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Integrating Gender into North American Classical Studies: Challenges Ahead

Judith P. Hallett

North American classicists have successfully integrated study of ancient Greco-Roman gender into their discipline and profession: as a methodologically evolving, intellectually expanding research realm, and vital component of many university classics curricula, often through undergraduate courses in translation for non-majors. My presentation considers challenges facing classical gender studies in North America, which the EuGeStA research alliance is helping address.

Concern with “gender” is diminishing our focus on women in both research and teaching. Furthermore, changes to the US secondary school Latin “canon”—with Caesar’s Gallic Wars replacing the poetry of Catullus, Horace and Ovid (and Cicero’s Pro Caelio) as complementing Vergil’s Aeneid in the Advanced Placement curriculum—intensify the need for renewed scholarly emphasis on women in ancient, particularly Latin, literary works and their cultural contexts. Latin (and Greek) language students at every level, many planning to teach in secondary schools or train secondary teachers, thus have fewer opportunities and incentives for engaging with texts which foreground women, and exploring gender issues. EuGeStA is fostering and widely sharing European and North American research on such texts and issues: focused on women as well as gender, situating classical literature in a larger cultural framework, informed by new analytical (historical and anthropological as well as post-structuralist, European theoretical) approaches, such as the feminist work on ancient sexualities and slavery by Parker and Richlin.

Finally, while the faculties of several prestigious North American classics doctoral programs number senior faculty specializing in gender studies, others do not, limiting the exposure of their PhD students to research in this area and support for undertaking it. Yes, classicists trained at such institutions may later develop research interests in gender, especially if they teach in undergraduate and MA-level classics programs according attention to gender, at least in courses in translation.  But the entire future, and current, classics professoriate can immediately benefit from EuGeStA’s efforts to raise awareness of women and gender in the classical world, strengthen acquaintance with an array of analytical tools for investigating and illuminating both, and reflect upon the applicability of different theoretical approaches to our ancient testimony.

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EuGeStA [European Gender Studies in Antiquity] Workshop

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