Belfast Summer School in Classics 2016 Review

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Belfast Summer School in Classics

4th-8th July 2016

The first Belfast Summer School in Classics took place from Monday 4th until Friday 8th July 2016 and offered classes in Beginners and Intermediate Classical Greek to ten students.  Three lessons were timetabled on Monday and Wednesday, with two lessons on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday

Invited speakers were scheduled to give presentations on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons.  On Tuesday, Dr Kerry Phelan (Maynooth University) spoke about the politician and logographer Demosthenes.  Judging by the nature of the questions afterwards, the high point of her talk was the manner of Demosthenes’ downfall, particularly how he sought refuge in a temple and committed suicide by ingesting a poison concealed within his pen.  The dramatic circumstances of his death sparked queries about the type of poisons available to Demosthenes, the witnesses to this act, and the religious implications of his death as both a suicide and in a temple precinct.

Stephen McCarthy (Maynooth University) visited the summer school on Thursday to direct a discussion on Sappho’s poetry.  He talked about her life and work, and revealed the fragmentary nature of her poems by depicting images of the papyri on which her poetry survives.  The Summer School students were able to read the letters and recognised some of the words used by Sappho, and the ensuring discussion centred on the gaps left in the papyri, or the illegibility of some pieces, and conjecture about what might have been written.  At the close of the School, the students were presented with certificates of attendance by Dr John Curran, Convenor of the Classical Association in Northern Ireland.

The students attended the Summer School for a wide variety of reasons and for different purposes: a post-GCSE student and two post-A level students wished to study classical languages but were unable to do so at their local schools and universities, two graduates in the area of Ancient History needed Greek to further their studies at PhD level (one even travelling all the way from Scotland to do this!), an archaeologist at the end of her PhD programme who required training in a classical language to broaden her skills in the field, and a retired solicitor who embraced his passion for the Classical World by using the skills learned in the Summer School as a starting point for commencing an undergraduate degree in Classics.

Informal feedback has shown that most, if not all students would return next year either to continue studies in Greek, or to undertake Latin at beginners or intermediate level.  When planning the summer school, it was difficult not to wonder whether such a venture would be a success, whether the students would enjoy the courses and the programme we had put together, and whether there was even an interest in what we were offering.  It seems that the answer to all those questions is a resounding ‘yes’!  Therefore, we have decided to run the summer school again in 2017, and to offer classes in beginners and intermediate Latin to satisfy the thirst for Classical languages in Northern Ireland.

Helen McVeigh

But don’t just take our word for it…

“I had a brilliant time studying Attic Greek this week at the Belfast Summer School in Classics!! It was well worth the 5:30am starts and 5 hour round trip to Belfast each day. I’d like to thank Helen McVeigh, Kerry Phelan, and the Classical Association in Northern Ireland for this amazing opportunity.”

Ava Wilson

“Had a great time today speaking about Sappho and her poetry at the Belfast Summer School in Classical Greek…”

Stephen McCarthy

For more photographs and videos from this excellent week-long event, head over to our Belfast Summer School in Classics 2016 Gallery

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