February 21, 2001

Higher Learning

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Out of the office and into the classroom! Cornell’s very own Greek history expert President Hunter R. Rawlings III is making his teaching debut this semester in a new class offered by the College of Arts and Sciences: Classics 258, Periclean Athens. Rawlings instructs the class in his teaching debut at Cornell, along with Profs. Hayden N. Pelliccia and Jeffrey S. Rusten, classics.

Each professor brings his own area of expertise to the class. Rawlings’s segment of the course will focus on the works of Thucydides, an early Athenian philosopher. Pelliccia will cover literature and intellectual history from the time period and Rusten will speak on the historical aspects of comedy and religion. Mireille Lee, lecturer, classics, will appear for three guest lectures on art history.

“There is a focus on the intellectual history of fifth century Athens,” Rawlings said. “[This course] is different from other courses over the years because others have not been as tight and specific.”

The class is composed of 40 students of various years and majors.

“I took the class partly because it is for my major, but also because it looked fascinating,” said Lauren Eade ’01. “Having the three teachers adds diversity too.”

Pelliccia polled the class on reasons for enrolling and found that the majority are interested in the period and subject matter. This countered the common, although flattering, misconception that Rawlings is the main attraction.

“I took the class because I am fascinated by Pericles,” said Matt Latyszonek ’04. “I didn’t know Rawlings would be teaching.”

Nearly all agree, however, that taking class with the President of the University is an additional benefit.

“[Rawlings] is a good speaker; [the] section is excellent,” said Nishant Sekaran ’01. “I have never seen everyone ask so many questions,”

The idea for the class originated with Pelliccia, who was the head teaching assistant for a similar class during his graduate studies at Yale University.

“The time period is so well documented by people of extraordinary intelligence,” Pelliccia said. “One of the most important of these is the historian Thucydides, and here at Cornell we have an abundance of experts on Thucydides, among them Hunter Rawlings. It seemed an obvious move to me to organize these local resources into team-taught Periclean Athens course like the one I had been involved in at Yale.”

Rawlings’ hectic schedule is one of the factors influencing the multiple-professor structure of the class, according to Rusten. However, the variety of viewpoints also adds enrichment and opportunity for discussion.

The three professors spent much time prior to the actualization of the class delegating specific lecture material and have been successful in dividing the lecture time into thirds. Pelliccia stated there are no strict margins regarding the information and the three periodically cross over into each other’s domains.

“I am enjoying [the course] immensely,” Rawlings said. “Primarily because of the students. They ask good questions and disagree with each other. The more engagement there is, the more I like it. It is a lot of fun.”

According to Rawlings it is too early to tell whether the class will be offered next semester, but Pelliccia’s desire to design a website is a hopeful indication for those interested in signing up.

The class currently meets Tuesdays and Thursdays in Goldwin Smith Hall from 10:10 to 11:25 a.m.

Archived article by Rachel Einschlag