fbpx
greece
Jess Barga

Jess Barga

Jess Barga is an MYP/DP Language & Literature / ToK teacher and sometime-reveler. She is a fervent ambivert, and enjoys bouncing between opposite extremes, sometimes perilously.

The IB Learner Profile includes the attribute of balance. Students have joked to me that it’s painfully ironic when teachers preach balance and in the same breath announce taxing summative assessments, and I sympathize. But it’s up to every individual to determine where we draw our lines between cold-eyed restraint and reckless abandon, and to arrange our lives accordingly, understanding that to lead fulfilling lives, few of us can successfully smother an entire half of our natures.

In Search of Balance with The Bacchae

dancing maenad
The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs: Picture Collection, The New York Public Library. "Dancing Maenad holding a panther and thyrsus" The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1894.
Apollo & Dionysus
The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs: Picture Collection, The New York Public Library. "Apollo and Dionysus" The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1844 - 1861.

Last week, the OYIS Grade 11 DP English Language & Literature students began a unit on Euripides’ final play, The Bacchae. Like most ancient Greek tragedies, this is a gruesome tale of exaggerated vengeance, visited upon mortals by unreasonable gods. Unlike most tragic heroes, though, the protagonist himself is a god—Dionysus (AKA Bacchus), the Greek god of madness, wine, ecstasy and drama.

Planning the unit reminded me that The Bacchae was the first text I taught as a DP English Literature teacher, way back in 2010 at an international school in Venezuela. I was brand new to the school and the IB programme, and still very green as an English teacher, having spent most of my career teaching Spanish. It thrilled me that my eleventh-grade students were so intrigued by the story. They seemed to like it as much as I did—alas, not an everyday occurrence in English class. I think the enduring appeal of this particular play speaks to the universal plight it describes: the struggle in each human being to balance their internal contradictions. We are rational thinkers, but also impulsive, emotive beasts; we crave the order and convenience of the city, but experience primeval joy when we immerse ourselves in nature; we value restraint and productivity, but cherish the prospect of a holiday full of hedonism.

In the play, the new god Dionysus, son of Zeus and a mortal woman, returns to Thebes, the town of his birth, where most people reject his divinity and consider his immortal parentage to be a hoax. Of course, Dionysus’s mission is to prove them wrong in the grisliest fashion, so he bewitches the women of Thebes to join him in Bacchic revelry in the wilderness outside the city. There they become the Bacchae, dancing freely in animal skins and making wine spurt from the ground with magic staffs. Dionysus tricks their king, the uptight and ultra-rational Pentheus, to disguise himself as a woman and spy on their secret rituals, and the curious king pays a shockingly high price for his transgression.

For me, the most relevant modern interpretation of this ancient story involves the presence of opposite extremes—personified by Dionysus and Pentheus—within each human being. We are brain and we are body, but the society we’ve designed overvalues the intellect and rewards us when we repress its opposite. In teaching it to high school students, naturally, I stress that the play is not a literal invitation to abandon ourselves to a wine-soaked wilderness retreat. Still, most of us regardless of age can benefit from the reminder to honor and accept our wild and unruly side, just as we strive to maximize our intellectual achievements. For some, this might mean deep relaxation or meditation; for others, sport, dance, video games; for plenty of us, the delights of a long, rich meal or a night out with friends. Of course we relish the chance to do these things when we stand on the brink of a three-week vacation, but relegating these pleasures to the holidays puts us at risk of serious agony when the calendar inevitably catches up with us.

The IB Learner Profile includes the attribute of balance. Students have joked to me that it’s painfully ironic when teachers preach balance and in the same breath announce taxing summative assessments, and I sympathize. But it’s up to every individual to determine where we draw our lines between cold-eyed restraint and reckless abandon, and to arrange our lives accordingly, understanding that to lead fulfilling lives, few of us can successfully smother an entire half of our natures. For me, at least, averaging the two and seeking moderation in all things simply does not work: it dilutes my extremes and waters me down as a person.

How does The Bacchae end? Well, I’m not going to spoil it for you! Suffice it to say that it’s bloody and mad, not for the faint of heart. If you want to avoid a gruesome fate yourself, though, do yourself a favor and celebrate your extremes, during the holidays, but also beyond. Don’t mix them together and take the zero-sum average… instead, determine what your inner Bacchante demands of you, and give her the respect she’s due.

Share this post

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on pinterest
Share on print
Share on email

Leave a Reply

School Blog

The Growth of School Culture

One of the aspects of OYIS that I have worked hard to develop revolves around inclusion and support. It was my hope when developing this school that we would be able to create relationships with our students based on care, respect, and understanding.

Read More »
international
International Mindedness

The TCK Mindset

For the uninitiated, Third Culture Kids (TCKs for short) are individuals who have spent their formative years growing and adapting to a culture other than the one they were born into. It is a curious phenomenon wrought by an increasingly globalized world. The premise is simple: the experience abroad changes your brain. If this occurs during your formative years, then it will have lasting effects on your values, worldview, and ensuing lifestyle.

Read More »
international mindedness
International Mindedness

インターナショナルスクールで働く日本人スタッフとして

グローバル化が進み、外国に対する壁というものがほとんどなくなった現代社会で必要なことは国際感覚を身に付けるということだとよく言われます。その為にはまず、自分と違う人々やその文化を受け入れ、認めることが大切です。日本にいながら、海外にいた時と同じように自分とは異なる文化や習慣を持つ様々なスタッフや生徒と関わりながら仕事ができるこの素晴らしい環境は私にとって国際感覚を身につける絶好の機会だと感じています。この事は私だけではなく日本人生徒にも当てはまり、英語に溢れ日本の学校では経験できないような色々な国籍の人々や文化が集まる環境で学びたい、国際感覚を身につけたいと考えている生徒にとっても大阪YMCAインターナショナルスクールはぴったりの学校ではないでしょうか。

Read More »

2021年度OYIS自己評価表

学財務諸表2020

役員等名簿

役員の報酬等の支給に関する規程

寄附行為

Add Your Heading Text Here