Mabel Louise Lang (1917-2010)

Mabel Louise Lang, emeritus professor of Greek at Bryn Mawr College, died peacefully on July 21, 2010, at the age of 92. She had spent more than seventy years at Bryn Mawr, where she was worshipped by generations of students and admired by scholars around the world.

Lang was born on November 12, 1917 in Utica, New York, and received her AB from Cornell in 1939 and her PhD from Bryn Mawr in 1943. She began teaching at Bryn Mawr in 1943 and continued to do so long after her official retirement in 1988, allowing more than half a century’s worth of students to benefit from her extraordinary ability to bring out the best in them.

Lang was a tireless worker with a selfless devotion to her students and to the college; she rarely took sabbaticals and abstained from any leave whatsoever while serving as chair of the Greek department, a role she filled continuously for twenty-seven years. Her scholarly productivity was remarkable, particularly considering her heavy teaching load and administrative responsibilities (in addition to her long tenure as chair of Greek, she served four times as a dean, was Secretary of the General Faculty for five years, and chaired the Managing Committee of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens from 1975 to 1980). Over her career she produced twelve books and more than fifty articles, as well as countless reviews. At her death Lang left a substantial body of unfinished work, which was published by colleagues as her thirteenth book (Thucydidean Narrative and Discourse). Her writings are noted for their accuracy, clarity, and concision and received high acclaim from the scholarly community; more than seventy reviews of her books are listed in L’Année Philologique, many in the field’s most prestigious journals.

Although officially a member of the Greek rather than the Archaeology department at Bryn Mawr, Lang worked primarily on archaeological material for most of her career. Her best known publications are the reconstruction of the Bronze Age frescoes from Pylos (The Palace of Nestor at Pylos II), the preliminary publications of the Linear B tablets found at Pylos between 1957 and 1964 (when her transcriptions of new tablets appeared in AJA each year only a few months after those tablets were discovered), a series of articles about Thucydides’ historiographic technique, and a study of Herodotus (Herodotean Narrative and Discourse). She was also responsible for three volumes of the official publication of the excavations of the Agora in Athens (Weights, Measures, and Tokens; Graffiti and Dipinti; and Ostraka), as well as a guidebook to those excavations, five works in the Agora picture books series, and a guide to the Asklepieion at Corinth.

Despite her impressive research record, Lang was first and foremost a teacher. Happily shouldering a load of 10 or more class hours each semester, she taught on a regular basis everything from elementary Greek and mythology to graduate seminars and was legendary for giving every student in every class an extraordinary level of care and attention. Her signature undergraduate course, which she offered nearly every year from the time she joined the faculty until her retirement, was elementary (“Baby”) Greek, a course legendary among the undergraduate population as the ultimate Bryn Mawr experience. In the first semester the students learned all the grammar of ancient Greek, and in the second they read Plato’s Apology and Crito, the gospel according to Matthew (at sight), and sometimes Euripides’ Alcestis as well, while also re-learning all the grammar. The course offered not only a solid foundation for future study of Greek, but also friends for life in the form of the other students who had survived the experience. Despite meeting at 9 am four days a week, Baby Greek was so well attended that often a second section had to be added at 8 am; in a college with an annual intake of fewer than 300 students, Lang’s Baby Greek classes had an average enrollment of 22 and in some years more than twice that number. During her teaching career she introduced nearly a thousand students to the Greek language via this course.

At the graduate level Lang was equally famous for her Homer seminar, in which students read the entire Iliad and Odyssey in the original along with vast amounts of secondary literature in a wide range of languages, which students were expected to read and understand whether or not they knew the languages concerned. (When one of her former students attempted to teach a version of Lang’s Homer seminar at another institution, she discovered that she had to reduce the workload to one twelfth of the original in order to make it possible -- and even this reduced version was considered unusually difficult.) Close competitors to the Iliad seminar were Lang’s seminars on Thucydides, Herodotus, and Problems in Athenian History; she described the Thucydides seminar as “an attempt to induct students into the ecstasy and agony of Thucydides.” Common to all her seminars was an immense workload (often around forty pages of Greek text a week), meticulous planning and design, and an intense learning experience that caused students to do whatever it took to be prepared for the seminars.

Lang’s cult status among Bryn Mawr students was something of a mystery to many outsiders, as her technique appeared to consist of assigning an impossible amount of work and terrifying students into doing it, a system that does not normally lead to adoration on the part of the student body. The reason it worked in Lang’s case seems to have been her deep respect and affection for the students. Lang once laid down as a rule for a person in charge of student welfare that “even when she is dealing with unimportant problems she will show the students respect, nor will she ever condescend,” and this was a principle she followed absolutely in her own teaching. She considered every student her equal and treated each as she treated herself -- and she drove herself very hard. So Lang was ruthless in holding her students to the highest standards, but she cared about them as people, helped them when in need by giving them her own money and possessions, never dismissed their concerns as trivial, apologized sincerely on the rare occasions when she erred, gave her time without any limits at all, and believed absolutely in the ability of each and every student to succeed. Convinced that a good course is a challenging course, and that all the students were of her own intellectual caliber, Lang gave her students courses that would have been challenging to someone of her own intelligence, but did so out of sheer goodwill. And when faced with her unshakeable confidence that they could rise to the challenge, students usually did. In doing so they discovered new abilities in themselves that then became available for accomplishing other challenging tasks, and their lives were transformed by the discovery of what they were capable of. Such students remained forever grateful to Lang for making them into the talented and successful individuals they became.

It is customary in obituaries to discuss the deceased person’s personal life, but Lang had very little personal life owing to giving everything to her work and her students. The noted examples of non-academic existence on her part are all academic-related: she knitted sweaters and socks with inscriptions in Linear B for favoured colleagues and students, she cared for former colleagues in their old age, she directed and stage-managed the faculty shows that used to be produced every few years at Bryn Mawr, and she had extraordinary physical stamina, which she demonstrated on long-distance walks with other members of the Bryn Mawr community. When she died she left, instead of a husband and children, several thousand grateful students.

A memorial for Mabel Lang was held at Bryn Mawr on April 3, 2011. Tributes to her from this and other occasions have been posted on the blog dedicated to her memory (http://mabellangmemorial.blogs.brynmawr.edu/), and a biographical sketch with a complete list of her publications can be found at the end of her posthumous book Thucydidean Narrative and Discourse (Ann Arbor: Michigan Classical Press 2011).

Eleanor Dickey
University of Exeter

[Note: some portions of this obituary have been taken from the biographical sketch mentioned above.]

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The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) invites applications for the 2020 round of the Public Scholars program, which supports the creation of well-researched nonfiction books in the humanities written for the broad public. The program welcomes projects in all areas of the humanities, regardless of geographic or chronological focus. The resulting books might present a narrative history, tell the stories of important individuals, analyze significant texts, provide a synthesis of ideas, revive interest in a neglected subject, or examine the latest thinking on a topic. Books supported by this program must be written in a readily accessible style, must clearly explain specialized terms and concepts, and must frame their topics to have wide appeal. They should also be carefully researched and authoritative, making appropriate use of primary and/or secondary sources and showing appropriate familiarity with relevant existing publications or scholarship. Applications to write books directed primarily to professional scholars are not suitable.

View full article. | Posted in Calls for Papers on Tue, 01/21/2020 - 9:01am by Erik Shell.
NEH Logo

January, 2020

Below is a list of the most recent NEH grantees and their Classically-themed projects. The NEH helps fund a number of SCS initiatives, and their support affects the field of Classics at a national and local level.

Grantees

  • Nathanael Stein (Florida State University) - "Causation and Explanation in Aristotle"
  • Marcus Folch (Columbia University) - "A Cultural History of Incarceration and the Prison in Greece and Rome"
  • Alexander Jones (New York University) - "Reconstructing the Daily Ancient Babylonian Chronology in Synchronization with the Proleptic Julian Calendar"

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(Photo: "Logo of the United States National Endowment for the Humanities" by National Endowment for the Humanities, public domain, edited to fit thumbnail template)

View full article. | Posted in Classics in the News on Fri, 01/17/2020 - 10:45am by Erik Shell.

(The website for Keely Lake's In Memoriam can be found here)

Keely K. Lake, 48, passed away on January 15, 2020, at the age of 48.  

She was the daughter of James and Dorothy (Burcham) Lake, born on December 8, 1971.  She had recently moved back to Hot Springs to care for her father.

Keely graduated from Hot Springs High school in 1990, the University of South Dakota with a BA in Classics in 1994 and the University of Iowa with a PhD in Classics in 2001.

She was a visiting guest professor at Gettysburg College in 2001 and Professor of Classical Greek and Latin at Wayland Academy from 2002 until 2018.

She was teaching online courses for Montclair State, Wayne State University and One Schoolhouse.

She was an active member of the Vergilian Society, several Classic related boards and organizations and was a reader/table leader for standardized AP exams in Latin.

Keely was an avid gardener, enjoyed cooking, reading, traveling, and collecting books.  She also traveled extensively which was a passion of hers. 

She is survived by her father, James Lake; and her precious cats, Penelope and Gemini.  She is preceded in death by her mother.

Visitation services will be held 5:00 p.m. until 7:00 p.m., Thursday, January 23, 2020, at Chamberlain McColley’s Funeral Home in Hot Springs, SD.

View full article. | Posted in In Memoriam on Fri, 01/17/2020 - 9:53am by Erik Shell.

CFP: "Transitions of Power" for SAGE Business Cases

The Ancient Leadership collection within SAGE Business Cases explores leadership in Classical history, mythology, philosophy, and material culture in a way that is engaging and useful for business students and instructors at the undergraduate and graduate level. This project is a chance for those of us who work in the ancient world to experiment with a very mainstream method of leadership pedagogy and hopefully to teach a wider audience about the central importance of the humanities for leadership study and training. We expect that each of the case studies will illustrate the ways in which the humanities makes important–if not unique–contributions to the study of leadership and the training of leaders:

View full article. | Posted in Calls for Papers on Thu, 01/16/2020 - 10:19am by Erik Shell.

The Theory and Practice of Cosmic Ascent: Comparative and Interdisciplinary Approaches

Trinity College, Dublin
19-20 June, 2020

Conference Sponsors: Trinity College Department of Classics, and The Centre for the Study of the Platonic Tradition, Trinity College, Dublin

Conference Organisers: Professor John Dillon (Emeritus, Trinity College, Dublin) and Nicholas Banner (Trinity College, Dublin) 

Date:  19-20 June, 2020
Submission Deadline:  13 March, 2020
Confirmation Date:  01 April, 2020

One of the most striking tropes in the history of western thought is the account of cosmic ascent; we find narratives of humans ascending to the stars and beyond in a vast array of sources from among the earliest written accounts of western literature, through antiquity, and up to (at least) the High Middle Ages. From the Hellenistic period onward, Mediterranean religions and philosophies (understood broadly) looked increasingly to a model of human ascent as a primary locus for spiritual achievement; however, the ways in which such ascent was conceptualized vary enormously from tradition to tradition (we might compare e.g. Jewish apocalyptic texts with the ascent-accounts of Platonist philosophers, or Hermetic with Sethian ascent-accounts), and even from thinker to thinker (we might contrast e.g. Plutarch with Plotinus or St Paul with Clement of Alexandria). 

View full article. | Posted in Calls for Papers on Tue, 01/14/2020 - 9:31am by Erik Shell.

Call for Papers
Sapiens Ubique Civis VIII – Szeged 2020
PhD Student and Young Scholar Conference on Classics and the Reception of Antiquity
Szeged, Hungary, September 2–4, 2020

The Department of Classical Philology and Neo-Latin Studies, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, University of Szeged, Hungary is pleased to announce its International Conference Sapiens Ubique Civis VIII – Szeged 2020, for PhD Students, Young Scholars, as well as M.A. students aspiring to apply to a PhD program.

The aim of the conference is to bring together an international group of young scholars working in a variety of periods, places, languages, and fields. Papers on a wide range of subjects, including but not limited to the literature, history, philology, philosophy, linguistics and archaeology of Greece and Rome, Byzantinology, Neo-Latin studies, and reception of the classics, as well as papers dealing with theatre studies, comparative literature, contemporary literature, and fine arts related to the Antiquity are welcome.

Lectures: The language of the conference is English. Thematic sessions and plenary lectures will be scheduled. The time limit for each lecture is 20 minutes, followed by discussion. It is not possible to present via Skype.

View full article. | Posted in Calls for Papers on Tue, 01/14/2020 - 9:26am by Erik Shell.

Our second interview in the Women in Classics series is with Shelley Haley, Edward North Chair of Classics and Professor of Africana Studies at Hamilton College. This is the second of a two-part interview with Prof. Haley, which picks up at the point when she decided to apply to graduate school to study Classics.

CC: How did you decide to apply to graduate school?  

This was a very turbulent time in American history. I was fed up with the United States of America, absolutely fed up. I remember the conversations we used to have about the women’s movement. This was back in the dark ages. There were three or four white women on my floor in college having a deep discussion, wringing their hands and saying, “But how, how, how are we going to have a family and a career? How?” In my head I was just frustrated. My mother, my grandmother, her mother before her, all of them always had to work, and always had family. It can be done. I think that was my first introduction to black feminism, and to the line that divides it from white feminism. I had had enough.

View full article. | Posted in on Mon, 01/13/2020 - 6:24am by Claire Catenaccio.

Our second interview in the Women in Classics series is with Shelley Haley, Edward North Chair of Classics and Professor of Africana Studies at Hamilton College. She was born in upstate New York and earned her B.A. from Syracuse University in 1972. She received her M.A. in 1975 and her Ph.D. in 1977, both from the University of Michigan. An expert on the figure of Cleopatra, Dr. Haley has discussed the subject on both the BBC and the Learning Channel. Her publications include Fanny Jackson Coppin’s Reminiscences of School Life, and Hints on Teaching (1995) and numerous articles on the role of women in the ancient world and on race in the discipline of Classics.

View full article. | Posted in on Thu, 01/09/2020 - 4:47pm by Claire Catenaccio.
First USA Cicero Awayday
 
Saturday April 18, 2020, 8am-5.45pm
University of Virginia
Gibson Room, First floor Cocke Hall

8:00 am

Light breakfast and coffee in Gibson Room

8:50 - 9:00 am

Welcome and introduction

First session (Chair TBD)

9:00 - 9:45 am

Ben Watson (University of Oklahoma): "A New Commentary on Cicero’s Divinatio in Caecilium"

9:45 - 10:30 am

Gina White (University of Kansas): "Emulation and Moral Development in the De Officiis"

10:30-10:45 am

Coffee

Second session (Chair TBD)

10:45 - 11:30 am

Amanda Wilcox (Williams College): "Cicero on Paternal Authority and the Domus"

11:30 - 12:15 pm

Peter White (University of Chicago): "The Mirage of the Tirocinium Fori"

12:15-1:30 pm

Lunch (in Gibson Room)

Third session (Chair TBD)

1:30 - 2:15 pm

Francesca Martelli (UCLA): "Historical Irony in the Ordination of Cicero Ad familiares 10-12"

2:15 - 3:00 pm

Spencer Cole (University of Minnesota): "Cicero and Populism, Then and Now"

3:00 - 3:45 pm

View full article. | Posted in Conferences, Lectures, and Meetings on Thu, 01/09/2020 - 9:32am by Erik Shell.

“Whose Heritage is it Anyway?”: Local Responses to Cultural Heritage Preservation in the Age of UNESCO

UT Antiquities Action 2020 Annual Symposium
Keynote speaker: Yvonne Therese Holden, Director of Operations, Whitney Plantation

UT Antiquities Action invites the submission of abstracts for its 5th annual symposium, to be held on Saturday, the 4th of April, 2020 at the University of Texas at Austin. 

View full article. | Posted in Calls for Papers on Thu, 01/09/2020 - 9:23am by Erik Shell.

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The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) invites applications for the
In Memoriam
(The website for Keely Lake's In Memoriam can be found
Calls for Papers
CFP: "Transitions of Power" for SAGE Business Cases

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