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Outreach -- February 2012

I. I am very pleased to be serving as Vice-President for Outreach. I especially thank my predecessor, Judy Hallett, for her outstanding support and guidance.In my first few months on the job, I have been impressed by the Division’s excellent committee members and their strong commitment. Much good work is being done, but there are opportunities to do more.

II. Outreach Events at the 2012 meeting. Many events involving outreach/classical receptions/interdisciplinary work take place at the APA meeting, sponsored by different constituencies. This is just as it should be—the more the better! Events sponsored by our Division include:

            a. The Outreach Division panel on “Classica Africana” organized by Eugene O'Connor and Ken Goings was very well-attended and successful, with strong papers and lively responses from the audience, which included Cornel West. The topic for next year’s Divisional panel is (as befits an Olympic year) “Sport and Spectacle in the Classical World.”

            In addition to the Africana panel, the Division sponsored a Workshop on “Classics in Action;” topics included classics in prison and papers on theatrical projects which reach out to military personnel and veterans, including Peter Meineck’s discussion of his Ancient Greeks/Modern Lives, for which he was awarded the 2010 Scholarly Outreach Prize. This nationwide project, sponsored by APA and funded by a major NEH grant, is in its second year of bringing classics-focussed events to public libraries, arts centers, theaters and museums across America.The room was packed and the discussion animated; obviously “engaged classics” is an area of great interest, and the papers offered examples of “how to do outreach.”

            b. The Committee on Classical Tradition and Reception panel focussed on the current state of reception studies, in honor of the committee’s name change. Two theoretical papers by major scholars were followed by two case studies, each on Latin America. The panel was very well attended and the discussion spirited; the only problem was insufficient time, since the panel was presented in a two-hour slot. The 2013 COCTR panel topic is “Islamic and Arabic Receptions of Classical Literature,” and the 2014 panel topic has already been decided: it is “World War I and Classical Receptions.” Finally, a proposal from Joanna Paul (The Open University) for a joint APA-Classical Reception Studies Network workshop on the teaching of reception from comparative British and American perspectives has been accepted for the 2013 meeting.

            c. The Committee on Ancient and Modern Performance continued its tradition (established in 2002) of presenting a staged reading at the meeting. This year’s script was The Jurymen, a comic take on the last days of Socrates written by Katherine Janson and directed by Amy R. Cohen. The performance was lively and the audience responsive. Next year’s production will be Elektra, Electra, et Cetera by Benjamin Switzer, a wild play which has lots of fun with tragedy (Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides all appear as characters); I’m directing.

            The CAMP panel focussed on “travelling” theater (in different senses), with papers on regional theater in the West, Alexander’s theatricals, Seneca, and a Chinese opera version of Antigone. Next year’s panel topic is “Bodies in Motion,” on choral movement.

            In response to an APA member’s request by the CAMP committee discussed creating guidelines for criteria to assess the work of scholar-practitioners; the committee plans to consult the Divisions of Professional Matters and Research in this process.

III. After a year’s lapse, the Outreach journal Amphora has a wonderful new team of editors: Ellen Bauerle and Wells Hansen, who are full of energy and good ideas. This is a moment of major transformation in publishing—the central issue being how to balance print and electronic publication—so everything is in flux, but they are dealing with it with the help of the dedicated editorial board. Amphora’s connection with the APA website is crucial—people need to be able to get to Amphora online easily—and APA Information Architect Samuel Huskey has been very helpful.

IV. Anevent endorsed by APA and the Outreach Division: On January 6, 2012a panel of experts including leading Twombly scholars and classicists discussed Twombly’s Fifty Days at Iliam (sic) at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.This “painting in ten parts,” completed in 1978, evokes incidents from the Iliad (in Pope’s translation) in Twombly's characteristic synthesis of words and images. I hope that there will be more such worthy events outside the APA meeting itself endorsed by the association. This is a very effective and inexpensive way to put our “brand” out there. Of course all endorsed events must be worthy, but ideally the approval process will be easy and quick.

V. No Scholarly Outreach Prize was awarded in 2011. Given the number of worthy outreach projects taking place across the country, I hope that this important recognition will be awarded every year. I am working to encourage applications and nominations; some clarifiction of the criteria might help. The possibility of raising the monetary award has been discussed; that would be nice, of course, but as the 2009 awardee I considered the money much less important than the honor and the framed plaque.

VI. Thoughts for the future. I am planning to 1) prepare a kind of handbook on “how to do outreach;” 2) create a network of regional classics outreach workers; 3) work to connect The Dionysiac, a very helpful listserv run by Hallie Marshall which announces performances of interest to classicists, to APA.

Finally, during my first months in this position I have come to believe that the meaning of Outreach within the APA needs clearer definition. People within the organization have different ideas about what this division does, and at times this leads to misunderstandings. I think it is very desirable, therefore, to create a mission statement or manifesto defining the organization and goals of the Outreach Division. I plan to work on such a statement over the summer and hope to present to the APA Board of Directors in fall. Judy Hallett has kindly offered to help, and I will ask former Vice-Presidents for Outreach Barbara Gold and Jennifer Roberts for their input. I welcome the comments of all APA members about this important topic. 

Respectfully submitted,
Mary-Kay Gamel
Vice President for Outreach, 2012-2016

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