Jeremy Cohen

Penn Humanities Forum Undergraduate Fellow

20152016 Forum on Sex

Jeremy Cohen

2015-16 Undergraduate Humanities Forum Chair

Classical Studies

College of Arts and Sciences, 2017

Jeremy is a Classics major studying ancient languages and literatures, except when he's more interested in everything else. He has, at times, thought himself a student of statistics, anthropology, intellectual history, (natural) philosophy, or political economy, before memorizing Attic Greek case endings as a good first step. His research tends toward historiography and literary reception as an (eclectic) attempt to answer questions of how authors have treated their own and others’ cultural pasts. He spent the past summer developing online map tools for Prof. James Ker (Ancient Greek, Latin); spending four weeks as a student volunteer excavating a Middle Bronze Age palace in northern Israel; and helping his parents move. In addition to the Humanities Forum—where he's excited to chair a group of talented, driven, and far more accomplished fellows—Jeremy is an active member of the Penn student theater community (especially iNtuitons Experimental Theatre), the Philomathean Society, and the Student Activities Council’s executive board.

Same-Sex Unions in the Politics of Ancient History

John Boswell’s Same-Sex Unions in Pre-Modern Europe (1994) achieved a level of popularity unusual for classical philology, arguing that the little-known and barely attested Byzantine ritual of adelphopoiesis was evidence of officially-condoned homosexual marriage in the early Christian world. Both devoutly Catholic and openly gay, Boswell dedicated the book to friends who had died from AIDS complications, a fate he shared later the same year. The book was critically panned, from a non-academic publisher, and marketed to a large layperson audience. Indeed, there are technical errors and perhaps fundamental biases (anachronism, Orientalism) in the work, but detractors tended toward ad hominem: the work’s flaws cast as personal failings rather than academic ones. The delineation between a piece being ‘bad scholarship’ and ‘not scholarship’ is a subtle act of quarantine. Considering also G.E.M. de Ste. Croix’s The Class Struggle in the Ancient Greek World (1981) and Martin Bernal’s Black Athena (1987), this project examines transgressive scholars finding in classical antiquity an opportunity for sociopolitical relevance, while Classicists’ reactions have been mixed.