Matheus Clemente De Pietro (PhD student at State University of Campinas, Brazil, and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main, Germany; visiting scholar at AUP in 2010)

When Prof. Wildberger invited me to take part in her courses at AUP as a visiting scholar, I was excited. Since my teaching (and learning!) experience is limited to Brazilian and Chinese environments, I am always enthusiastic to see different educational approaches and, of course, to learn new and creative ways in which teaching is done. Apart from that, the opportunity to see first-hand how a German professor lectures at an American university in the middle of a French metropolis is something not to be missed!

The teaching method was different from everything I had seen. Even though my only contact with the university was through Jula’s courses, it quickly became clear that professors have great freedom to develop their own didactics. This works splendidly, in my opinion, because it is not only the best approach to AUP’s intercultural nature, but also an effective method to draw the most from the students, since such a diverse classroom requires a reasonable level of versatility.

I also noticed how symbiotic (in the lack of a better word) classes can be. While I was there, Jula led her students into the Louvre to experience masterworks first hand. On another occasion, the whole class met a French philosopher in the quadrangle of the ENS and discussed with him topics we had debated in the classroom. This closeness to its environment is the greatest lesson I have learned at AUP, because it diverges greatly from where I come from, where most universities are actual walled cities closed within themselves. From what I have seen, it’s not easy to define where AUP ends and Paris begins – and this is no small asset!

Regarding myself, I could say I have a funny formation and more than a few interests. At 23 I completed my masters in linguistics/classical philology, after a BA in philosophy. I am currently writing my PhD thesis on the philosophical and literary aspects of the Stoic idea of “harmony” in Seneca’s dialogue De uita beata. It is basically an investigation on the multifaceted way Seneca interprets and presents this idea, which is central to Stoic thought and connected with pretty much everything else in their system. I think it’s very interesting and I am never bored, as the theme is inexhaustible – it often leads me in unexpected directions, and in the past it has even raised debates on topics as diverse as Greek musical theory and ancient etiopathology.

At the moment I am an exchange student at the Goethe-Universität in Frankfurt (Germany), under the supervision of Jula. She counts among the few scholars in the world who have worked with Seneca’s philosophical writings methodically and at length, and I am very glad to be able to annoy her with my questions. I’m also helping her with her conference on Seneca Philosophus, which will be held in AUP’s Grand Salon in mid-may 2011. A couple of scholars have already told us it is an interesting and innovative initiative – we are doing it exactly because we still have not seen it happening anywhere else –, and it will surely be a nice addition to AUP’s list of innovations.

Apart from the thesis I have two secondary projects: I am working on commented translations of Seneca’s philosophical writings into Portuguese (at present they are unavailable both in Brazil and Portugal), and I am also engaged in an international translation project of Chinese medicine classics and medical research papers into Portuguese. The idea is fascinating and the opportunity of putting my philological skills to the use of a completely different science only reassures me that this new world needs people with an interdisciplinary education. Although I cannot do much for them at the moment, these projects are particularly important to me and I try not to leave them too far behind because, as I see it, this is how I turn my research into something tangible for society.