I am currently working on a book about childbirth in archaic and classical Greek literature. Given that maternal and infant mortality rates in antiquity were very high and inevitably shaped the way that ancient Greeks thought about and represented birth, the topic of this seminar could not have been more fitting. Participation in this institute has enabled me to think broadly about the entire book project and has also contributed significantly to the chapter on childbirth and funerary commemoration.
I am also in the process of designing a January term course on ancient and modern responses to death, grief, and commemoration. I will be able to use my firsthand experience of site visits in Greece as comparanda for students’ consideration of the St. Peter cemetery, the columbarium on campus, and Reconciliation Park in Mankato commemorating the execution site of 38 Native Americans following the 1862 Sioux Uprising, still the largest mass execution on US soil. Such cross-cultural comparisons and direct encounters with monuments and commemorative space will provide students with opportunities to reflect on the ways that death impacts personal experience and communal identity across an array of times, places, and cultures.
Yurie Hong is an Associate Professor of Classics at Gustavus Adolphus College in Minnesota.