Professor Andrew Szegedy-Maszak: A Classic, 50 Years in the Making 

“Classics keep changing and that’s what makes it exciting,” says Andrew Szegedy-Maszak, Jane A. Seney Professor of Greek, professor of Classical Studies, and chair of Classical Studies. “It sounds like it would be hidebound, but nothing could be further from the truth.”

In Professor Szegedy-Maszak’s classes, the lens of history is as much the subject of study as history itself. Over his 50 years on the faculty at Wesleyan, he’s explored the nuances of ancient Greece and Rome in his teaching and scholarship, probing into what inflects our understanding of the past. These dimensions and connections are crucial to recognize, no matter if you study ancient history or observe the contemporary world.

Today, Szegedy-Maszak teaches a range of classes, from Greek history and Classical mythology to a new course entitled Democracy and Its Discontents, as well as a class examining law court speeches from ancient Athens. (The techniques speakers used to influence juries, Szegedy-Maszak says, aren’t so different from what attorneys do today.) And through language instruction in Latin and Greek, his curricula take expansive views of what might otherwise seem to be narrow subjects.

“Even in the more elementary classes, I’m interested in exploring the ancient texts not just as a basic level of grammar and vocabulary, but in thinking about the cultural values that the texts preserve. . . . There’s real pleasure in having firsthand contact—or as close as we can get to it—with these remarkably influential societies that still have some force 2,500 years after they were in existence.”

Additionally, Szegedy-Maszak has published hundreds of pages of research around photographic representations of ancient sites, including a new project centered on an archive of mid-19th-century drawings, architectural sketches, and photographs. Through a decidedly nontraditional approach to Classical Studies, Professor Szegedy-Maszak attests to the remarkable influence of these societies over time. And by seeking to understand the forces affecting how we make sense of history, he elevates the concept that what we find in the past, ancient or otherwise, is seldom static.