DR. LENA HATZICHRONOGLOU
Lena Hatzichronoglou may be Detroit’s ‘metaphor maven’. It’s a word she uses easily and frequently, especially in discussing the modern relevance of her chosen field, the study of classical mythology.
“The word ‘myth’ has a very specific meaning in Greek,” she explains in her comfortable St. Clair Shores apartment. “It has little to do with a falsehood, as in the English translation. It means a story, and a story from which we can learn, as human beings, something about our character.”
Surround by a wealth of books on all aspects of Hellenic life, art, music and of course, mythology, Dr. Hatzichronoglou can rattle off the twelve Olympians (were the principal gods of the Greek pantheon, residing atop Mount Olympus) as easily as sports fans can name the Lion’s starting lineup, but she is careful to point out that the qualities assigned to each of these gods is the core of the value the stories bring to her students at Macomb Community College where she is a professor. “I try to point out why these myths are not about ‘once upon a time’, no more today then they were in Classical times. Whether or not people actually believed in those gods is not the point; they were created as way to humanize natural phenomenon and help with a psychological grasp of say, rain and thunder. Many of the concepts that came out of that are still in use today, words that conjure up a certain ‘image’ in the minds of modern people. The advertising industry has been particularly adept at exploiting that.”
As example, she points out ‘Ajax’ cleanser, the Honda ‘Odyssey’ and the Cadillac ‘Zephyr’, all of which are words and characters from Greek history. Her ability to modernize the relevance of the ancient world is key to what could be a dry and dusty lesson an easy pill to swallow!
Dr. Hatzichronoglou holds a BA in Classics, Byzantine, and Modern Greek from the University of Athens, an MA in Classics from The Catholic University of America, and a Ph.D. in Classics from The Johns Hopkins University. She has also done studies and research at the University of Chicago, Yeshiva University, Dartmouth College, and the American School of Classical Studies at Athens. She is the recipient of many grants including grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities. She is a member of many professional associations, and her biography has been included in numerous Who’s Who. She is also the recipient of three teaching excellence awards, and she has given numerous talks both in professional meetings and as an invited guest speaker. She has taught the Greek Language, Literature and Culture of all periods at several institutions including the Johns Hopkins University, the University of Florida, Macomb Community College, and Wayne State University, where she was the Modern Greek Studies Director between 1990 and 1997.