Timeless Parallels: Veteran Voices & Classical Literature

Project Overview

Theater in Epidarus

Our program will focus on the continuity of veteran experiences including: homecoming and reintegration into civilian life; the treatment of veterans; trauma; and, the role of society in sharing these burdens. We are seeking to create a deeper understanding and appreciation of veteran issues through studying a group of core ancient texts taught in high school English and Latin classes: the Odyssey (Books 13-24), Antigone, the Aeneid (abridged), and Caesar’s Gallic War (selections). Our texts will also serve as a tool to examine the role of leadership which is a central focus of JROTC curriculum. Teaching ancient texts provides a degree of distance to poignant issues that will arise in our institute, like suicide, but the works still highlight the similarities that are shared and common to veterans of all times. 

We utilize a variety of strategies and pedagogical methods to supplement and enhance the core texts including the following: dramatic readings of ancient texts by professional actors and participants; modern “folk-opera” versions of the Iliad and Odyssey performed live by the composer, Joe Goodkin; the film, Joyeaux Noel; lessons in object-based learning using real ancient artifacts along replicas created with a 3-D printer; and two modern scholarly texts by psychiatrist Jonathan Shay, Achilles in Vietnam and Odysseus in America. These last two texts compare ancient and modern veteran experiences, based on the work of the VA psychiatrist Jonathan Shay, who has extensive experience with trauma and Vietnam veterans. His works highlight the connection of classical literature and more contemporary veteran issues.

We welcome applications from any discipline, and ideally we hope to recruit teachers from a diverse array of backgrounds including JROTC, Latin, English, Drama, History, or anyone interested and passionate about our topics. By gathering a group with varied academic specialties and military experience, we will we create a dialogue on veteran issues and the potential for catharsis through the reading of classical literature, and the performance of ancient tragedy. We have designed our institute to provide teachers with practical materials for use in their classrooms.  

The central questions we focus on are:

  • How will classical literature help students and teachers recognize veteran issues of today?
  • How does supplementing veteran narratives alongside teaching classical texts help students analyse and explore classical texts?
  • Would dialogues with faculty members who are veterans improve learning outcomes?
  • Is there a potential for catharsis in reading and performing classical texts?

Depending on public-health guidelines related to COVID-19, plans for a residential offering are subject to change.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this program do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Theater Ancient Greece