McNeil awarded grant to research civic wisdom

Cuong Nguyen

Associate Professor of Classics Randall McNeill was recently awarded a $75,000 grant from the Arete Initiative at the University of Chicago for the Defining Wisdom Project.
McNeill is one of 23 scholars from the United States and Europe who were selected for a grant from a pool of 600-plus applicants in disciplines ranging from philosophy to environmental science.
According to the Wisdom Project website, “Participants were chosen because each showed the promise of a distinctive contribution to wisdom research and the potential to help establish a new and rigorous field of research on the topic of wisdom.” Other grant recipients will become members of the Wisdom Research Network, a website which aims to increase collaboration between scientists and scholars, thus enabling the interdisciplinary investigations on the subject of wisdom.
The project itself was launched earlier this year as a $2 million research program on the nature and benefits of wisdom. The two-year grant produced will support the research which McNeill is currently conducting for his book project, entitled “The Price of Wisdom: Community and the Individual in Greek and Roman Poetry.”
As a specialist in Latin poetry and Greek and Roman history, McNeill will explore ancient Greek and Roman conceptions of “civic wisdom” through investigating four specific characters from classical poetry: Achilles in “The Iliad” by Homer, Oedipus in Sophocles’ “Oedipus Rex,” Roman poet Catullus’ self portrayals and Aeneas in Virgil’s “The Aeneid.” Each of the characters that McNeill will study is a written representation of individuals who face the challenge of finding a balance between social duty and personal identity.
The research will shed new light on ancient Greek and Roman perspectives on the relationship between the individuals and society — a topic every Lawrence student has learned of through “The Republic” by Plato in Freshmen Studies. As McNeill said in a recent press release, “We may gain valuable perspective on what could be required of each of us as we move forward in the 21st century.” Thus, the kind of research that McNeill is conducting may have an impact on us not only academically, but also in real life.