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Classics for the People

Vanya Visnjic

Princeton University

I launched my podcast Ancient Greece Declassified in the fall of 2016 with the aim of making Classics research accessible to a popular audience and potentially attracting new students to the field. The podcast features interviews with prominent classicists as well as historians and archaeologists on ancient topics that have some relevance or interest for the modern world. My project was inspired in part by the success of older podcasts on ancient Rome, and I decided to focus on Greece, which I know more about and for which there were hardly any podcasts at the time. Teaching has always been my passion, and I would like to talk at the SCS panel about how podcasting can be a great tool for education and outreach. Besides teaching classics courses at Princeton as a PhD student, I previously taught Latin at a middle school in New York whose students were of underprivileged backgrounds. That was a formative experience for me because I learned, through trial and error, that classics can be taught in a way that is both fun and appealing to students of all backgrounds. Looking back, I do not think I would have started my podcast if it had not been for that experience. I am happy to report that now, 16 episodes in, the podcast has about 90,000 downloads, and I have received numerous emails from young people who have become interested in ancient history through listening to the show.

My proposed talk for the SCS panel is provisionally titled: Classics for the People. It is no secret that the field is in dire need of effective outreach. Enrollment in ancient Greek, for example, is at its lowest in decades at Princeton, and other universities are seeing a similar downward trend. My proposed talk is aimed at new podcasters or scholars interested in starting a Classics podcast. I will start my talk by offering general strategies that are correlated with podcast success, such as consistency of episode length, a regular publication schedule, and diligent editing. I will then offer suggestions for understanding and appealing to one’s target audience, such as avoidance of technical terms, overcoming the “curse of knowledge,” and using humor, music, and pop-culture references to help make the often arcane subject matter more palatable for non-specialist listeners (to add a little honey, as Lucretius would say). Finally, I offer the tips and strategies I have found most useful for promoting my podcast, including collaborations with other podcasters and the use of Twitter above all other social media platforms.

In my talk I will mainly be drawing examples from my own experience in developing my podcast. Over the last year and a half, I have covered such diverse topics as the Bronze Age Collapse in conversation with Eric Cline, Attic comedy with Edith Hall, and Graeco-Roman education with Raffaella Cribiore. A full list of episodes can be seen at http://greecepodcast.com/. It would be a distinct honor and privilege for me to share the lessons I have learned as I have grown my show with new and future podcasters at the SCS meeting next year. I know many of the other classics podcasters and I have a lot of hope and confidence that our growing community will play a pivotal role in classics education in the next decade, if not beyond.

Session/Panel Title

Podcasting the Classics

Session/Paper Number

40.4

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