Saint Martin’s Julia McCord Chavez chosen for seminar on teaching Greek literature

July 23, 2013

juliachavez Lacey, Washington — In these fast-paced days of communication, reading something the length of the 600-page Homeric poem, The Iliad, can seem epically overwhelming to students, says Julia McCord Chavez, Ph.D., assistant professor of English at Saint Martin’s University. She calls studying the poem “a badge of honor” shared by generations of students.

Chavez is one of 20 faculty participants selected by the Council of Independent Colleges and Harvard University’s Center for Hellenic Studies to attend an “Ancient Greece in the Modern Classroom” seminar on The Iliad. The seminar starts today and runs through July 27 at the center’s campus in Washington, D.C. It is led by Gregory Nagy, Ph.D., Francis Jones Professor of Classical Greek Literature and professor of comparative literature at Harvard University, and Kenneth Scott Morrell, Ph.D., associate professor of Greek and Roman studies at Rhodes College.

Designed for non-specialists, the seminar will address the challenge of continuing to include classical texts such as The Iliad, Odyssey, Homeric Hymns, poetry of Hesiod, and Histories of Herodotus — texts that a generation ago were read and studied by every college student — in 21st-century undergraduate education.

Chavez says she expects the seminar to help deepen her own grasp of the epic poem’s text and to develop ways to help students understand its relevance to our times.

“Many of our students have grown up in a kind of ‘shame’ culture where saving face is important, have seen warfare first-hand (in Iraq and Afghanistan), have aspirations to achieve greatness in their professional lives — or at least personal success — and have deep loyalties to friends and family members alike. For all of these reasons, they are not so very different from The Iliad’s main characters — Achilles, Ajax, Patroclus, Odysseus, Agamemnon, Helen, Priam, Paris, Hector and Andromache. Helping students recognize the universal elements within this Homeric epic is one important way to keep enduring classics alive in today’s college classroom.”

Besides exploring The Iliad with her students this year, Chavez will teach courses in college writing, Victorian literature and women’s literature. She also will co-teach courses on the Romantic Period and introductory fiction, centering on American fiction from the ‘50s and ‘60s.

“Dr. Chavez represents Saint Martin’s best future: her exemplary service, teaching and scholarship all spring from her essential commitment to our Catholic Benedictine mission,” says Stephen X. Mead, Ph.D., professor of English, who has taught The Iliad several times during his 27-year career at Saint Martin’s. “Her experience in D.C. working with scholars from Harvard and other undergraduate professors from across the country will not only enrich her qualifications to use The Iliad in the classroom, but also will strengthen Saint Martin’s overarching mission to bring more to a student’s education than preparation for her or his first post-college job.”

“The Iliad can teach us, if not how to make a living, why we live and how one sets the borders and criteria that construct a life worth living. That’s a Benedictine idea, and no one here will translate that lesson to her students and colleagues better than Dr. Chavez.”

For more information about the seminar, visit the CIC website at

Saint Martin’s University is an independent four-year, coeducational university located on a wooded campus of more than 300 acres in Lacey, Washington. Established in 1895 by the Catholic Order of Saint Benedict, the University is one of 14 Benedictine colleges and universities in the United States and Canada, and the only one west of the Rocky Mountains. Saint Martin’s University prepares students for successful lives through its 23 majors and seven graduate programs spanning the liberal arts, business, education, nursing and engineering. Saint Martin’s welcomes more than 1,100 undergraduate students and 400 graduate students from many ethnic and religious backgrounds to its Lacey campus, and 300 more undergraduate students to its extension campuses located at Joint Base Lewis-McChord and Centralia College. Visit the Saint Martin’s University website at

For additional information:

Jennifer Fellinger
Vice president of marketing and communications
Saint Martin’s University