200 Days in the Life of the College

Tuesday, January 18

From Latin to Lucasfilm, the Force is with him

By Anna Zahm ’13

Carl Rubino’s laugh is infectious. Deep and memorable like Jabba the Hutt’s (although not quite as menacing), it booms throughout brightly orange-bricked Couper Hall, home of the Classics Department. The ancient building’s heat may only work sporadically, but the enthusiasm of teachers such as Rubino, the Winslow Professor of Classics, keeps the place energetic, lively and warm nonetheless.

Rubino, who joined the Hamilton faculty in 1989, focuses on Greek and Latin literature but has also studied and lectured extensively in interdisciplinary fields. That includes looking at how one of his favorite films, Star Wars, is strongly rooted in classical mythology. Rubino has spoken on the topic on numerous occasions, and has appeared on the History Channel in a two-hour-long Lucasfilm documentary called Star Wars: The Legacy Revealed. And appropriately for the Hill, he also looks at connections between classical scholarship and Alexander Hamilton himself. One of his courses, The Classical Tradition in American Politics, focuses on Cicero, Jefferson and Hamilton. In 2004, that interest led him to participate in a re-enactment of the fatal duel between Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr, acting as Hamilton’s “second.”


Despite such an extensive background, however, the most impressive thing about Rubino is simply his talent for teaching. Classes with him are never boring, just fun. Classical languages may be “dead,” but Rubino brings them and their ancient history alive. He talks about the emotion and sentiment of the language, showing how it is full of compassion, anger, longing, hurt and other timeless emotions. He reads the works aloud in Latin, as Romans would have listened to them, bringing learning to life. Simply put, his classes are fascinating — and more often than not, they end with that laugh.