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May 4, 2007

Author sees Greek tragedy in pop culture

[img id="80231" align="alignleft"] In likely the only talk this year to bridge the gap between Wisteria Lane and ancient Colchis, Monday’s Distinguished Lecture in the Humanities featured award-winning author and critic Daniel Mendelsohn speaking on “Reality in Crisis: What Greek Tragedy Can Tell Us about Pop Culture Today.”

Mendelsohn, author of The Lost: A Search for Six of Six Million, lectured on the relevance of Greek tragedy to contemporary pop culture. Comparing Euripides’ Medea to the popular television show Desperate Housewives, Mendelsohn said tragedy makes people cautious of their own actions. According to Mendelsohn, the thrill for audiences today comes from watching real emotions emerge when real people are placed in highly artificial settings, as in the show Fear Factor. “That’s the reason why they put people in tubs of snakes,” he said, evoking laughter.

Mendelsohn received his B.A. in Classics from the University of Virginia and received his M.A. and Ph.D. in Classics from Princeton University. After completing his Ph.D. in 1994, he pursued a career in journalism in New York and earned numerous accolades as an author and translator of poetry.

An annual lecture in which a distinguished humanist or classicist is invited to speak, the Distinguished Lecture in the Humanities is sponsored by the endowment of Robert S. Danziger, (M.D. ’80) in memory of his father, Sigmund H. Danziger, Jr., (A.B. ’37). The National Endowment for the Humanities also contributes funding.