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Great Books Games celebrates hands-on interaction with ancient texts

First-year Mercer students present their class shield at the Great Books Games.
First-year Mercer students present their class shield at the Great Books Games.

Mercer students sporting ancient Greek costumes and shields gathered in Newton Chapel on Oct. 13 to participate in the ninth annual Great Books Games. 

The all-evening event featured engaging skits, battles of intellect and the presentation of team banners that related to the early culture studied in the Great Books Program (GBK) as depicted in Homer's Iliad and Odyssey. All Great Books classes were encouraged to participate in various challenges that allowed students to interact and compete with other members of their cohort. 

The long-standing Mercer tradition inspired by ancient Greek games and mythology was created nine years ago by Great Books students who desired a more interactive and engaging way to connect to Greek literature. The event was organized by students and professors, along with the vital support of administrative staff.

Great Books student Red Mason ‘27 said he enjoyed the evening, especially the skits. Mason’s group won awards for best female actor and best male supporting actor for their skit about Achilles and the gods. 

“The skits can be parodies and any theme you want,” Mason said. “I think they’re beneficial as they help students connect on a deeper level to the text, and it’s just fun! It’s a Mercer tradition, and it’s a great way for classes to demonstrate their understanding of the text.” 

Along with the skits, competitors competed in a “Battle of the Wits” trivia event and a modified Ships and Sailors game. Each GBK team also presented their banners, shields and class motto. In the days before the games, students were tasked with creating shields and banners corresponding to their team names. This event required students to use their resourcefulness and creativity in order to engage with the texts they studied. Each shield had a crest, similar to heraldry, and every banner had a motto that the teams proudly chanted to encourage their teammates. One of the most difficult parts was scavenging materials to use.

Karisha Khadayat’s ‘27 team, who called themselves the Mistresses of Zeus, converted cardboard from a leftover pizza box into a shield. Then teammate Mahalie Brown ‘27 drew a Greek lady with lightning bolts, which symbolized Zeus. 

Another participant, Ariel Basa ‘27, who won best supporting female actor, quoted her team’s motto: "Swift and sure, Hermes endures!" Basa said she’s happy to participate in the Mercer Great Books program events, even those outside of class.

“I love the Socratic seminar format of learning, and I love reading and Greek mythology. I probably would have enjoyed the INT program, but as soon as I heard about GBK, I knew it was for me,” Basa said.

The Great Books program is one of the two general education tracks in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. It’s composed of seven required seminar-style classes where students read and discuss fundamental texts usually related to politics, history and society. 

According to Dr. Crescent Rainwater, a GBK professor who helped with the event, the discussion-based classes encourage students to think broadly about themes such as what it means to be human and to live in a community.

“This style of putting the students in charge was a way to break down the hierarchy of the classroom between professor and student, and treat the students more as fellow learners who take ownership of their learning,” Rainwater said.

The Great Books Program provides students with the opportunity to build a community bonded by their shared interest in literature. GBK students hope the Great Books Games will continue as a long-standing Mercer tradition.


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