WGS Faculty Member Anne Duncan Reaches Out to Vetrans with Project

WGS faculty member Anne Duncan partnered with the Aquila Theater Group to produce the outreach project "Ancient Greeks/Modern Lives." Using ancient Greek texts, it confronts contemporary issues combat veterans face when they return home from war.

Lincoln, Neb., October 3rd, 2012 —

            Millions of families have a loved one who has returned home from combat, including many right here in Nebraska. Issues like post-traumatic stress disorder -- and more generally, the challenges entailed in readjusting to life back home -- have placed greater emphasis on finding solutions. Now a University of Nebraska-Lincoln professor is hoping to provide new insights to such issues and she's leaning on ancient literature to do so.

            "I'm hoping people in the community will see that ancient Greek literature actually has a lot to say about issues that are important to them," said Anne Duncan, associate professor of classics and religious studies.

            Duncan coordinates a unique outreach project that aims to help veterans and bring the wider public into the conversation. Called "Ancient Greeks/Modern Lives," the project is one of many across the country and the only one in Nebraska organized by the New York-based Aquila Theatre. Aquila has partnered with classics professors in 100 U.S. cities over three years in its mission to present performances, host workshops, and stimulate discussion on this important topic.

            Aquila, which specializes in the classics and pursues outreach to traditionally underserved audiences, is supported in this effort with a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

            Duncan, in turn, has partnered with Dr. Christine Emler, associate chief of medicine at the Lincoln clinic of the VA Nebraska-Western Iowa Health Care System. Such activities are part of patient-centered care and focus on the patient as a whole person and not just a disease, Emler said.

            Together, they'll host professional actors from Aquila Theater on Oct. 17 for two events: a performance workshop at 5 p.m., in which they will explore the challenges and rewards of performing ancient Greek plays to modern audiences. Also planned is a staged reading at 7 p.m., in which they’ll confront issues of contemporary relevance head on by performing selected scenes from Greek tragedies -- all having to do with combat and the warrior's return home. Both events will take place in the Lincoln VA facility's auditorium, 600 S. 70th St.

            Duncan also will present a lecture, free and open to the public at 7 p.m. Oct. 22 in the VA auditorium on combat trauma in Homer's "Iliad."

            "I'll be talking about what we as 21st century readers can take away from Homer's 'Iliad' that can help us with our own traumas, whether they're combat trauma or some other kind of trauma," she said.

            A book club also has been formed and has been meeting this fall. Topics focus on how warriors from ancient times suffered post-traumatic stress disorder and had trouble adjusting to life at home. Upcoming book club meetings are Nov. 8 and Nov. 28, both at 7 p.m. in conference room 107 at the Lincoln VA facility. Books are provided, anyone is welcome to join and knowledge of Greek history is not required.

            In facilitating the book club, Duncan said participants are helping her see through new eyes the ancient texts she has long studied. She said she's eager to see what the upcoming events bring, and hopeful that it possibly could be the start of something bigger.

            "Although I'm not sure what shape it would take, I'd love to see this evolve into a longer-term community outreach project," she said. "I feel a certain responsibility to use our unique strengths to play a part in helping solve some major issues facing our country."

            The Lincoln project is co-sponsored by UNL's departments of Classics and Religious Studies, sociology, psychology, the Office of Research and Economic Development, Hixson-Lied College of Fine and Performing Arts, Interdisciplinary Arts Symposium and Creighton University's Department of Classics and Near Eastern Studies.

Writer: Jean Ortiz Jones, University Communications, 402-472-8320