At RU on Friday 15 March, Peter Meineck (NYU, Aquila Theatre) speaks on cognitive recognition in Greek drama


Performance at Epidaurus, December 1962. Photo: Gjon Mili (LIFE/Google)

Here’s a real newsflash. On Friday 15 March  at 4:00 PM, the Rutgers Classics Graduate Student Association welcomes Professor Peter Meineck to speak on aspects of cognitive recognition in Greek drama. Peter Meineck is Clinical Associate Professor of Classics at New York University, Honorary Professor of Classics at the University of Nottingham, and Founder of Aquila Theatre. The title for his talk ? “The Theatre that Moved the Soul: Understanding the Power of Ancient Greek Drama through Modern Cognitive Science”. It all takes place in the Ruth Adams Building Room 001 (across the hall from the Classics Department), on Rutgers’ historic Douglass Campus.

Here Professor Meineck will ask the question: what was it about the ancient Athenian theatre that led Plato, Aristotle and Isocrates all to say that it had the power to “move the soul”? In this illustrated talk incorporating live demonstrations, Meineck will suggest a new method for approaching ancient drama—using research drawn from the cognitive sciences.

Can neuroscientific studies and modern cognitive theories be applied to the ancient Athenian brain? Can recent advances from the affective sciences offer us an array of new tools for better understanding the experience of ancient performance? Professor Meineck in his talk will suggest that the dramatic mask operating in a multisensory dynamic environment provided a deeply personal emotional anchor to music, narrative and movement of ancient drama. Plus he will argue that new research in face recognition, neuroaesthetics, eye-tracking, human proprioception and sensory processing can indeed illuminate important aspects of the ancient world.

Video: excerpts from Professor Peter Meineck’s discussion, for Shakespeare in the Square (recorded October 2011 at NYU’s Kimmel Center), on a variety of topics, ranging from taking Romeo and Juliet to the deep South to performing for George W. Bush

Professor Peter Meineck has published several translations of ancient plays with Hackett and is currently completing a new book on cognitive science and Greek drama. He has directed and produced over 60 professional theatre productions at venues as diverse as Lincoln Center, The White House, the ancient stadium at Delphi, Carnegie Hall, Off Broadway and theatres throughout the USA, Canada, and Europe. He has written several stage adaptations of classical works from Homer to Rostand. Meineck is also director of the National Endowment for the Humanities Ancient Greeks/Modern Lives program that has brought performances of ancient drama to 100 US communities, bringing combat veterans and the public together in discussion about the effects of war.

RU Classics graduate students Scott Barnard and Nicole Freeto organized the event for the Classics GSA. You can view a list of some forthcoming GSA-sponsored lectures (through April 2013) here. Please note that the 14 March 2013 lecture featuring John Clark (Fordham University) has been rescheduled for 2013/4.


The latest from Aquila: Euripides’ Herakles, as translated by Peter Meineck. Performances 27-30 March 2013 at BAM Fisher (Fishman Space), Brooklyn NY

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