About this time last year, members of the Fordham University community were treated to a stage production of Plato’s Apology performed by Yannis Simonides. Simonides was raised in Athens but received his M.A. in Drama at Yale University, and throughout his career his interest in his heritage has been manifest through his involvement in performing ancient Greek tragedy. The performance resonated in a unique way with Honors Program freshmen, who had recently finished reading and discussing this work in their Ancient Philosophy class.
This Platonian dialogue, which is written as a speech directed to the Athenian jury at the trial of the philosopher Socrates, was made all the more engaging because Simonides took on the role of Socrates arguing for his innocence. Simonides simultaneously infused parts of the philosopher’s speech with irony while maintaining the underlying seriousness of a person trying to defend his beliefs. Lyssa Dussman felt that Socrates Now “was cool because [Simonides] showed me a different perspective of how [the Apology] would be performed out loud. I pictured Socrates as calm and contemplative because he is a man about logic and reason.” Following the performance, Simonides took questions from the audience and discussed, among a wide variety of subjects, his experiences performing in other venues and Socrates’ view of justice. That people around the world are still reading and now performing the Apology is a testament to the timeless nature of the questions that Socrates challenged the jurors not to leave “unexamined.”
This event was co-sponsored by the Fordham College Rose Hill Honors Program, the Manresa Scholars Program, and the Philosophy and Classics Departments at Fordham.
Mid-spring semester, first year students in Professor Nina Rowe’s Medieval Art History class braved the cold and rainy weather to hop on the A train and visit the Cloisters Museum in northern Manhattan. This trip to the Cloisters, which houses reliquaries, sculptures, paintings, and other works of art from the Late Middle Ages, brought to life the distant time period about which students had been reading in their textbook and in various scholarly articles throughout the semester. According to Pat Goggins, “The trip to the Cloisters was enriching in how it highlighted aspects of medieval art that aren’t readily apparent through a slide show. The interaction of light with the building and the artwork helped me to gain a more complete perspective on the art we studied.”
While at the Cloisters, students spent time deciding which work in the museum they wanted to write about in a formal analysis due at the beginning of April. Students were asked to consider how the display of objects from the Middle Ages in a museum affects one’s understanding of those objects. Although the four possible works were made a focus of the museum visit, students explored the entire museum and I especially enjoyed seeing several medieval tapestries and the collection of illuminated manuscripts in the lower level gallery, which Cornell Overfield described as “enough to sate any blackletter calligraphy fetish.” Explanations offered by Professor Doolittle, who also visited the museum, related the design of the museum to monasteries of the Middle Ages and helped students to better understand the importance of religion in the lives of medieval Europeans.
Visits to museums such as the Cloisters are certainly a reminder of one of the many benefits of being a student in New York City: being able to see in person some of the world’s most famous works of art and historical artifacts.