Interesting Great Books Lecture Astounds Students

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The Great Books lecture held on Sept. 23 covered many interesting topics and left Mercer students curious about the books they read in class. Charlie Thomas, a philosophy and Great Books professor, and Achim Kopp, a foreign language and literature professor, hosted the lecture, titled “The Archaeology of Troy and Homer’s Iliad.”

“The Iliad” of Homer describes a series of events that supposedly happened during the Trojan War. The lecture is designed to help students relate the book to the actual archaeological findings of the real city of Troy. According to Thomas, most people of the modern era believed that books of Homer were based on a myth until recent archaeological studies proved them wrong. She said that some of these studies were conducted only 30 years ago.

“I just think it’s very interesting that this new archaeology is illuminating one of the oldest books we have,” Thomas said.

Kopp said that the reason Thomas and he present this lecture every year is because, “In our courses, we read the text, but we never really talk about the archaeology.”

Both of these professors have led study abroad trips for students, and Kopp has taken students to the actual site of Troy.

“We can’t take everybody with us, but we can try to bring that to the students a little bit through this presentation,” Thomas said when explaining the objective of the lectures.

“I think we both realize how powerful it is to put students on site for them to actually see the material culture and the landscape and just have a sense of place. It really changes the way you read the books,” Thomas said.

These professors said that they are both advocates of the great books program, and that the seminar style classroom helps develop students’ ability to communicate.

Thomas said, “I think that [we’re] really learning in that context how to make ourselves understood, how to listen to each other [and] how to empathize.”

She also said that if the seminar is done correctly, it opens the gates of students’ minds to be able to question and study a text.

Kopp said, ““When I came here to Mercer, this was an incredible, eye opening experience for me, that we can actually explore text by letting the text speak to us rather than reading about them in books.”

The professors said that the lecture has been held for three years and that it has had minor changes every year. “It’s kind of evolving,” Kopp said.

According to Thomas, the professors who teach in the great books program are constantly learning themselves. She said that she believes if she is the only one talking for an entire class the way that lecture style classes are conducted, there is no way for her to hear the thoughts of others.
“I think we are really, really, really fortunate at Mercer to have a curriculum that lets us work together in this way,” Thomas said.

According to Kopp, the next lecture in the series will be held on Nov. 5 at 7 p.m. Marc Jolley, director of Mercer University press, will be presenting a lecture titled “Jesus as a Hero.” The lecture will be held in the Science and Engineering building in Room 110.