When Hannah Weissman ’17 went to hear the Senior Classics Major’s Guest Speaker, University of Puget Sound Associate Professor of Classics Brett Rogers, she didn’t know it would inspire the course of the senior thesis research. But Rogers is interested in the reception of classical literature in modern popular culture—a field called reception studies—and has written about classical themes and theories relations to superhero narratives and science fiction, and Weissman found her way in to her topic.
“I wanted to look at ways in which ancient works were still relevant,” said the classical culture and society major, “and reception studies is an ideal field for which to explore that topic.”
Weissman’s thesis, ” A Contemporary Cartoon Epic: Classical Reception and Homeric Epic in Bone by Jeff Smith,” focused on Smith’s award-winning, 1300-page, black-and-white comic, which collects 13 years of serialized fantasy sage in one book and Homer’s Illiad and Odyssey, addressing two major questions: Can a comic be an epic? And, is a work based on an existing epic necessarily an epic itself?
She hopes to eventually publish her thesis in an academic journal and return to school to pursue graduate education in her field, but, in the meantime, recently started work back on campus as the latest addition to Haverford’s Institutional Advancement Department.
What did you learn working on your thesis?
During the thesis process, I was able to dig deeply into several different areas of study in classics, and respond to the existing scholarship in a significant way. This is in contrast to previous work in my classes, where, due to the nature of a 15-week course, I was often assigned excerpts from influential works but did not have the opportunity to deeply explore a particular area of scholarship. I am grateful for the opportunity to write a polished, article-length work on a little-explored area of classical studies.
What are the implications for your research?
The findings in my thesis open up the opportunity for further studies in reception. Establishing that a comic can be an epic gives future scholars a foundation for looking at more comics in relation to ancient works. The connection between classics and comics does not have extensive existing scholarship, but is a rapidly expanding field. My thesis contributes to the expansion of that field.
“What They Learned” is a blog series exploring the thesis work of recent graduates.
Photo by Patrick Montero.