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Ongoing Strength

Posted by Classics Department on September 7, 2017 in News

Ongoing Strength

Appointments, Enrolments, Metaphysics Laughter and Tears

Third Blast of the Trumpet

Classics News for the New Academic Year 2017


Encouraging Enrolment Strength

Full Classes


Dr Christopher Grundke, here as an Aeolian Shepherd, Praecentor of the Pythian Games, teaches our largest class, Mythology: “Gods, Heroes and Monsters” a writing class of 160 students, extending over the Fall and Winter terms.


Mythology with Dr Grundke Introductory Latin & Ancient Philosophy with Dr Fournier, Introductory Greek & Ancient Comedy & Greek Texts with Dr MacLeod, Death, Sex, Gold in Ancient Rome with Dr Mitchell, Classical Greek History with Dr Varto, Augustine’s Confessions with Dr Hankey, Introductory & Advanced Arabic with Dr Firanescu, Judaism, Christianity and Islam & Islam & John of Damascus with Dr Treiger, Buddhism & Chinese and Japanese Religions with Dr Austin are all flashing RED as full, or near the brim, on this year’s university timetable. Many have wait lists. These most encouraging numbers are matched by the strong numbers in the advanced Greek and Latin classes, and of the Honours and Graduate students taking them.

Flourishing Graduate Studies

Dr Diamond, its shepherd, reports on an excellent incoming Graduate Studies Class,  with ongoing members to match. He writes: Along with our five continuing second-year MA students, we are excited to welcome five new MA students to our graduate programme this year. Madalaine Wheeler, from California, who studied with Dalhousie Classics Alumnus Dr Colin Webster (First Class Honours in Contemporary Studies and Classics 2005; MA 2007, Assistant Professor of Classics at UC Davis), after an undergraduate degree at Gutenberg College in Oregon, is coming to study philosophy and theology with us. Lauren Vanderdeen, from British Columbia, (First Class Honours in History and Classics and the University Medal in History, 2016), starts her MA on Greek poetry. Ksenia Romashova, who comes to us from Russia via Halifax, plans to work on Greek philosophy and mathematics. Cristalle Watson, from British Columbia, (First Class Honours and the University Medal in Classics, 2017), came to us as an advanced undergraduate in Classics after a Master’s in Music at University of Ottawa. She will be working on Boethius’ Consolation of PhilosophyTorin Vigerstad, from Halifax, (First Class Honours and the University Medal in Classics, 2016), is coming back to us after taking time off to work in Germany.

Our strong undergraduate enrolments provide the Teaching Assistantships helping to support both our new and our continuing graduate students.

Lauren, Torin, and Cristalle all come into their Dalhousie MA with SSHRC funding (Canada Graduate Scholarship), additionally Cristalle is a Killam Laureate.


A Learned Clergy

As Dalhousie celebrates its 200th anniversary, and the Classics Department, with older origins at King’s, keeps a second birthday, we are reminded that Greek and Latin were the first subjects at Maritime universities because they were regarded as the requisites of an educated clergy. Many of our students still go on to the theological studies for which Classics has been the most distinguished preparation. Dr David Butorac (Honours in Classics, 2000; MA, 2001), Benjamin Lee (First Class Honours and the University Medal in Classics, 2006; MA, 2008), Jordan Draper (MA Classics, Fall 2017), Benjamin von Bredow (First Class Honours in Classics and the King’s Silver Medal, 2017) are all currently taking this road.

 Msgr Hans Feichtinger delivering his paper “Augustine and Contemporary Pluralism” to “Wisdom Belongs to God.”

Among the most learned of our clergy graduates is Msgr Dr Dr Hans Feichtinger (MA, 2003) who won the Dalhousie Governor-General’s Gold Medal for his thesis on Iamblichus and Augustine written under Dr Hankey. He went on to take a theological Doctorate from the Institutum Patristicum Augustinianum in Rome with a thesis on Leo the Great. After several years in the Roman Curia, Fr Feichtinger moved to Ottawa where is now the pastor of St George’s Catholic Parish. While there, he has finished a second doctorate at the Hochschule für Philosophie SJ, Munich. For this Philosophy degree he wrote a thesis: "Bild und Bildung bei Augustinus", which will be published in the distinguished Patrologia series, directed by a member of the Advisory Council of Dionysius, Professor H.R. Drobner at Paderborn. With this third thesis, Hans has continued his outstanding intellectual accomplishments.

Dr Feichtinger has been awarded the Hochschule für Philosophie’s Dissertation Prize; the Alfred-Delp-Preis is a most valuable award!


In the current circumstances posts for humanities graduates are highly prized. We are especially pleased to tell you of several now in the hands of recent graduates. I begin with one also in Munich.

 Dr James Bryson (Honours in Classics and Early Modern Studies, 2005; MA, 2007, with a thesis in Medieval Philosophy supervised by Dr Hankey) has just completed a Visiting Fellowship and a two year SSHRC postdoctoral Fellowship at McGill University working with Professor Tory Kirby (First Class Honours in Classics 1976; MA 1978). He is now moving on  to two 2 year research posts. The first is at Cambridge University; the second, to be taken up in 2019, will be at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität, Munich.

While at McGill, James published The Christian Platonism of Thomas Jackson (Peeters, 2016) perfectly qualifying him to be a Research Associate in “The Cambridge Platonists at the Origins of Enlightenment” Project directed by our friend, newly made Professor at Cambridge, Douglas Hedley. Douglas presented a paper and major address at Dr Hankey’s retirement celebration in June. In Munich Dr Bryson’s position is in the Martin-Grabmann-Forshungsinstitut für mittlalteriche Theologie und Philosophie part of the Katholisch-Theologishe Fakultät in the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität. There he will work on “Christian Neoplatonic Sources of Franz von Baader’s Philosophy of Love”.

James’ father, Peter (MA, 2007), mother Patricia, and sister Barbara have all been students in the Department.

Michelle Milband (MA, 2008, with a thesis on Eriugena’s Periphyseon supervised by Dr Hankey), returns to the King’s Foundation Year Programme as a Senior Fellow. Michelle was a teaching fellow at King’s (2008-11) and a professor of humanities at Dawson College (2011-17). She comes back to Halifax with her husband Daniel and their daughter Josephine Stella.


Daniel Wilband (MA, 2007, with a thesis, “Self-knowledge in Plato’s Alcibiades,” written for Dr Hankey) has a judicial clerkship at the Ontario Court of Appeal and will join Pink Larkin in Halifax as an Associate. He writes “I'll start out with a general practice mainly focusing on labour and employment law (union and employee-side), as well as some public law, criminal defence work and civil litigation. I was called to the Ontario bar in June 2016 and will be called to the NS bar in October of this year.”


 Evan King proposes a toast at "Wisdom Belongs to God"

Dr Evan King (First Class Honours in Classics 2010; MA, 2012) will join Michelle at King’s as a new Faculty Fellow in the Humanities. He returns to Halifax with his wife Elizabeth King (Curry) (MA, 2013) and their son Silas Barry King. Both Evan and Elizabeth wrote MA theses under Dr Hankey’s direction and both made substantial contributions to “Wisdom Belongs to God” and to “God Everyday and Everywhere.” From 2016-2017, Evan was an Affiliated Lecturer in Divinity at Cambridge, and lectured on texts in ancient and medieval philosophical theology. Liz is the daughter of the Rev’d David Curry (Honours in Classics and German, 1977; MA, 1978). Silas was baptised at Christ Church Windsor by its Rector, his grandfather, on Sunday July 23rd.

Evan and Michelle join Aaron Shenkman (Honours in German and Classics, 2014; MA, 2016, Governor General’s Gold Medal, 2017) who is now a Residence Don at King’s, Dr Michael Bennett (BA, with First Class Honours in Classics and Contemporary Studies, 2007), also a Faculty Fellow in the Humanities, and Dr Peter O’Brien (First Class Honours, 1990; MA, 1992) the new King’s Vice-President.

Dr Rebecca Coughlin (MA, 2006, with a thesis for Professor Hankey entitled: “Theourgia and Theoria: Divine Activity in Dionysius the Areopagite,”) delivered a paper “Uniting with Divine Wisdom: Theurgic Prayer and Religious Practice in Dionysius and Marsilio Ficino” at “Wisdom Belongs to God”. Rebecca has joined the Trouillard Translation Project which Elizabeth King will now direct from Halifax with the patient effectiveness which characterises her.


Alumni, Faculty and Friends

Dr Michael Phillip  Parker  (February 13, 1948 to April, 2017) composer, violinist, and Classicist educated and gave pleasure to audiences and students from Toronto to Newfoundland. After studies in Toronto and Hamilton, Michael served as Principal Violist with the Newfoundland Symphony and then stayed in Newfoundland to join the faculty of Sir Wilfred Grenfell College of Memorial University, where he was Professor of Classics and Historical Studies. After retiring from MUN, Michael relocated to Halifax, teaching classics part-time for us, St Mary’s, and the Seniors’ College of Nova Scotia. In addition to his classes, he shared his love of opera at both Grenfell and Dalhousie through “Sunday Night at the Opera,” a series of lively lectures with screenings of opera productions from his collection.

Michael’s range of learning and teaching was enormous: everything from Greek and Latin, through archeology and history to music appreciation. With this scope, his popularity as a teacher, and his willingness to help wherever he could, Michael saved us in difficult situations. We are sorry to have lost him through cancer, are most grateful for his help, generosity, and many charitable works, and this tribute to those of his many friends who held celebrations of his life in Toronto, Corner Brook and Halifax.


Dr Dr Albert M. Henrichs (December 29, 1942 to April 16, 2017). We are sorry to record the passing of the Eliot Professor of Greek at  Harvard University, a long time friend and supporter of the Department, its faculty and students, member of the Editorial Advisory Council of Dionysius. Born in Cologne, the 10th Eliot Professor was the first holder of this most distinguished Chair neither to have been born in the USA nor educated at Harvard.

            His publication of a Manichee papyrus Codex at the age of 26 established him as a Wunderkind of classical scholarship. He gained tenure at Harvard at the extraordinary age of 30. The scholarly coups and the work on Dionysus by this happy, generous, teacher made his appointment and performance in the Chair he held from 1984 to his death a cause of universal applause.


At Moncton, Kevin Powers (MA, 2006, with a thesis for Dr Hankey entitled, “A Historical Analysis and Categorization of Augustine’s Treatment of Romans 1:19-20,”) has started an Online Latin Academy.


Metaphysics, Laughter, and Tears

A personal reflection on “Wisdom belongs to God” and “God Everyday and Everywhere”


The Laughter of the Musicians performing a passage from Haydn’s Creation for “Wisdom Belongs to God” in the Library it inspired.

If Aristotle is right, metaphysics, in which humans exercise their highest power and raise themselves to the divinity they participate, should be their happiest activity. So it seemed to be for a week from Sunday, June 18th to Saturday, June 24th.

The first view I had of the participants was of a room full of happy laughing friends, gathered from fifty years of my students, colleagues, and auditors, and glad either to see one another again or to meet the earlier or later members of my classes. Especially close, and mutually exultant, were members of the metaphysics seminar I taught with Professor Doull during his last years in the Department and inherited from him.

The Colloquium gathered in 95 participants, half again more than we expected, and, by association with it, the Atlantic Theological Conference doubled its recent numbers. They came from continental Europe, England and Ireland, from South America, from all across the USA and Canada. The Rev’d Dr John Paul Westin joined us from his present parish, St John’s Stone Church, NB. Forty years ago he came to Classics from Charlottetown, PEI, via the Foundation Year Programme. John Paul wrote the first thesis I supervised for a MA in 1983 and was happy to meet those now working with us. One of them, Justin Wolff, is rethinking the structure of the Confessions with me, with an eye to the role physical nature plays. Under the direction of Dr Peter O’Brien and Donna Edwards, Justin organised “Wisdom belongs to God” so flawlessly that there was nothing to interrupt our common intellectual pleasures.

John Paul told me that his thesis, “Fides Quaerens Rectitudinem, A study of the unity of subject and object in Anselm of Canterbury,” motivated his extraordinarily fruitful ministry, in rural Nova Scotia, Montreal, Sweden, St John’s, Newfoundland, and St John, New Brunswick. He declared himself reinvigorated by our celebration and, like many others, hoped there would be Classics Alumni gatherings for intellectual renewal in the future.

According to Philo Judaeus, Paradise is the life of pure intellect from which humans fell into divided and dividing reason, the experiential  knowledge of good and evil. This interpretation of Genesis was passed on by the Greek Fathers; Eriugena worked out his anthropology on its basis and transmitted it to the Latin West. There could be nothing more appropriate to a celebration of metaphysics than that the entrancing passage from Hayden’s creation, where Adam and Eve walk hand in hand in the freshness of the primal garden, should be performed at its culmination. Musicians, instrumentalists, chorus and soloists, organised by Nick Halley and including his father, Paul, recreated it in the Reading Room of the King’s Library just before Aaron Weldon’s happy portrait of me was unveiled.



Aaron Weldon’s portrait of Dr Hankey, Librarian of King’s College from 1981 to 1993, now hanging in the Reading Room of the Library where it continues to receive universal approbation.

The musical passage provided the inspiration for the design of the Library executed by the much regretted Roy Wilwerth and myself. So the first tears were shed when the lone oboe sounded the  exquisite melody.

            The final tears were shed on Saturday morning when we parted amid demands that Classics form an Alumni association. I delivered heartfelt thanks and said “good-bye” to everyone, promising that I would now retreat into inaccessible seclusion. Within twelve hours I was writing a potential student converted to Classics during our Colloquium and Conference. We now meet weekly to read Plato, Plotinus, and Augustine together. I have been appointed Emeritus Professor of Classics and share my old office with Dr Grundke. I am actively supervising five MA theses at present and, in the Winter Term of 2018, will teach a seminar on Augustine’s Confessions. Classics / Religious Studies 3413 and 5070. On  Monday evenings this Fall, beginning on September 11tth at 7pm, I shall read through Charles Williams' The Descent of the Dove at St George's Round Church (details under "Talks" on my site).

            I am not attempting here to summarise the individual and cumulative effect of the forty-eight addresses, papers, and responses, surrounded by hours of discussions over the week when intellect did not sleep (“and for this reason are waking, perception and thinking most pleasant” Metaphysics Λ.7). After review, selected papers will be published in the next two issues of Dionysius. There all can enjoy what was accomplished. I can say now that important and real developments in thought were worked out and recognized in areas from the crucial matching of matter and the body with form and thought in Platonism, and the role of liturgy and ritual in reason, to fundamental misrepresentations of Islam dominating current conflicts. Look forward to Dionysius 35 and 36.

Dr Peter O’Brien provokes Laughter spreading from Cambridge and Ireland to Summerside, PEI and Halifax, and thence across Canada to Toronto and Calgary. “The actuality of thought is Life.”


 “The heavens and the world of nature depend on a principle which is life such as the best we can enjoy …  since its actuality is also pleasure.” (Metaphysics Λ.7)


Help Happiness to Keep Happening

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Wayne J. Hankey September 7th 2017