Friday, September 9, 2011

One more exciting thing about Study Abroad

Greece KIIS 2011, at the Portara of the temple to Delian Apollo, Naxos

Studying, teaching and understanding classical art in Greece and Italy presents many challenges. Just consider the latest economic news out of Athens as one of many adverse effects on international travel. Within the distractions, political, touristy or otherwise, distilling the “source” that is ancient Greece is all that more convoluted.

For five weeks in the summer, I join a team of tight-knit professors – if not staunch classicists than specialists from a related field, like the arts, literature or history – trying to navigate through a flurry of misinformation and engender the most appropriate educational model. The “touristy” distractions are often embraced. With proper guidance, there is much reinforcement to be gained from the knock-off-statuary at Athenian Plaka, the legion-clad mimes of the Colosseum, even from the beach-life and dance clubs at Mykonos. The diverging agendas of other travelers and paddlers along the way are of great use, too. Consider, for instance, all the similarities, in both purpose and form, between Pliny’s account of ancient painters and the latest gift shop catalogue found at any of the sites from Delphi to Naples. Pausanias’s “Guide to Ancient Greece” from the 2nd century CE still serves as a quasi-itinerary for the study of the ancient sites today, and after all, for a very good reason.

You will also, unavoidably, examine the very issues of experiencing the classical world in its own setting. How is embracing the role of a traveler helping or hurting the experience? What is there (and then) for an art student to gain from the experience of ancient culture? Actually, it is only when you get there, that you begin to "enjoy" its answers.

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