Campus / News / March 2, 2016

Harrigan starts from ‘the beginning’

Sean Harrigan started teaching his first class at Knox twelve hours after arriving in Galesburg.

A new visiting assistant professor in the Classics department, Harrigan began right away by teaching Latin and Greek language classes and a tragedy in translation class this term. Although he says he loves all his classes, he is most excited for the Greek poetry class he will be teaching next term.

Harrigan’s passion lies with Greek poetry, which is what helped him become interested in classics initially. As an undergraduate at Oberlin College with plans to major in English, Harrigan took a class on Homer in translation and immediately wanted to learn more. He took a tragedy class in the spring, learned Greek during the summer months, and never stopped.

Harrigan believes Classics are important for a variety of reasons, but emphasizes the idea that we can always learn something about present-day ideas and cultures from studying the literature and cultures of the past.

“In the terms of almost anything, you’re going to want to start at the beginning,” Harrigan said. “One of the things that is most rewarding for me about that is to alleviate yourself of expectations of where you think things come from … sometimes you’ll be rather shocked to find it’s in many ways a different world than we typically might expect.”

Harrigan is deeply rooted in the liberal arts, and strongly believes in the ideas that Knox supports. He saw an echo here of his own undergraduate experience: the exploratory nature of education and the history of moving out West to start something new.

He spent the past two years teaching at Marlboro College, a small liberal arts college in Vermont of about 300 undergraduate students. Knox and Galesburg are much larger by comparison. He is still settling in.

“It took a little time for things to slow down and get my bearings, get to know Galesburg. É For two weeks I thought I was just going to the supermarket without realizing I was going to two different supermarkets, and they weren’t the same place. Two different HyVees,” he said.

Harrigan’s favorite text is the Iliad, which he called a “cop-out” but all the same had the biggest effect on him. His favorite poet to study is Pindar. Outside of his academic studies, Harrigan also enjoys cooking, playing guitar and taking photos. He’s particularly fond of Bob Dylan, for both listening and playing music. When asked for his favorite Dylan song, he reluctantly named “Tangled up in Blue,” while noting that he’d never want to settle on just one.

Music is very important to Harrigan and his studies.

“As a student and a scholar I work on early Greek poetry, and I’m mostly interested in the way that what we think of as poetry is usually better thought of as song,” he said. “When we think about poetry, the only thing that survives is the words. The way that these things existed as part of a musical culture is what I get most excited about.”

Erika Riley, Editor-in-Chief
Erika Riley is a junior majoring in creative writing and minoring in journalism. During her sophomore year, she worked as a news editor, and during her freshman year, she worked as a layout editor. She is the winner of the 2017 Ida M. Tarbell Prize for Investigative Reporting and the recipient of First Place Front Page Layout from the Illinois Press Association in 2016. Twitter: @ej_riley

Tags:  classics department new professor profile Sean Harrigan

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