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The final event of the day is the keynote address "Rediscovering our Humanity: Reading the Classics Behind Bars" by @RUClassics Dr. Emily Allen-Hornblower and Mr. Marquis McCray.
Mr. McCray starts with the anecdote that this is the first time he has been in an academic setting since his release from prison a year ago. In his adolescence, he emulated what he knew--drugs, sex, etc. He did not know this at the time. #AncientAgency
He didn't know his psyche was being shaped by a narrative that wanted him to be a thug. He later learned that we are 3 dimensional and there is a journey inside all of us. That is what the classics is to him--his Dante's inferno descent and re-ascent #AncientAgency
into his psyche. It was a touch of grace when Allen-Hornblower walked into his prison with her fancy shoes and swag. He related to a quote that morality is a social convention. He asked, if society is moral, how did the first person become moral. #AncientAgency
He doesn't see that society can exist without morality. This sparked him to the humanities and discover why he did what he did. He didn't know he was exploring the human condition, but was just exploring himself #AncientAgency
So he started reading the Classics with Allen-Hornblower and loved it because it is not a moralized-world. It is a pure expression of the human condition. He was digesting all kinds of art and didn't realize the ways it was influencing him #AncientAgency
He became alarmed because he wasn't a deviation--anyone in his environment and our environment can fall into immorality but anyone can be redeemed with enough empathy and compassion. But young people have no idea about the internal journey #AncientAgency
He doesn't want to live in a world where we can't bend a knee to the truth. When it comes to the humanities, he's not here to 'give a presentation' but to encourage us to be the voices. Where he comes from, the disenfranchised don't have the voices to express #AncientAgency
If we become silent, the oppressive voice gains the upper hand--the anti-LGBTQ voice, the racist voice. He wants this whole room to be like Brutus and get rid of Caesar. As an answer to the question "how do the classics give agency to the disenfranchised" with...#AncientAgency
..."in the same way it affects all the non-disenfranchised." He liked the discussion of the DSM 5 in Alice Rae's talk because every story in which you empathize with the protagonist you ARE the protagonist. Your 12 labors are your internal journey #AncientAgency
A person who is stuck in superficiality/in form with no substance is going to have a hard time relating with human beings. There is no empathy and there can be no justice. #AncientAgency
McCray tells an anecdote about his truck getting impounded and his 'thuggish-nature' wanting to treat the bully like the bully. A-H and her group decided to pay for his truck to get out of impound. To him this felt like a giant hug and 'doing the human thing' #AncientAgency
That feeling was like the feeling of being human being a part of humanity. At that point he stopped feeling alienated and like the 'super-predator' and like a human and part of a family. He asks us to be the superheroes of our time #AncientAgency
There is a difference between facts and truth, and the humanities lead us closer to Truth and through that justice. He says that the future generations are the cure for what is happening and for the forgetfulness of what it means to be human #AncientAgency
At this point Allen-Hornblower takes over. It is moving for them to be here because neither of them ever thought that they would be doing talks like this when they met 4 years ago. She's going to start talking about her experience teaching in prison #AncientAgency
A-H is a @RUClassics professor who also teaches as a part of the NJ-STEP program in men's minimum and maximum security prisons. She finds this the most rewarding part of her job. A-H discusses the term neighbor--its not just a term but a moral stance... #AncientAgency
It is a moral standpoint and a position in a community. She found NJ-STEP through the Rutgers student newspaper. In the time she's been with the program it has expanded from AA degrees to BA programs in prisons. #AncientAgency
The powerful sense of human connection that comes from this experience is hard to convey, so A-H speaks in anecdotes. After all the uniforms and checkpoints, the students enter the classroom and it becomes a classroom setting not a prison #AncientAgency
It is a bare-bones classroom--anything not on an approved checklist can be denied (even post-it notes). Yet even in this environment, the students are so passionate and have such a desire for more. #AncientAgency
For example, Marquis once asked A-H to bring in a book so he could write a report on it. They cover so much and think so much about how the humanities connect us but also the role of the liberal arts in our lives and opportunities for education in particular #AncientAgecy
What is it about the classics that brings people together is due in part no doubt to the remarkable storytelling that exists. Questions of identity and agency, power, gender, politics are all found in the ancient texts. #AncientAgency
Every hour of education should not be just an opportunity but a right. Education is something that society needs to create a sense of understanding of ourselves. In another anecdote, A-H speaks about the corrections officers and what they think of the initiative #AncientAgency
McCray jumps in with a reiteration that the Post-it note anecdote is a great example of what he terms 'facticity'--a computer will say no you can't have post it notes, but humanity says that post-it notes are fine #AncientAgency
A-H points out that a lot of guards were very against the idea of free education in prisons. McCray says that humanity overrides the inclination of 'why does this free-loader get a free education and I don't' #AncientAgency
A-H speaks about teaching world history from prehistory to 1700, and the horrible book they used (which is a reason A-H and McCray bonded over). #AncientAgency
A-H turns back to 'why the classics.' They had read the Iliad and never got to the Odyssey. One student asked "how did they get home" and this question gives a sense of how these stories appeal to people. #AncientAgency
A-H was asked to smuggle a copy of the book in and it is still passed around today. One thing that comes up in academia is why the liberal arts? Shouldn't we be teaching vocational skills? She asks McCray what he likes about the Classics #AncientAgency
McCray says it brings out who he is from within he is. With the empathy etc you get from the humanities, anyone can be good. But no one can be good without humanity. Nothing except the humanities can bring out humanity. #AncientAgency
"I know you all like complicated analyses here, but that's what I think." A-H quotes McCray saying right before he graduated "give me back my humanity." A-H asks McCray to explain why he hates Superman but loves Herakles
McCray says that the point of a hero is to teach you how to get up again. Superman can't fall on earth, he can't be challenged. He's like Mike Tyson running around a playground. I like Batman because he knows his limitations and adapts to them #AncientAgency
But when he learned that Herakles was lead by madness to kill his family because he thought they were his enemies, McCray realized that if Herakles had had morality and humanity, he wouldn't have even been able to kill his enemy's family #AncientAgency
McCray likes Herakles because he is perfectly unperfect like himself. He can chase the bullies out of the world on one day and the next day be the bully himself. Its not malicious intent but just the human condition. Knowing that is half the battle #AncientAgency
When you have the storm of adolescence in you, you are capable of errors, and those errors can define who you are even to today. St. Augustine ran around with the group of called the Troublemakers as an adolescent, which shows that even he is susceptible #AncientAgency
We like to look at parts of our humanity that we already judge morally (like instincts) and try to repudiate it. But all the while, that energy is still going through you. The Greeks attributed it to an external force like the gods. They told us its there #AncientAgency
We know that instincts are a part of the human condition and that you can't kill the energy, but you have to challenge it. As a society we have to challenge that human condition, protect the adolescents from that madness #AncientAgency
It becomes a responsibility to recognize this--with the agency of morality at work, you are always connected with others. It becomes necessary to protect society from itself, from the destruction it can do while its trying to figure itself out #AncientAgency
McCray has used comic books in prison to interact with young men in prison just like A-H used the classics to connect with him. We are all stories--what motivates you in the morning is the narrative, the story behind who you are #AncientAgency
We need to fashion the stories toward good. He's not asking that everyone be the same, but that we recognize that everyone has a different story but that story can be shaped. #AncientAgency
It is hard for a mind that is unfamiliar with introspection to make sense out of anything in the world let alone give it the expression its due. Doesn't know how you can produce anything decent in the world without making people decent first #AncientAgency
Going through life without the humanities is like going to war without basic training. How do you know what you need to now without knowing yourself. You have to be a human being first which means knowing yourself first. #AncientAgency
A-H points out that when McCray says 'give us back our humanity' he means 'give us realization that what we go through is part of what it means to be human.' #AncientAgency
A-H, as a part of her Whiting grant, uses Aristotle (through the guise of theater because Aristotle isn't a good advertising point) to focus on the situational aspect of emotions, to show you how to behave like a human being when you've been dehumanized #AncientAgency
Aristotle says that this is part of what you have to experience. McCray says everyone went through this, Herakles went through this. You're a human being, that's why you did it. It is your responsibility to learn what emotions are and how to channel them #AncientAgency
If society doesn't take the task of raising human beings as one of the higher tasks, McCray doesn't see how we will reach a state where we are much better off than with no society. #AncientAgency
If we don't do this, we'll be like the Trojan Women at the end of the play asking if this is what society is. A-H goes back to the hero Herakles, and the role of the gods. As opposed to the Trojan Women where there are no gods, the gods are everywhere #AncientAgency
What are we to make of those moments where the ancient Greeks tell us that a hero did something under the influence of a god. How do we disentangle situation from the idea of personal agency. We can say "Aphrodite made me do this" but there are other factors #AncientAgency
A-H quotes McCray saying "growing up with no choices and no humanity, I was just angry." A-H in conclusion brings up a performance of the Trojan Women at Rikers twice in one day #AncientAgency
To go back tot he theme of 'give us back our humanity,' one of the units they performed in is the 'mental observation' unit. One individual would not stop shouting as they were setting up. Officers and inmates were yelling at him. Then they started the play #AncientAgency
...and he went completely silent. When the officers went around with medication, the inmate shouted "shut the f up we're trying to watch a play here" and to A-H this sums up the idea of 'give us back our humanity' #AncientAgency
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