Upcoming talk explores connection between ancient theatre and modern democracy

How can a democracy educate its citizens to make difficult decisions?

The ancient Athenian solution was to turn to the theatre and allow the audience to work it out for themselves.

“Democracy requires ordinary people to make impactful decisions between unpalatable options,” says Adam Rappold, Assistant Professor in the Department of Classics at Brock. “The question of how to best prepare citizens for that burden plagued the first democracy, Athens, as it continues to plague us today.”

Rappold will be giving a free talk Wednesday, Sept. 25 when the popular Brock Talks series returns to the St. Catharines Public Library. His talk, titled “Ancient Drama and the Modern Citizen,” explores the way ancient Greeks used theatre as experiential education to work out solutions to problems.

The professor will examine a number of familiar Greek plays, such as Medea, Eumenides, Oedipus Rex and Antigone to explore how they serve as a microcosm for the issues of democracy. These and other tragedies presented the Athenian audience with both morally repellent and righteous arguments, asking the audience to make a personal choice between them without indicating which decision was right or wrong.

Adam Rappold, Assistant Professor in the Department of Classics.

“Tragedy was never afraid to stage the voices of those who were otherwise marginalized by society and consider viewpoints apart from the elite citizens,” says Rappold. “This ambiguity and multiplicity of voices is also the reason that tragedy continues to speak to us today and remains relevant for considering how modern democracies education their own citizens.”

The free lecture series will continue Oct. 10 when Elizabeth Vlossak, Associate Professor in the Department of History, will examine the legacy of Germany’s Weimar Republic (1918-1939) in popular culture and history. She will be speaking on “From Cabaret to Babylon Berlin: The Weimar Republic in History and Popular Culture.”

The fall series will conclude Nov. 14 with an exploration of Roman gastronomy with Katharine T. von Stackelberg, Associate Professor in the Department of Classics. Her talk, “How to Eat a Flamingo: What Ancient Rome Can Teach Us About Our Relationship with Food,” uses recipes from a second century C.E. cookery book to explore the social, cultural and economic underpinnings of taste and examine our own relation with food at the holidays.

Brock Talks, which has been running since 2012, connects community members with Humanities scholarship at Brock. Six times a year, faculty and grad students in the Faculty take their research downtown to the public library, presenting their work and engaging in discussion with the public.

All talks are held at 7 p.m. in the Mills Room, Central Library and are free.

What: Brock Talks

When: Sept. 25, Oct. 10 and Nov. 14 at 7 p.m.

Where: St. Catharines Public Library, Mills Room

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