Humanities Center Director: Thomas Wilson

Carl Rubino

Winslow Professor of Classics, Hamilton College

Why Shane Won’t Ever Come Back: Heroism and Innocence in Homer and the American Western

Thursday, November 14, 2013 •  4:10pm • Taylor Science Center 3024

The 1953 film Shane is an especially successful example of a Hollywood adaption of the heroic paradigm first established in Homer’s Iliad.  The film’s hero persists in a futile attempt to abandon his violent past for a “normal life” as an ordinary farmer, but the circumstances of the domestic world he tries to enter make it impossible for him to renounce his violent past.  Since he feels obliged to save his  friends, he is compelled to become a hero once again.  Carl Rubino will examine some ways in which Shane and other Hollywood Westerns echo the Homeric model, casting light on how classical texts continue to exert a powerful influence on modern works of art and on how those modern works both embody the classical heritage and adapt it to fit the needs of their own times.  He will also devote some attention to the conflict between “highbrow” and “lowbrow” and to the pedagogical benefits of using films to teach the humanities.

Carl A. Rubino, Winslow Professor of Classics at Hamilton College, has published and lectured extensively on ancient Greek and Roman literature, comparative literature, and literary theory.  A long-time collaborator of the Nobel Laureate physicist Ilya Prigogine, Rubino is also known for his work on the connections between science and the humanities, where he has focused on complexity theory, the problem of time, and the impact of the theory of evolution upon ethics.  His recent publications include “Long Ago, But Not So Far Away: Another Look at *Star Wars* and the Ancient World” (2011), “It Was Their Destiny: Roman Power and Imperial Self-Esteem” (2007), and “The Consolations of Uncertainty: Time, Change, and Complexity,” a chapter in *Reframing Complexity: Perspectives from the North and South* (2007).  A paperback version of his 2008 co-edited book Emergence, Complexity, and Self-Organization: Precursors and Prototypes appeared in 2010.  Rubino has appeared on CNBC in a discussion of the rationale for keeping Alexander Hamilton’s portrait on the $10 bill, on C-SPAN in a reenactment of the 1804 Hamilton-Burr duel, and on the History Channel in a Lucas Film documentary Star Wars: The Legacy Revealed, where he discussed the films’ roots in classical mythology.  He also directs a lecture series at The Other Side, a community center in Utica.

Sponsored by the Dean of Faculty