ACU students get a literary introduction to the Eternal City

ACU students get the chance to explore the Eternal City through ‘great books’

Students from ACU’s Western Civilisation program undertook a unique study tour in Rome, exploring the literature inspired by and written in the Eternal City.

Associate Professor Andrew Poe led the trip, taking students on a literary tour back through time, from Patricia Highsmith’s The Talented Mr Ripley and Henry James’ travel journals to Keats’ poetry, the works of Dante and ancient Roman tales of the city’s founding.

The study tour was part of ACU’s Semester in Rome experience and included students from several academic disciplines.

“Reflecting on text in the space where it was written, reading about the city you’re visiting, you can really feel the text coming alive around you,” Associate Professor Poe said.

“Sitting in the room where Keats spent the last weeks of his life or reading Henry James’ journals about Rome while standing in the very spot he’s describing.

“It’s so different to being a tourist – you get to enter this world and play in it.

“It showed our students that history isn’t something that has already happened – it keeps getting reconceived. You can encounter the past from the present and keep going back.

“It’s a way of giving students an opportunity to feel texts, rather than studying them in the abstract.”

Students in ACU’s Western Civilisation program were offered sponsored overseas travel through the generous support of the Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation.

This allowed students like second-year Western Civilisation scholar Fletcher Shumack to embark on their first trip abroad.

His highlights included visiting St Peters Basilica, spending time pondering Rome’s history from Janiculum Hill, and reading Machiavelli’s The Prince on a side trip to Florence.

“We are separated from these authors by hundreds of years, they lived in an entirely different world to ours, and often we’re relying on translations of the original texts,” he said.

“Without visiting the locations where the texts were written, it’s hard to conceptualise how these ideas came to be. Until I travelled overseas, I had no idea how much context I was really missing.

“The level to which we appreciate and elevate the primary texts in our Western Civilisation classes is almost radical – it has changed my life.”

Fellow Western Civilisation student Thomas Coles visited Rome twice last year, for a summer intensive run by ACU’s Thomas More Law School, and an autumn study tour.

“I’m so grateful to ACU and the Ramsay Centre for facilitating such a life-changing experience,” Thomas said.

“The texts we study in the Western Civilisation program open up ideas on every subject matter, from politics to art and philosophy.

“Being in Rome encouraged a way of thinking differently about these ideas and how else these ideas can be considered.

“Reading Seneca's famous text, 'On Clemency' in Saint Peter's Square, brought to life the idea of clemency, justice and peace and how political ideas we take for granted now, were once incredibly divisive and even treasonous.

“The introductory class, where Associate Professor Poe sat with us on Janiculum Hill and encouraged us to share perspectives on the City of Rome was one of the highlights.”

Thomas said enrolling in the Western Civilisation program at ACU had been “truly special”.

“Leaving school and entering tertiary education is always daunting for someone who has freshly turned eighteen.

“But the program, the lecturers and my classmates actively encourage discourse on any topic - nothing is off limits.

“We share a space where it's possible to encounter some of the most poignant texts in history or discuss contemporary music and pop culture or dive into mathematical, scientific, political, literary ideas.

“There is something truly special about the small class sizes and engaging with our lecturers on topics that allow the students to wrestle and understand for themselves how it is to be in the world.”

For more information, visit Study Western Civilisation with a Ramsay Scholarship | ACU

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