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A Classic Event

A Classic EventThe Classics Department's annual outdoor reading of ancient literary works has been drawing a following for nearly two decades.

Medford/Somerville, Mass. [05.05.08] There are many different sounds associated with springtime on the Hill -- tour guides directing prospective students, Frisbees whirring in the breeze and, thanks to the classics department, some ancient Greek for good measure.

On April 24-25, the classics department held its annual Classics Reading Marathon, an event that has occurred each spring for nearly two decades.


Held just outside of Goddard Chapel on the patio, students, alumni and faculty join together to take 10-minute shifts reading from the classic du jour, whether it is Homer's "Odyssey," Virgil's "Aeneid" or, this year's pick, Homer's "The Iliad." Depending on the piece and the reader, English, Greek or Latin can be heard. This year, participants read from 12 noon to 4:30 p.m. on April 24 and from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. on April 25.

"Tufts has some great traditions that often only the people in a particular department know about, but once they become established, the ritual develops a life of its own," says classics lecturer Susan Setnik, who first participated as a graduate student in 1989 when the marathon began and is now one of the event coordinators.

Though the crowd of listeners varies at times, holding the reading out in the open proves to be a head-turning experience for passersby, especially for the prospective students and parents, Setnik says.

"The fun thing about holding the Reading Marathon during April Open House is that it is enhanced by the tours coming by. Occasionally a parent joins the audience and afterward says, 'I want to go to Tufts!'" she laughs. "When we read aloud outside, it is interesting to see different levels of listening. Outdoors it feels as if the setting and the literature work together-it's quite magical."

To commemorate the event, a copy of the chosen translation of the work is signed by each of the readers and kept in the classics department's library to share with future generations.

"I always tell my students that they can come back in 30, 40 or 50 years and bring their grandchildren and this book will have their names in it, and they can remember that day when they were only 20 or 21 years old," says Setnik. "In that way, an intellectual experience coincides with sunshine and camaraderie in a golden moment, a 'college memory.'"

Profile and audio by Kaitlin Melanson, Office of Web Communications. Photos by Alonso Nichols for University Photography. Multimedia production by Office of Web Communications.

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