Humanities for Engineers: An Experience in Outreach
As universities are becoming increasingly business-oriented, there is a need for humanities to reach out further. There cannot be a wider gap to bridge than that between Classics and Engineers. for classicists usually shrink at "teaching engineering to engineers", while engineers are reluctant to enter the labyrinths of history, so the experience of Carleton University, Ottawa, is of interest. For 20 years there Prof. Hodge has taught a course in Ancient Technology to classes of up to 180 students, half of them engineers. His experience is that the engineers bring to the study an approach both original and rigorously disciplined. As an assignment, models of ancient devices are constructed, including a full-size ballista [slide illustrations]. On the wider and more popular field, epic films, of questionable value, offer an opening for classicists to contribute valuable comments to the mass media. An example is Prof. Hodge's fifteen one-hour radio docudramas, where figures from ancient history appear before a court answering various charges (e.g., Pericles is accused of war crimes, Hippocrates of malpractice, Alexander the Great of misleading advertising, since he wasn't really all that great - he is acquitted). More remarkable is the increasing spread of detective stories with an ancient setting, the leader being Lindsey Davis, whose books are notable for both their imaginative fiction and the high technical accuracy of the background, based on very comprehensive research. The secret of all this is to present to the pubic a format that is pleasantly acceptable but carrying a core of solid material of real value. Acceptability does not mean superficiality, for once the audience has been got to listen, the humanities can speak for themselves, convincingly and effectively.
Keywords: Humanities for engineers, Mass media, approaches to, Technology, ancient, Fiction, with ancient setting, Radio docudramas
Professor A. Trevor Hodge
Distinguished Research Professor of Classics, Department of Classics, Carleton University