The Program Committee’s main work this year was more routine than in the previous three, and involved consolidating and modestly extending earlier initiatives. The more visible results were as follows:
- The popularity of organized panels taught the Committee long ago to avoid grouping individual abstracts by default into sessions with titles like “Greek History” and “Latin Poetry 2.” Instead we try, like panel organizers, to assemble coherent sessions organized by theme, even if we try to find coherence in groups of papers that were submitted and accepted individually. Some of the results on this year’s program were sessions on “The Body in Question,” “Religion, Ritual, and Identity,” and “Truth and Untruth.” This year we also took a further step in the same direction by providing the sessions that we organized with brief descriptions, similar to those that have long been in use for panels and seminars, stating why and how each particular collection of papers seemed to address a coherent idea. As a result, the distinction between organized panels and open paper sessions appears, at least, to be much reduced, and initial feedback from those who attended the Annual Meeting suggests that there is some substance behind the appearance.
- The program was very full this year, so there was no need to fill out skimpy sessions by inviting anyone to give additional papers, and no room for the Committee to organize sessions de novo, as it had done in recent years. Happily, though, one of last year’s innovations, a debate (between Jonathan Hall and Walter Scheidel) on the role of humanistic and quantitative methods in the study of Ancient History, is being followed up by a debate (between Kim Bowes and Noel Lenski) on the end of the Roman Empire. This year’s debate was organized by Carlos Noreña, with advice from the Program Committee, but on Carlos’ initiative and ideas for adjusting the format. The Committee was encouraged by this development to add a flexibly defined debate format as a regular option in the annual CFP.
- An earlier imitation of this sort took place a few years ago when a panel discussion of John Miller’s Apollo, Augustus, and the Poets in 2012 inspired Cliff Ando to organize a similar discussion on Brent Shaw’s Sacred Violence in 2013, again with advice from the Committee. In the meantime, a related but more flexible format had been developed over several years by CSWMG under the name “Authors Meet Critics,” and these sessions have proven to be among the most popular at the last several Annual Meetings. It seems likely that this format would be equally successful in subject areas other than those of special interest to CSWMG; so the Program Committee voted to include it, too, as a formal session category in the annual CFP.
- Perhaps the major accomplishment of the past year is that the joint Annual Meeting was a little more “joint” than it had been, because the SCS and the AIA used the same scheduling grid. Again, this innovation appears to have been well received, and I believe that it augurs well for continued and even increased future cooperation between the two organizations.
- There was, for the first time, a scheduling app for this Annual Meeting, for use on iOS and Android mobile platforms (i.e. smartphones, tablets, and the like). In fact, the SCS did not have too much to do with this project; the AIA tech people did most of the work. But, in spite of a few glitches, some of which were quickly fixed on the fly, and others of which should be fixed next time around, the app seems to have been very well received. Perhaps historians will look back on this as the de facto first Annual Meeting of the twenty-first century.
- This year it is our turn to organize a joint session for the next Classical Association, which will take place at Bristol in April. Leading the effort is Cynthia Damon, who has recruited four colleagues to address the topical question, “W(h)ither Philology?” Our speakers will be Joy Connolly, title TBA, and Will Batstone, “Why Philology Deserves its Undeserved Bad Name”; theirs will be James Brusuelas, “Philology beyond the Codex,” and Patrick Finglass, title TBA, but something pertaining to textual criticism and the new Oxford Scholarly Editions Online system. CA generalissimo Roy Gibson tells me that he has put this panel in prime time, saying, “we plan to use this slot to make the SCS panel a highlight of the conference. If, as you say, it relates to philology (and the name change of the APA), then that should be a big draw.” If it all goes as planned, this event could be an effective way of drawing attention to the larger issues of what philology is, of its importance in our field and in the academy more generally, and of the continuing interest of the renamed SCS in pursuing these questions.
In closing, I want to thank the membership for the opportunity to serve as Program VP for the past four years, which have certainly been, what with retreats, name changes, and what not, far from the dullest in the history of the organization. I would also like to to thank the people with whom I’ve had the good fortune to serve on this, my second tour of duty on the Program Committee. First, my colleagues on the Committee, Liz Asmis, Karen Bassi, Lesley Dean-Jones, Emma Dench, Chris Faraone, Kirk Freudenburg, Maud Gleason, and Corinne Pache. Anyone who has served on this Committee knows how rewarding it is to work closely with those colleagues who are willing to take on such an assignment, and to those who have not had the experience, I strongly — even as I celebrate seven years of service myself — recommend it to you in the strongest possible terms. Committee veterans also know that our work would be impossible without the support we get from Adam Blistein and Heather Gasda. To their names, I have to add that of Sam Huskey, who put the digital aspects of the committee’s work on an entirely new basis and so made possible the more complex system of vetting that is in place today. Speaking of that system, I am also most grateful to the members of the Board who unexpectedly but cheerfully took on a share of the abstract review process. Their willingness to do this was fundamental to everything else that the Program Committee has been able to do these past few years. And I feel extremely fortunate to have worked alongside such a superb group of fellow vice presidents, and under a succession of presidents who have steered the organization in a clear and consistent direction. Words cannot express how deeply I appreciate the support, the good counsel, and the collegiality that everyone has shown.