Friday, January 28, 2005

Nigel Nicholson

Classic in life and lesson: "In past years, he has led seminars on the weirdness of Ovid's Metamorphoses, the shape of Augustan ideology, the Roman experience of love, the poetess Sulpicia, and, most recently, how Roman poets do nothing but talk about their own poetry! Now, two national groups have recognized what Dr. Nigel Nicholson's fans at Reed College in Southeast Portland, Oregon have known for a decade. The tall, slim Englishman who makes the ancient Greeks and Romans come alive for his students has been named the 2004 Oregon Professor of the Year. The award is given jointly by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and the Council for Advancement and Support of Education.

At Reed, where rigor is the norm, Nicholson's high standards stand out. He learned them at boarding school near his childhood home in Surrey, southwest of London.

Latin instruction started at age 9, Greek at age 11, in a setting he described as similar to Reed. Both schools are intense, demanding places, he says, where the classics remain vital and relevant, neither oddity nor afterthought.

Nicholson idealized his teachers, especially those who taught the languages and literature of Greece and Rome.

'Their classes were fun. They were disciplined. They were challenging. They gave you everything you needed to get through, and they also just sort of knew their stuff,' he says. 'I always thought that would be an exciting life.'

After earning his undergraduate degree in classical literature and philosophy from Oxford University, he considered a career in the British civil service. Not ready to give up his studies, he chose instead to enroll at the University of Pennsylvania and was surprised by how much he enjoyed teaching undergraduates. Nicholson received his doctorate in 1994. Reed hired him a year later.

One of his new courses, "The Ancient Novel", offered a new perspective on these works and how they were transformed over the four hundred years of their production by changing social context.

" With its absurd plots and apparent lack of moral depth, its interest in travel and the exotic, its insistence on positive female protagonists, its longevity and unfavorable critical reception, the Greek 'Novel' is strikingly different from other Classical genres. This seminar studied those novels that remain intact (Daphnis and Chloe, Clitophon and Leucippe, About Callirhoe and The Aethiopica), and compare them to their Roman counterparts (Petronius' Satyricon and Apuleius' Golden Ass)."

See Dr. Nicholson's Home Page
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