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Photo by Matt D’Annunzio

Joseph Conlon ’11


Hometown: Pleasantville, New York

Who I was when I got to Reed:I came to Reed from a Jesuit high school in Manhattan. I had no idea what to expect.

How Reed changed me: At Reed there is a constant demand, both from your peers and your professors, for clarity of thought. Reed has sharpened my ability to express myself in writing and in conversation and in so doing has fostered a pursuit of truth and learning.

Influential book: I read the Iliad 10 times the summer before I got to Reed and then 4 or 5 more times in the first two weeks of class. The beauty of Homer’s verses and the magnificence of his world are what inspired me to teach myself Greek.

Favorite spot: The canyon has been a great escape.

Random thoughts:  It’s amazing that someone like me, who comes from a pretty modest background, can go to a place like Reed. I wouldn’t have been able to come if it weren’t for financial aid. I feel incredibly blessed. Increasingly, the arguments put forth to justify a liberal arts education are falling on deaf ears. People don’t want to hear about enriching the self through literature—they want to see scientific and economic progress. But I know this is knowledge worth having. I don’t know exactly where it’s going to benefit society in the larger picture, but I do think that I’m a better person for having studied Latin and Greek. It’s something I want to pass on.

Cool stuff I did: Studied Greek, Latin, Russian, Chinese, and Quenya (a variant of Elvish). Squash. Softball. Brazilian jiu-jitsu. Missed the first semester of first year Greek and taught myself the material over winter break, studying every day for 12 or 13 hours. Memorized every rule and every form. (Wally adds, “He joined the class halfway through and ended with an A+ for the course!”) Class of ’21 award.

Adviser: Wally Englert

Thesis:Poetics and Genre in Virgil’s Georgics

What it’s about: Georgics is a poem about farming in the Italian countryside, which includes philosophical musings about the cosmos, elegiac longings for Saturn’s Golden Age, and even an epic about a beekeeper. My thesis explores how the Georgics pushed the limits of its genre, and how poetry functioned in Augustan Rome.

What it’s really about: The nature of poetry and the poetry of nature.

What’s next: Begin work on PhD at Princeton in Greek poetry.