carver, Luke Hayes, Grant Ashton, McKayla Parmele, Jessie Fanczi, Madison Little. Photo: Jordan Beach.

Very pleased to have been able to induct no fewer than thirteen new members of Reinhardt’s chapter of Phi Alpha Theta, the honor society for students of history:

Grant Ashton
Josh Carver
Levi Cochran
Jessie Fanczi
Luke Hayes
Madison Little
Abigail Merchant
Carlos Molina

Madelyn Montgomery
Augie Oberkrom
McKayla Parmele
Aliyah Reeves
Zoe Roberts

The ceremony took place on Thursday, February 21, 2019 in the Glass House. Our guest speaker was Richard Utz of Georgia Tech, whose talk was entitled “What About Those Middle Ages?” The Middle Ages are always popular in certain circles, and people refer to them for reasons that we can call good (Anglo-American law and government, the university, or ideas of chivalry and romantic love) but also for reasons we find bad (nationalism and crusading). It is up to historians to “choose the right,” in this case – especially through public outreach, like editing Wikipedia, which is far more influential than any professional scholarly publication.

Congratulations to all our new members! And heartfelt thanks to President Mallard and Provost Roberts for their support.