By establishing the APA Division of Outreach in 1998, the North American classics profession evinced a strong commitment to what Edith Hall has termed “communicating ancient Greece and Rome” to a wider audience. Outreach seeks to fulfill that commitment by familiarizing classicists themselves with innovative efforts to represent Greco-Roman antiquity outside the traditional confines of our discipline. At the annual meeting, panels organized by Outreach and its committees—currently called the Committee on Ancient and Modern Performance (CAMP), and the Committee on Classical Tradition and Reception (COCTR)— regularly showcase work that expands the intellectual boundaries of classical studies, including the production of a classical or classically themed play, performed and directed by classicists of different ages and career stages.
Since the APA meeting cannot easily accommodate attendees other than classicists themselves, Outreach has also launched projects and initiatives embracing those outside the North American classics community: its journal Amphora and speakers’ bureau; its roster of classicists with interest and expertise in musical and dramatic performance; sessions sponsored at professional meetings in other fields; the Outreach Prize and President’s Award. Outreach has affiliated with the international Classical Reception Studies Network, headquartered at the Open University in the UK. And it has joined New York University’s Aquila Theatre Company to recruit and train scholars for programs, funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities, that bring the writings and insights of Greco-Roman antiquity to thousands of people at one hundred public libraries and performance centers in US inner cities and rural areas.
Yet public engagement does not figure as prominently as it might in the Outreach agenda. My paper considers how Outreach might adapt a new British public engagement initiative, organized by Edith Hall and entitled “Communicating Ancient Greece and Rome”, to our North American surroundings. It features sessions on print media (creative non-fiction and popular journalism); broadcast media (TV and radio; audio recording, oral history and digital preservation); digital media (websites, podcasts, blogs, YouTube, Twitter); working with data bases and digital collections; as well as on fostering partnerships with public programs (museums, archives, the heritage sector and creative industry practitioners). Although designed specifically to train Classics PhD students in the principles, methods and techniques of public engagement, this program could be reconfigured to provide classics faculty members, especially those occupying administrative and other leadership roles, with practical experience in advocating for the value of understanding the Greco-Roman past.