Jesse Weiner

Visiting Assistant Professor of Classics Jesse Weiner presented an invited keynote lecture for “Symposium Day” at Bard High School Early College in Queens, N.Y., on May 18.

In his talk, titled “‘Hideous Progeny’: Frankenstein, Classical Antiquity, and the Monsters of Tomorrow,” Weiner discussed the ways in which monstrosity in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein reaches back to Greek and Roman antiquity.

He suggested that “monsters” can help us think through the nature of “human being,” as well as through critical contemporary issues that range from moral ambiguities created in the wake of speculative science to pressing social crises including the Black Lives Matter movement, struggles for LGBT protections and rights, the plight of refugees around the world, and Islamophobia throughout the West.

Weiner also published an article titled “Detroit and the Classical Sublime, Or, In Defense of ‘Ruin Porn’” in the book Landscapes of Dread in Classical Antiquity: Negative Emotion in Natural and Constructed Spaces. Published by Routledge, the volume was edited by Debbie Felton, professor of classics at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

As the article’s lead author, Weiner collaborated with Terressa A. Benz, a Detroit-based criminologist and assistant professor of criminal justice at Oakland University.

According to Weiner, the essay “reads the cityscape of Detroit as a landscape of dread and responds to questions raised by critics of so-called “ruin porn.” First, how does the activity of viewing contemporary ruins differ, if at all, from viewing ancient ruins? Second, how can aesthetic experience be reconciled with political engagement and empathy?

“Drawing upon notions of the sublime that extend from classical antiquity through modern philosophy, we suggest that viewing these contemporary ruins produces the mixture of pleasure and dread essential to the sublime and so offers viewers a powerful and valuable aesthetic experience,” he said.

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