As the Fall semester draws to a close, I can’t help but feel a bit sad about leaving my current classes for a whole new schedule. One class that I will miss in particular is Classical Mythology.
For me, mythology is always something that I have loved since I first read the Percy Jackson books by Rick Riordan, and had a Greek mythology unit in my middle school English class. You can, of course, imagine my excitement when I found out there was a semester-long class entirely devoted to Greek Mythology. After three months of learning about everything from Zeus to Herakles, it will be strange to start off my next semester with no mythology whatsoever. For me, this class was everything I hoped for and more because I was able to branch off of my previous knowledge and learn a bunch of new information that helped fill gaps that Riordan’s books had left to the imagination.
Professor Emily West teaches the Classical Mythology course, as well as Latin, Women in Ancient Greece, Greek History and Roman History. Interestingly enough, Classical Mythology is not considered a history class, but rather a fine arts course.
“It’s a fine arts class, that’s what they get credit for, so I try to do a lot of incorporating the way classical myths have been expressed in art over the centuries,” said West.
Most of the course is made up of studying various vases and paintings that depict Greek myths as well as a variety of customs that offer viewers an inside perspective of daily life in Ancient Greece.
“The fine arts component is the driving thing behind the class but the fine arts part would make no sense without the mythology part; we could look at 50 slides of various pieces of art a day in a different context but for these the unifying feature is that they are all telling the same story,” West said.
Although I like to think I am pretty well versed in mythology, it is not just mythology buffs that take this class.
“It’s a variety of people [that enroll in this course]…most of the people in it are people that need the fine arts credit and who don’t feel like they want to make pottery or paint paintings or something like that,” said West.
Yes, you read that correctly; if you don’t enjoy taking part in the making of art, you can easily satisfy a fine arts course with Classical Mythology.
Although this course began years ago, Professor West is always refining her presentations and lectures to more accurately present the information to each class. Reading up on the latest buzz regarding Ancient Greece and finding better pictures can take up more time, but the end result is a more in-depth and interesting presentation.
“It’s the easiest class I teach but I think that’s because I have no belief that making it harder would make anyone learn it in a more meaningful way,” said West.
Kallie Grams ’18, who was also in Classical Mythology this semester, had her own opinions about the class as well.
“I liked that everything connects and that professor Emily West knows more than any one individual should know about mythology and ancient Greece. I did not like the time of the class but otherwise the information is interesting and engaging,” said Grams.
Whether students decide to enroll in Classical Mythology to expand their knowledge of Greek culture or to satisfy that fine arts credit, it is definitely in their best interest to go for it. Mythology, whether Greek or Egyptian, provides a unique viewpoint on human behavior and teaches students about aspects of ancient societies that have since adapted with the modern era. The collections of art that are shown in this class are important because they have provided much of the basis for what we know about Greek myth today. Even if a student has no knowledge of mythology, there’s no better class to learn about it in!
I leave you with something Professor West said that resonated with me:
“For mythology, the thing that makes that class really, really special is its dealing with all the art; there’s no other class I’ve ever taught where I’ve got to spend that much time with art.”