MALS Book Club
The MALS alumni Book Club meets once a semester in the fall and spring terms to discuss a selected reading under the skillful guidance of a Reed faculty member. Along with an engaging 2-hour conference, the Book Club is an opportunity to meet MALS alumni and students, and enjoy libations and light refreshments.
Euripides’ Bacchae is one of the greatest Greek tragedies produced at Athens in the fifth century BCE. Euripides was the youngest of the three great Athenian tragedians, born forty years after Aeschylus and about ten after Sophocles. Euripides wrote the Bacchae just before his death in 406 BCE, and it was performed in Athens the year or two after he died.
In the Bacchae, Euripides tells the story of the introduction of the worship of the god Dionysus (also known as Bacchus) into ancient Thebes. Before the play opens, Zeus had an affair with Semele, one of the daughters of Cadmus, the king of Thebes, and while Semele was pregnant with Dionysus, Zeus had killed her with a thunderbolt and then saved the unborn Dionysus by sewing him into his thigh until he was ready to be born. After Dionysus grew up, he travelled the earth and began to win followers called Bacchae (“bacchants”, “female followers of Bacchus”), also known as maenads (“raving women”). As the Bacchae begins, Dionysus has just driven the women of Thebes mad and sent them into the hills to carry out his Bacchic rituals. The young Theban king Pentheus violently opposes the arrival of the new god and his followers, and tries to arrest the disguised Dionysus and bring the women of Thebes back from their reveling on the mountain. Pentheus is no match for Dionysus, though, and is completely destroyed by the end of the play.
The play, written just before Athens’ defeat at the end of its long and destructive war with Sparta, addresses many of the crucial issues facing his audience: the relationship between gods and human beings, reason and irrationality, male and female, city (polis) and countryside, speech and action, and it also questions the nature of wisdom and reality itself. The Bacchae has been interpreted in many ways, and the seminar will explore the nature of Dionysus and the meaning of Euripides’ play.
Walter Englert is the Omar and Althea Hoskins Professor of Classical Studies and Humanities, emeritus. He received his BA in Classics and Integral Liberal Arts from St. Mary’s College of California, his MA in Classics from UC Santa Barbara, and his Ph.D. in Classics from Stanford University. He taught at Reed from 1981 until his retirement in 2018. His research has been primarily in ancient philosophy, especially Hellenistic philosophy (Epicureanism, Stoicism, and the New Academy) and the reception of Greek philosophy in Rome (Lucretius, Cicero, and Seneca). He is the author of Epicurus on the Swerve and Voluntary Action. American Classical Studies 16. Oxford University Press, Oxford: 1987; Commentary on Cicero’s Pro Caelio. Bryn Mawr Commentary Series: 1990; and Lucretius: On the Nature of Things. Focus Publishing. Newburyport, MA. 2003. He also published articles and book reviews on various aspects of ancient philosophy. Professor Englert's current book project is, Cicero and the Creation of Roman Philosophy.
When and Where
Our fall 2018 gathering will be on Thursday, November 1st from 7 to 9 p.m. in the Performing Arts Building (PAB) 131.
There is no cost to attend for prospective MALS students, but registration and is required. Participation is limited to 15 students. Please contact the MALS director, Barbara Amen, if you wish to attend.