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Northwestern University

Classicizing Chicago

A new website in honor of the late Kathryn Bosher celebrates the history of Greek and Roman drama in Chicago

The persistent influence of the ancient Greeks and Romans in the modern world is evident throughout Chicago, from the Art Deco statue of Ceres atop the Chicago Board of Trade to The Hypocrites’ acclaimed “All Our Tragic” performance last fall.

The College’s Department of Classics has been documenting this relationship through its Classicizing Chicago Project, a collaborative research program launched in 2010 by Kathryn Bosher, a beloved classics professor who died in 2013.

Now, boosted by funding from Northwestern’s Chabraja Center for Historical Studies, Classicizing Chicago is introducing a new website featuring a comprehensive database of Greek and Roman drama performed on Chicago stages from the 1840s to today.

Aptly, the database will be known as The Bosher Collection.

“The collection has been named for Kate,” says director Sara Monoson, a professor of political science and classics at Northwestern. “It draws upon and expands research that she did and makes it widely available in a format that we think she would have liked.”

Plans are also under way to develop an additional website that will present an extensive yet eclectic set of short-form studies of the way adaptations of classical materials appear in all areas of Chicago’s cultural life, ranging from art and architecture to education and politics. The set will include videos, essays, photography and walking tours.

This ambitious digital atlas of Greek and Roman antiquity in Chicago — which will go live by the fall of 2015 — was buoyed by a seed grant from Northwestern’s Alice Kaplan Institute for the Humanities and the Mellon Foundation’s Humanities Without Walls/Global Midwest Initiative.

“The atlas is a new imagining of Kate’s original idea to build a collection focused on Chicago that includes evidence across media, not only about one genre of work through time,” Monoson said.

Together, the Bosher Collection and the atlas will form the Classicizing Chicago Project: “a virtual tour of Chicago’s multifaceted ties to classical antiquity, and a public humanities resource for students, teachers and the general public interested in Chicago’s cultural life and the classical tradition in America,” Monoson says.

The content creators for the websites will include Northwestern undergraduates, such as those enrolled in “Ancient Rome in Chicago,” a new course taught by senior lecturer Francesca Tataranni.

Given Chicago’s role as a quintessential American city as well as its ambition to play a role on the global stage, Classicizing Chicago is “a compelling way to explore how classical elements endure as resources even in seemingly antagonistic places, across genres and for people in all walks of life,” Monoson said.

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