This picture has been haunting me for the past week or so. Ancient Multicultures is the first class for which I have had to read substantial amounts of text or write a paper since seventh block of the last academic year. Coincidentally, that class was also with legendary Professor Owen Cramer. Interestingly enough the first book assigned for the class was also the same- Herodotus’ Histories. One would assume that this should make the first week of class a lot easier for me, but I must admit that reading 100 pages a night was as difficult then as it is now. Perhaps I’m not being entirely honest. It is slightly easier this time around but not because of any sort of familiarity with the material. If it is easier now it is because the lens through which we are looking at the text is different. The prospect of analyzing the validity of Herodotus as a historian is enough to evoke a yawn from just about anyone. This block however we have been looking at the detailed cultural analysis that Herodotus provides and how each of the nations talked about influenced each other in the ancient world. Reading this a second time around I’ve come to really enjoy the colorful side-stories that are presented simply because they existed. The reader has the freedom to take from it what he/she will. This is a type of freedom that is rarely experienced when reading a ‘history,’ and it is truly refreshing.
Professor Cramer has a particular style of teaching. Class is generally a lecture, during which Owen talks about, well, pretty much all and everything. His mind is so full of knowledge that classes which begin by reviewing the first paragraph of a given chapter quickly divert into lectures and discussions involving politics, history, language (who knows how many languages Owen really speaks but it must be at least 10 or so), philosophy, anthropology, philology, even mathematics and geology to the extent that they were known in ancient times. At first this seemingly disorganized format for classes is a little bewildering. This is especially true if you’ve spent your last few blocks in studio art classes, which is why I have had such difficulty keeping up with my reading and writing this block and consequently why the above image of Owen telling me to READ has been haunting me. But as I have begun to catch up with the work the block has started to feel more comfortable and I am now beginning to realize just how great this class really is. Class with Owen is quite analogous to CC as a whole; you get out of it what you put in. The vast scope of subject matter covered in class is really just what I have always been looking for in the liberal arts, because you cannot separate one subject from another. The Classics in particular, upon which such a great portion of our western culture is based, can be applied to just about any realm of knowledge out there. Its where it all started. Hopefully my next few posts will be a little more coherent as I get back into this writing gig, but until then I want to wish Professor Owen Cramer a belated Happy Birthday. He turned 70 last Thursday for which we had a warm celebration with cake and cupcakes at the end of class. Owen has been an inspirational guide to hundreds of CC students for more than 40 years and it is truly a privilege to have the opportunity to learn from such a man. Thank you.