Monthly Archives: May 2009

RU Classics definitely in the building for University’s 243rd Anniversary Commencement

RUDeWittDiplomaThe oldest extant Rutgers diploma: Simeon DeWitt, class of 1776. Credit: Thomas Frusciano, SC/UA

What a Commencement Week for Rutgers Classics. One (especially well-deserved) PhD, two MPhils, five MAs, and fourteen Classics majors and thirteen minors who received the BA degree.

RUProcession21 May Rutgers College/SAS joint Commencement

Plus, for the University, a particularly enlightened choice of honorary degree recipients. The group included fashion designer Marc Ecko, businessman and social activist Alfred C. Koeppe (Newark Alliance), artist Faith Ringgold, jazz luminary Sonny Rollins, and social psychologist Philip G. Zimbardo.



20 May pre-Commencement with the honorary degree recipients. Above: Faith Ringgold. Below: Philip Zimbardo

At the traditional breakfast for these honorees, Sonny Rollins chose to keep celebratory words at a minimum, and instead took out his horn to play an inspired solo version of “The Folks Who Live on the Hill”.

RURollinsSonny Rollins takes the Jerome Kern songbook one step beyond

Marc Ecko doubled as Commencement speaker, impressively toting along his own Teleprompter system for the occasion. His (surprisingly effective) topic? The wisdom of “Row Row Row Your Boat”.

RUEckoEx-RU Pharmacy student Marc Ecko, founder of Marc Ecko Enterprises

Special congratulations are due to new Classics PhD Christopher Marchetti. Chris wrote his dissertation on “Aristoxenus’ Elements of Rhythm: Text, Translation, and Commentary“, under the direction of Thomas J. Figueira.


For six years now Marchetti has been based at the Flint Hill School (Oakton VA), as Upper School Classics Teacher. Before that he taught for a full eleven years in NJ at the Princeton Latin Academy. In 2001 he authored a textbook Elementary Ancient Greek that still sees use in schools today. This June Chris presents at Royal Holloway, London, at the 9th Annual RHUL/APGRD Postgraduate Symposium on the Reception of Ancient Drama. In July he will participate in the conference “The Look of Lyric: Greek Song and the Visual” at the European Cultural Centre in Delphi.

RUMarchettiAlumChris Marchetti, Rutgers Classics PhD 2009

ConnollyPowerRU Classics faculty members Serena Connolly (Yale blue) and Timothy Power (Harvard crimson)

But that’s not even the half of it…!!!

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For RU Classics thesis writer Brienne Cignarella, a Henry Rutgers Scholars Award

Brienne Cignarella’10, a double major in Classics and Art History in Rutgers’ School of Arts and Sciences (SAS), has won a Henry Rutgers Scholars Award, which recognizes 15 outstanding theses for the academic year.  Each award carries with it a cash prize of $1,000.

All Rutgers SAS students who are completing a department-based honors thesis or an Interdisciplinary Honors Thesis are designated as SAS Paul Robeson Scholars. And all SAS Paul Robeson Scholars are eligible to be considered for the Henry Rutgers Scholars Award. SAS Honors Dean Sarolta A. Takács announced the prize earlier this month.

CignarellaCoinBrienne Cignarella in RU Special Collections/University Archives, working with the Rutgers collection of Roman Republican coins

Cignarella, who hails from Hopewell NJ, wrote an unusually ambitious thesis entitled “Simulacra Database Management System: An Object-Oriented Approach toward Knowledge Retrieval.”  In essence, what Brienne has done is used the numismatic collection of Princeton University to formulate a new descriptive ontology for coins—or indeed for any type of object.

Cignarella presented her thesis in April in a poster presentation at Rutgers’ Aresty Research Center for Undergraduates, and before that, at a highly competitive juried international conference, the 2009 CAA [= Computer Applications and Quantitative Methods in Archaeology]. That was held in Williamsburg VA from 22 through 26 March.

The CAA is one of the premier venues for presentation of work on computer applications to the humanities, with many of the leaders in this rapidly emerging academic field appearing on the program. The Aresty Research Center provided support for Cignarella to participate in the event.

For the CAA conference, Brienne submitted a paper based on her thesis to a grueling jury process of three referees.  The work was accepted for the 26 March session “The Semantic Web: 2nd Generation Applications”.

In the paper, Brienne Cignarella outlined the conceptual model and major components of her new ontology, which is stored in a system of classes and properties. That is typical of object-oriented databases. But what is novel here is the choice of object, and the sophisticated querying system, which has applicability well beyond coin databases.

The jurors called her “clearly written” abstract “a valuable contribution that should be of great interest to the CAA community”, while urging her to investigate “interoperability…beyond the walls of a single institution”.


In fact, Brienne is doing precisely that, for this summer she will start the work of organizing—at least conceptually—Rutgers’ impressive Roman coin collection (housed in Alexander Library Special Collections) along the standards that she developed for the Princeton coins. Her thesis adviser T. Corey Brennan remains involved in the project.

This term Cignarella took a graduate level seminar in numismatics at Princeton University, with Alan Stahl, a world-renowned expert on ancient and medieval coins, and Curator of the Princeton collection. She also was elected at Rutgers to Phi Beta Kappa.

Brienne is contemplating graduate study in ancient studies, with the eventual aim of entering the rapidly emerging field of electronic humanities.

00308q00Aes grave from the pre-Hannibalic period: a rare variant as (Crawford 35/1 = Sydenham 71) in the Rutgers Roman Republican coin collection

Who’s new at RU: Andrea De Giorgi, Katherine Wasdin to join Rutgers Classics for 09/10

DeGiorgiPICT0107Andrea De Giorgi surveys Seleukia Sidera (aka Claudiocaesarea)

Looking for a heads-up on what to expect from Rutgers Classics in 09/10?

Well, for a start, Andrea De Giorgi (re)joins us next September as a visiting assistant professor. In 2006/7 Andrea held a postdoctorate fellowship in the department and also taught two large lecture courses on ancient religions. He then spent 2007-2009 teaching in the Department of Classics at Case Western Reserve University. At Rutgers in 2009/10 he will offer a range of courses in Roman social history and visual culture, as well as in Latin literature.

DeGiorgiPhotoAndrea De Giorgi on the Douglass Campus of Rutgers University

Andrea De Giorgi was educated in Classics at the Università di Torino and received his PhD at Bryn Mawr, in its Department of Classical and Near Eastern Archaeology. Andrea’s dissertation—a study of the city and country of Roman Antioch on the Orontes—will appear shortly as a monograph. He’s also co-editing two works: the new Oxford Historical Atlas of the Classical World, and a study on Hellenism in Cilicia.

De Giorgi is also co-director of the newly established Isparta Archaeological Survey and is currently involved in the study and publication of the collections for Anazarbos (Cilicia) and Antioch on the Orontes at the Princeton Museum. Other than in Turkey, he has directed and participated in a variety of archaeological projects in Italy, Syria, Cyprus, UAE, and the Republic of Georgia.

Speaking of Georgia, but in this case the US Peach State…new visiting assistant professor Katherine Wasdin was born and raised in Bremen, Georgia, but has for many years now lived in New England. She was an undergraduate Classics major at Brown University (BA 2003), and will receive a fall 2009 PhD from the Department of Classics of Yale University.

WasdinPhoto1Katherine Wasdin at the Old Queen’s building on the RU campus, with 1770 charter of the university

Wasdin’s Yale dissertation, “The Reluctant Bride: Greek and Latin Wedding Poems,” analyzes poems about and for weddings from the archaic Greek poet Sappho, through the Attic dramatists, Theocritus, Catullus, Statius, and all the way to Claudian, writing in the late fourth century of our era. Katherine’s particular focus in this ambitious study is on the development of imagery and the interplay between literature and culture.

Wasdin is also serving as co-editor for a collection of essays—to be published in the Yale Classical Studies series—on the reception of the Classics. That volume arose from a conference held at Yale in April 2007, that she co-directed. Though her dissertation topic is wide-ranging, Wasdin has particular interests in the literature of the Roman Empire, which she looks forward to teaching in the fall.


Andrea De Giorgi and Katherine Wasdin bring the total number of Classics faculty in the Rutgers department to nine for 2009/10.

Next year, Professor (II) Thomas J. Figueira—marking his 30th year in the Department—will offer his celebrated courses in Classics and in History. Joining him are assistant professors Emily Allen (new for 2009), Leah Kronenberg, and Timothy Power. Visiting assistant professor Matt Fox continues in the department for a third year, this time with special responsibility for Classics teaching and program development in Rutgers’ Division of Continuous Education and Outreach.

Serena Connolly will be on leave for 2009/10, on a Mellon Fellowship for Assistant Professors at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. On 1 July 2009 Corey Brennan is taking up a temporary position on the staff of the American Academy in Rome (the post of Andrew W. Mellon Professor-in-Charge) that runs through June 2012.

Azzan Yadin, associate professor in Jewish Studies and a member of the Rutgers graduate faculty in Classics, will serve as acting chair in the department for 2009/10.

Teaching assistants are RU Classics graduate students Andriy Fomin, Charles George, Eleanor Jefferson, Rachel Loer, and Constantin Pop.

IMG_2392_3From left: Azzan Yadin, Timothy Power, Serena Connolly, Emily Allen. Credit: L. Kronenberg

RU Classics grad student Liz Gloyn wins University and Louis Bevier Dissertation Fellowship for 2009/10

This past Thursday 30 April, the Graduate School—New Brunswick announced the winners of its twelve University and Louis Bevier Dissertation Fellowships for the 2009-2010 academic year.

One of just four Rutgers graduate students in the Humanities to be chosen as a Bevier Fellow was Classics graduate student Elizabeth Gloyn, for her dissertation “Seneca and the Ethics of the Family”.

Liz Gloyn, who received her first two degrees (BA Hon., M.Phil.) from Newnham College Cambridge, is finishing up her year as a member of the inaugural class of Rutgers Scholar-Teachers at Rutgers-Newark, where she has spent the spring semester teaching Latin 102 and Gender & Sexuality in the Ancient World.

“Although I’ll miss teaching,” Liz said, “I’m looking forward to working on my dissertation through the coming academic year. I’m about to begin work on my third chapter, which will examine Seneca’s views on marriage.”

Gloyn has other academic plans for the upcoming year. She will be presenting a talk at the 2010 American Philological Association meeting in Anaheim, during a workshop entitled “New Ventures in Classics Pedagogy: The Challenge of Teaching about Rape”.

She also hopes to find time to work on her pet project, the reception of the Classics in collectible Barbie dolls. You can see two amazing examples here and (especially) here.

But before all of that, Gloyn plans to take a well-earned break over the summer vacation, “spending time both back in the UK and in Aruba.”

oqlampCommemorative centenary lamp from Old Queen’s, built in 1809, and which celebrated its 200th anniversary this past week

The Bevier Fellowship is in memory of Rutgers classicist Louis Bevier Jr. (1857-1925). He was a descendant of Louis Bevier, a Huguenot who settled in New York state in 1665 and was one of the twelve patentees of the New Paltz Palatinate.

Louis Bevier, Jr., graduated from Rutgers College in 1878, and then studied for three years at Johns Hopkins University. His dissertation, on “The Genuineness of the First Antiphontean Oration”, written under the great Basil Gildersleeve, was just the fourth in the Hopkins Classics program to be awarded a Ph.D.

After traveling and studying in Europe (Leipzig and Bonn, also at the infant American School of Classical Studies at Athens), Bevier became an instructor in Modern Languages and Latin at Rutgers, and in 1893 was elected Professor of Greek. His Brief Greek Syntax (1901) found itself reprinted by Caratzas in 1981.

Bevier was deeply interested in promoting college athletics and in 1905 was one of the principal founders of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (formerly the Intercollegiate Athletic Association of the United States), when the burning issues of the day were student football injuries and summer baseball for pay. In 1912 Bevier became the second-ever Dean of Rutgers College, a position he held until his death in 1925.

As it happens, this very day (5 May 2009) is the 84th anniversary of Bevier’s death at his home at Bishop Place in New Brunswick.

bevierobitFrom The New York Times, 6 May 1925

This Friday 8 May, RU Classics hosts lecture by cultural critic Lee Siegel

leesiegelLee Siegel. Credit: Jill Krementz

This Friday, 8 May at 1 PM, Rutgers Classics sponsors yet another mega-event: a guest lecture by cultural critic Lee Siegel. His topic? “Brother, Can You Seize a Diem: The Precious Worth of Useless Knowledge in Desperate Times”. It all goes down Friday at the Ruth Adams Building Room 207 (131 George Street), New Brunswick. [Note new location.] Special thanks to the office of the Vice President for Undergraduate Education at Rutgers-NB for making all this possible.

Siegel is the author of three books, most recently, of Against the Machine: Being Human in the Age of the Electronic Mob (Random House 2008). He has also been the television critic for The New Republic, book critic for The Nation, art critic for Slate, staff writer at Harper’s and Talk, contributing writer for the LA Times Book Review, associate editor of ARTnews, and associate editor of Raritan. In 2002, Siegel received the National Magazine Award for Reviews and Criticism. He writes frequently for the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal.

For academic year 2008/9 Lee Siegel has been a visiting professor in Rutgers’ Departments of American Studies, History, and Journalism and Media Studies in its School of Communication, Information and Library Studies. In the fall he taught Literary Criticism, and this current term a class on Screen Culture.

What can we expect Friday afternoon? “There’s been much handwringing lately”, writes Siegel, “about how the economic crisis is having a terrible effect on the situation of the humanities in higher education. This is somewhat hysterical since the word ‘crisis’ and the word ‘humanities’ are almost synonyms. The humanities are always in crisis because the world does not smile upon means that are ends in themselves, on instrinsic rather than extrinsic worth.”

“Now, at a time when the pragmatic verities are being put into question, humanists should rejoice”, argues Siegel. “Instead there seems to be growing despair. However, this institutional anxiety is really the result of an institutional arrogance. The ‘humanities’ are in ‘crisis’ because the humanities are not just woefully dependent on institutions, but pridefully allied with them. They have become inseparable from their institutions and have grown indifferent to their own sources in life..”

So what is to be done? Budgets may be cut, jobs may seem to be scarce, but certain people will always aspire to be free by making clarity of consciousness a vocation. At this moment, when clarity in any sphere of life is rare, all the humanities need do to flourish is to run up the flag of active contemplation, creative indolence, and urgent irrelevance–to speak confidently about their original, non-institutional nature. And this entail a different way of looking at culture, which I will attempt to do in this talk.”

Want to get to Ruth Adams Building? Campus buses: EE College Ave to Cook/Douglass; F College Ave to Cook/Douglass via George Street; also REXB Busch to Cook/Douglass Express; REXL Livingston to Cook/Douglass Express. Or see driving directions here.  Parking (metered) is best in the Parking Deck behind the Douglass Campus Center. For more details, see the Rutgers Classics homepage > Contact Us.

Lee Siegel visited Google’s Mountain View, CA, headquarters to discuss Against the Machine on 28 April 2008, as part of the Authors@Google series. You can view the event in its entirety below.

RU Classics undergrads take (Greek) gold, (Latin) silver, bronze in NY Classical Club sight translation exams

When the New York Classical Club gathered this past weekend (Saturday 2 May) at Hunter College for its 2009 Spring Meeting, it was great to see two Rutgers undergraduates take away three of the prizes for the Club’s annual Undergraduate Greek and Latin Translation Examinations.

nelsonDavid Nelson’09

First prize ($250) in Greek and second prize ($150) in Latin went to David A. Nelson, a senior at Rutgers-New Brunswick majoring in Classics and minoring in Music. He lives in Ridgewood, New Jersey.

This is David’s second distinction within just a week’s time; at a ceremony on Sunday 26 April at the campus’ Nicholas Music Center he was one of a select group of School of Arts and Sciences students inducted into Phi Beta Kappa.

Allison Striano tied for third ($75) in the Latin competition. Allison is an SAS sophomore with a Biological Sciences major and Latin minor.  Her career aspiration is to become a dentist; around campus she is involved with the Pre-Dental Society and the SAS Transfer Center. Allison hails from Nutley NJ, and is a recent inductee into Eta Sigma Phi, the Classics honor society. As for the NY Classical Club competition, she says she “hopes to participate again in coming years”.

striano4Allison Striano’11, with Eta Sigma Phi laurel.

Each of the competitive examinations consists of one prose and one poetry passage appropriate for undergraduates.  Cicero and Virgil are typical authors for the Latin exam; tragedy and Attic prose are often given in the Greek exam.

Lawrence M. Kowerski III (Rutgers Classics PhD 2003, now associate professor, Hunter College) is the President of the New York Classical Club. David Sider, Professor of Classics at NYU, oversaw the exam competition.

douglassstatusThat way to the Ruth Adams Building, home of RU Classics.