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Brenda Fineberg

Professor of Classics

At Knox Since: 1977

Why did you decide to become a professor?
Even as a young child I wanted to be a teacher. In high school and college
ancient Rome -- its language, its literature, its social history -- captivated me.
So after college, I embarked on graduate study, hoping to become a college
teacher. After many years at Knox, I still, every single day, feel fortunate to be able to spend my life teaching and studying the material I love.

How would you describe academic life at Knox?
This is a place where teaching and learning really matter. Students and faculty continually learn from one another, both in and out of the classroom. This reciprocal nurturing of teaching, learning, and scholarship does not happen everywhere.

What are your current scholarly interests?
My current research focuses on Rome's foundation legend-the story of Romulus and Remus. I am looking at the differences between private accounts of the story (as found in imaginative literature, painted walls in tombs, jewelry) and public accounts (public sculpture and architecture). Those differences reveal a lot about power, gender, and class relations during the late first century BCE, when the republic was crumbling and the principate was emerging.

How has interacting with students affected your own academic interests and research?
Working with students continually energizes me and spawns new ideas. In my research I try always to ask questions that would be interesting not just to other classicists, but also to curious undergraduates. If an idea doesn't pass that test then I rethink it.

What would you be if you weren't a professor?
I cannot imagine another profession.

What are your interests and hobbies?
We have two dogs and some fledgling gardens. I enjoy spending time with both. We have two grown daughters who live in Montana and Connecticut: spending time with them is too infrequent but always wonderful. When possible, I like to study at the American Academy in Rome, arguably the best classics library in the world.

Can you give an example of a Knox graduate who has gone on to do interesting things?
Many former students are now teachers themselves-I always find that a gratifying outcome. Former student Brian Tibbets '96 was named the Illinois Latin Teacher of the Year by the Illinois Classical Conference in 2008-that was a heady moment! 

View Brenda's faculty page