Professor Liana Theodoratou
This course will explore the various ways in which the West has conceived of Greece—how it has represented it, how it has glorified and idealized its past, how it has thought of it in relation to Europe and America and even as the crossroads between the West and the East. Considering a range of literary, critical, historical, and philosophical texts, it will include materials on classical humanism, classical philology, philhellenism, orientalism, aesthetics, Romantic nationalism, gender politics, and the long history of Western travel narratives to Greece that, together, create variations of “Greece.” Especially during the last two centuries, Hellenism has written the history of a promise—a promise of modernity, of democracy and identity—but not necessarily the history of Greece. The course will also analyze how those who call themselves “Greeks” have received these different ideas of Greece and how these ideas—and even inventions of Greece—have influenced their perception of themselves, even to this day, something that is legible in modern Greek appropriations of, and resistances to, these ideas. This dual perspective will permit us to explore the way in which the aesthetics of art and the political existence of a nation become bound indissolubly one to another.
This Cultures and Contexts course fulfills the College Core Requirement. It seeks to foster an appreciation of the dynamics of cultural interaction and influence and to examine the ways cultures have interacted through trade, colonization, immigration, ideological appropriation and dispersion, and media representation; how groups define themselves against internal and external difference; and how the dominant perspective of Western modernity affects comprehension of the ways in which people outside that position understand, experience, and imagine their lives. In this way, it hopes to challenge traditional European conceptions of national identity and to suggest a more plural and relational manner of thinking identity in general.