Paper presentation expands student’s academic world
Presenting a paper at the Classical Association of Atlantic States (CAAS) in Philadelphia recently has helped advance the career path for Adam Myers ’14 of Franklin, Wisconsin.
Myers’ paper, “Sor Juana’s Lucretian Roots,” was about the influence of Roman poet Titus Lucretius Carus on the nun poet Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz and was completed as part of his Classics seminar at Ripon College. It was accepted for the conference’s undergraduate panel showcasing student research.
Lucretius’ poem was considered to be a heretical influence by the Catholic Church, Myers says. “It argued that the universe has solely material causes and that the gods do not interfere in it. In the first century BCE, this Roman poet promoted what was a proto-atomic theory. That, along with other things, led the Catholic Church to denounce it.”
The link between Lucretius and Sor Juana is a significant finding to Myers. He said, “Sor Juana is a Latin American feminist icon. Her face is on the Mexican 200 peso bill. And yet, despite her fame, scholars are still bitterly arguing over what she represents and what influenced her astounding intellectual career. My work contributes toward establishing her as part of the burgeoning Age of Reason.”
Myers says that Lucretius’ poem had considerable influence on the changing perceptions of the universe during and after the Renaissance. “Linking him to Sor Juana is something that has not been done explicitly by the academic community before,” he says. “It offers a fresh perspective in the ongoing debate over how to interpret Sor Juana and her work.”
Faculty guidance helped Myers during his research. Eddie Lowry, Ripon College professor of Greek and Latin, is the adviser for Myers’s self-designed Classical Languages major. “I chose to pursue a self-designed major because Ripon only offers minors in Classics or Latin, and I wanted to do something more extensive,” Myers says. “I chose to study Greek and Latin because in order to get anywhere in studying history, I need to be able to read the documents. I’ve also always been fascinated with the ancient world of the Greeks and Romans.” Lowry recommended that Myers submit his paper for the conference.
Myers travelled to Philadelphia with Vincent Tomasso, visiting assistant professor of Classics, who was presenting at the conference and also helped Myers prepare. At the conference, Myers met inspiring scholars who encouraged him to do more with his studies. “Several scholars recommended that I try to get my work published, which I am currently pursuing,” he says.
He also attended other presentations at the conference, including one by eminent scholar Edith Hill from the United Kingdom. “It was a fantastic experience,” he says.
Myers has been accepted to Princeton University’s Ph.D. program, and he will be starting there in July. He will be taking an intensive French course before the fall semester, and in the fall will be starting Arabic alongside the history seminar courses. The program is estimated to last five years.
“I am aiming for a career in academia because I want to inspire others to think imaginatively and critically about our world,” Myers says. “Medieval history is not usually the first subject people think of when they hear that, but I have found that the process of questioning the preconceptions about that era is very enlightening. I also wish to expand our collective understanding of how religious authority can affect and influence conflict through the research I will do on medieval Iberia, where Muslims, Christians and Jews lived in close proximity for centuries.”
-Tsering Yangchen ’14