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Idaho State University hosts event on teaching difficult topics in the classroom

August 24, 2016

POCATELLO – In an era when “trigger warnings,” indications of potentially disturbing course content, are becoming routine on syllabi, how can teachers rigorously and thoughtfully address sensitive topics such as sexual violence, grief or racial discrimination in their classrooms

To consider this question, Idaho State University will host a public talk, “Teaching Difficult Topics in the Humanities Classroom and Beyond.” The talk is aimed at university as well as high school teachers in English, theatre, social studies and other relevant fields. The event will begin with a catered reception at 6 p.m. on Sept. 8, followed by the lecture at 6:30 p.m. in the College of Education Auditorium, Room 243.

In this talk, Professor Nancy Rabinowitz from Hamilton College, New York, will discuss her award-winning book, “From Abortion to Pederasty: Addressing Difficult Topics in the Classics Classroom,” published by the Ohio State University Press in 2014.

The edited volume was inspired by a situation surrounding the numerous instances of rape in Ovid’s "Metamorphoses" at Columbia University, but the essays range well beyond that topic. How do current issues, such as race and sexuality, require different strategies for our classroom conversations? Students are often quiet for fear of saying the wrong thing, or teachers are fearful of unduly upsetting students because of the subjects that come up when they teach. Teachers also are challenged to justify taking a subject up at all.

This talk addresses these issues, using Aeschylus’ "Suppliants, written in 470 B.C., a play about forced marriage and sexual violence, and its modern version, Charles Mee’s "Big Love" written in 2000, as a case in point.

In addition to the talk, Rabinowitz will also lead an English graduate seminar the evening of Sept. 7 at 7 p.m. The seminar will focus on four chapters from “Addressing Difficult Topics.” This class is open to auditors who have read in advance. For readings, please contact Lydia Wilkes at

Rabinowitz's lecture is funded by the Idaho Humanities Council, the Department of English and Philosophy, the College of Education, ISU Diversity Resource Center, the ISU Cultural Events Committee and the English Graduate Students Association.