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Monmouth’s Fox Lecture titled ‘Classics, Comics and America’

Barry McNamara
02/13/2018
MONMOUTH, Ill. – Comic book series such as Wonder Woman and Frank Miller’s 300 captivate thousands of contemporary readers. Perhaps unknowingly, readers of those stories are diving deep into the world of classics, according to an upcoming guest speaker at Monmouth College.

Titled “Classics, Comics and America,” author and classics professor Thomas Jenkins will deliver the College’s 33rd annual Bernice L. Fox Classics Lecture at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 19 in the Pattee Auditorium in the Center for Science and Business. The talk is free and open to the public.

“My talk will explore the depiction of Ancient Greece in what might seem the least ancient of media: comics,” said Jenkins, who is an associate professor of classical studies at Trinity (Texas) University. “No longer just a medium for illustrating classical texts, comics often tackle urgent social issues while refracting those concerns through depictions of ancient myth and history.”

Jenkins says there is a “startling” juxtaposition between comics and the classics, including between Wonder Woman and the works of the tragedian Aeschylus, and between Herodotus’s Histories and Miller’s 300. During his Monmouth talk, Jenkins will analyze especially ideological appropriations of the ancient world: art with a point to make, or an axe to grind. In this way, he will also explore America’s enduring fascination with the very idea of the classics and the classical.

Monmouth Assistant Professor of Classics Bob Simmons, who chairs the department, said the Fox Lecture has attracted another outstanding contributor from the world of classics.

“Professor Jenkins is a prolific scholar, but the work he’s done recently that brought him into my awareness is a book called Antiquity Now: The Classical World in the Contemporary American Imagination,” said Simmons. “In this book, he explores ways that the ancient world is portrayed in a variety of different media, including fiction, film, comics, drama and television. He shows ways that the ancient world is used to communicate certain ideas about the contemporary world.”

Although the original stories may be thousands of years old, Simmons said that classics remain relevant in everyday life.

“There are plenty of authors who are recognizing ways in which they can take these stories that have managed to pass through all of these millennia to get to the present day and use them to tell a story that has contemporary resonance, but that is given a little bit of distance from the heat of contemporary issues by telling it as an ancient story,” Simmons said.

Established in 1985, the lecture honors the late Bernice L. Fox, who taught classics at Monmouth from 1947-81. The lecture’s goal is to illustrate the continuing importance of classical studies in the modern world and the intersection of the classics with other disciplines in the liberal arts and sciences.