Outreach Highlights of the SCS Annual Meeting in New Orleans 1/8-11/2015
The meeting started with a bang on Thursday night with a staged reading of Anne Carson’s Antigonick, her very compelling version of Sophocles’ play. The reading, directed by Carson herself with Judith Butler performing the role of Kreon, attracted a large and enthusiastic audience and was followed by a lively discussion. President Kathryn Gutzwiller deserves the credit for coming up with the fine idea of this reading and making it happen.
The annual performance sponsored by the Committee on Ancient and Modern Performance was Aristophanes’ rarely-performed Wealth on Friday night. 1/9/2015. Adaptor Karen Rosenbecker and director Artemis Preeshl (both at Loyola University New Orleans) collaborated on a production of this script, which reflects local issues, in January 2013, and some members of that cast returned for this performance. The play’s all too timely theme and the lively staging were followed by a wide-ranging discussion.
Outreach Division Committee activities
The Committee on Ancient and Modern Performance has been working for some time to have theater and performance recognized as valuable areas of research and publication in Classical Studies. The committee was therefore very pleased that the SCS Board of Directors voted on 1/11/2015 to add these areas to the Research guidelines of the Publications and Research Committee. CAMP members continue to work on developing guidelines which can help SCS members working in these areas to inform administrators and other evaluators so that they understand the nature and importance of performance research. CAMP welcomes inquiries from any interested parties; contact CAMP chair Mark Damen email@example.com. CAMP also discussed the need for a performance archive in the United States where records (especially video) could be housed and available to scholars and teachers. A promising initiative seems to have fallen by the wayside. CAMP also discussed the idea of a CAMP website, and a CAMP “seal of approval” for acknowledging excellence in staging ancient drama.
The CAMP panel, organized by Ted Gellar-Goad of Wake Forest University, focused on Performance as Research/ Performance as Pedagogy. The five presentations ranged widely in terms of topics and approaches and provoked strong audience discussion.
The Committee on the Classical Tradition and Reception sponsored a panel on The Classics and Early Anthropology, organized by Emily Varto (Dalhousie University). This panel examined different areas of the interaction between classics and anthropology in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, exploring how this historical interaction has affected and continues to affect classical research.
The Outreach Committee panel on Writing Outside the Box: Communicating Classical Studies to Wider Audiences was organized by Judith Hallett (University of Maryland). It involved five panelists who write about classical studies in fiction, poetry, history, memoir, reviews, and blogs; publish in popular presses, journals aimed at broad audiences, and the internet. Among them were three non-members of SCS who generously shared their insights. This topic seems especially appropriate at the present moment, when the Chair of the National Endowment for the Humanities has announced a new initiative called “The Common Good: The Humanities in the Public Square,” aiming to engage humanities scholars and organizations with the complex issues playing out in our public lives, and to demonstrate the relevance and power of the humanities in tackling those issues.
Carol Gilligan, psychologist and novelist who wrote the very influential In a Different Voice, focussed on the psychological acuity of classical writers and how their insights resonate with contemporary observations. Historian James Romm argued that character is the key that can unlock the power of historical narratives and keep modern readers connected to the facts. Jane Alison spoke on how her classical training influenced her memoir and fiction, especially The Love-Artist. Carl Phillips described the role of classics in his poetry and translation; he was especially eloquent about the “erotics of syntax.” Emily Wilson encouraged the audience to reconsider the marginalization of bridge writings within the mainstream of classical studies, and to make a case for their central importance within our discipline. Discussion was lively; one graduate student raised the pertinent question (similar to the CAMP discussions about performance as research) how these kinds of writing can gain credibility as scholarly work.
At the Outreach Committee meeting I asked the committee members to participate more actively in the new SCS website which will soon be unveiled. This exciting new site will need frequently updated content, and members are asked to seek out and send such content so as to keep the site fresh. This is a remarkable moment in the history of classical studies, in which our discipline is constantly in the news, so this should not be an onerous task.
Committee member Alexander Loney made a very interesting suggestion: that classicists take “the Wikipedia problem” (the fact that many Wikipedia entries are seriously flawed, yet students and others trust them) seriously. Alex suggested that volunteers adopt a page and try to improve it. Anyone interested in this exciting initiative should please get in touch with me (firstname.lastname@example.org).
The Amphora editorial board held a wide-ranging discussion, especially about the role of Amphora on the new website. One strong suggestion received general approval: SCS should give more awards. Editors Ellen Bauerle and Wells Hanson welcome contributions at any time from interested parties.
Looking Forward to Next Year’s SCS Meeting
Next year’s meeting will be held 1/6-9/2016 in San Francisco, California.
The CAMP performance will be a very special one: SCIT ‘s (Stanford Classics in Theater) production which will receive its premiere this May. SCIT has done brilliant, hilarious productions of Clouds, Wasps, Acharnians, and more. Now comes Nerds—rhymes with what? You know what! Birds!— set in a contemporary San Francisco all afroth with tech companies and rich entrepreneurs and Big Ideas and Big Money. At this point it seems likely that like Antigonick this will take place on the first night of the meeting, i.e. Wednesday January 6. More details soon!
The CAMP panel, organized by Eric Dugdale (Gustavus Adolphus College) and Rosanna Lauriola (University of Idaho) is called New Wine in Old Wineskins: The Place of Athenian Drama in Modern Society. The organizers invite abstracts by March 8, 2015.
COCTR has discussed the increasing number of SCS panels involving reception, and decided that rather than do a panel involving case studies it would be good to take the discussion of reception to a more theoretical level. As a result, the topic of the COCTR panel is "Theorizing Classical Reception: Beyond the Case Study" organized by Rosa Andujar (University College London) and Konstantinos Niloloutsos (St. Joseph’s University). This will be a seminar, with pre-selected panelists and respondent. Those interested in attending will receive advance copies of the papers, and ample time will be given for discussion.
The Outreach Committee panel is still under discussion. Watch this space!
The Outreach Prize
The Outreach Prize for 2014 was awarded to Robert B. Strassler, for conceiving, initiating, and editing the Landmark Ancient Histories. The Landmark translations are characterized not only by lucidity, but by a whole suite of aids to the reader. As Glenn Bowersock wrote in the The New York Review of Books, "for the first time a Greekless reader could study the text closely and critically, much as a professional classicist would." Landmark editions of Herodotus, Thucydides, Xenophon, and Arrian are in print; forthcoming are Julius Caesar, Polybius, and Xenophon’s Anabasis. This achievement is especially impressive as Strassler is an independent scholar.
If you know of a worthy project aimed at bringing knowledge of the classical world to those outside our profession, please see this year's call for nominations for submission instructions.