It’s hard to imagine what freshmen think when they wander into Professor Banzai’s lecture hall. Weller reports that he loses a lot of students after the first class. “They thought they were going to get the easy A from old RoboCop,” he says with a laugh. The 450-page course reader tells them otherwise. Those who stay get a view into Weller’s two worlds. For example, his class at Syracuse on Hollywood and the Roman Empire requires watching toga-and-sandal epics (Ben Hur and The Last Temptation of Christ among them) and reading primary-source Roman authors in an attempt to reconcile big-screen Rome with the real thing. “The Romans were an unbelievably complex people, and we are an unbelievably complex people,” Weller says. “We can learn so much about why things are the way they are by looking at what they did.” He goes on to explain how the absence of the concept of zero in Greek antiquity laid the foundation for Western philosophical thought. —Mike Daisey —RoboCop, Ph.D (Wired)
Peter Weller, the actor who played RoboCop and Buckaroo Banzai is working towards a Ph.D. in classical history. Cool!