Hiram College

While we tend to view race as a universal idea, it’s actually a modern concept shaped over time, based on historical context and circumstances. A speaker sponsored by the Lindsay-Crane Center for Writing and Literature at Hiram College will compare a modern association of race with skin color to the ancient Greeks and Romans’ understanding of human variations.

Denise Eileen McCoskey, Ph.D., associate professor of classics and affiliate in black world studies at Miami University, will travel to Hiram College and delve into this topic with her presentation “Race Before Whiteness? Modern Lessons from the Ancient Worlds of Greece and Rome.” Dr. McCoskey’s talk, which will take place Thursday Oct. 13, at noon in the Pritchard Room at the Hiram College Library, is presented by the Lindsay-Crane Center for Writing and Literature, the Robert Sawyer Classics Fund and the Hiram College History Department.

Inspired as a Cornell University undergraduate by Martin Bernal’s argument in “Black Athena” (that the development of classics as an academic discipline in the 19th century and the viewing of the ancient world was distorted by contemporary racial ideologies), Dr. McCoskey uses an interdisciplinary approach to focus on critical race theory in the ancient world.

“I hope from my talk, people will take a more critical perspective on race overall – not to take its existence for granted in the modern world,” explains Dr. McCoskey. “Rather, they learn how to ask questions about when certain racial structures of thought come into play and, more importantly, how, why and with what consequences.”

Dr. McCoskey earned her doctorate in classical studies at Duke University. She won the 1992 Winkler Memorial Prize for best graduate essay in any marginal field of classical studies for her essay on Thesmophoria. She later won the American Philological Association’s Award for Excellence in College Teaching in 2009. Dr. McCoskey co-edited “Bound by the City: Greek Tragedy, Sexual Difference, and the Formation of Polis,” authored “Race: Antiquity and Its Legacy” and co-authored “Latin, Love, Poetry” with Zara Torlone.