Some time ago I expressed a hope that more classicists would write in public venues, so I was very excited when the Paideia Institute announced that they were launching Eidolon, a new online publication for timely writing by Classical Scholars. I’ve written here before about Paideia, which in my opinion is responsible for some of the most exciting new programming in our field, and Eidolon is no exception. I’m devoting this post to it not only because SCS members will enjoy what’s published there, but because I want to encourage you to think about contributing. It’s fun, fulfilling, and believe it or not, they’ll pay you.
A platform devoted specifically to writing from a Classical point of view is a particularly welcome development because while there are many reasons members of our field don’t write for a broader audience — primarily because we aren’t trained to and aren’t given incentives to do so in hiring and promotion — one major barrier is that it can be hard to know what venues might be interested in what we have to say. Salon published my piece on Petronius a few years ago, but it was just blind luck that made it happen: I wrote the piece and then sent it to a few sites whose “about” pages gave me contact information that led me to believe a human might look over what I had to say, and it turned out that the editor at Salon I approached had been a Classics major and knew the Satyrica. I never heard back from any of the others. And I haven’t exactly set up a permanent gig at Salon; I sent them another piece I wrote on Aristotle’s Rhetoric and the government shutdown that was looming in the Fall of 2013 and, unlike with the Petronius piece, they took a while to get back to me with a “no thanks.” By then the moment had passed, and in any case I didn’t know where else to try. So for those of us who don’t yet have our own established blogs like Mary Beard’s or Edith Hall’s (both writing in a country with a stronger tradition than ours of Classical scholars weighing in on public affairs) or the clout to place pieces in The Chronicle of Higher Education, Eidolon is a place where we can expect both to receive serious consideration for serious writing from a Classical point of view and to reach an audience wider than those writing dissertations on the topics we publish about in peer-reviewed journals. Eidolon is published through Medium, a stylish and widely-read platform for (mostly) substantive writing, and Paideia promotes pieces written for Eidolon through their social-media network. They probably don’t (yet) reach as many people as The Chronicle but it seems to me to be a safe bet that they reach more people, and more different kinds of people, than most specialized academic journals.
My interest is in writing that reflects on contemporary topics through a Classical lens, but if that’s not your thing, Eidolon’s “manifesto,” and the articles published so far, signals that the editors welcome a range of approaches:
- Explorations of how the ancient world relates to modern life (such as my piece on the Medusa-themed advertisement on this year’s Sports Illustrated “Swimsuit Issue” or Michael Fontaine’s analysis of the second half of the Aeneid through the lens of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict).
- First-person, anecdotal accounts that bring pieces of classical art or literature to life (such as John Byron Kuhner’s juxtaposition of his life as a farmer with ancient discussions of farming)
- Personal approaches to academic topics, especially those that embrace marginalized voices (such as Donna Zuckerberg’s reflection on “what’s at stake for female scholars who infiltrate the male world of Greek drama,” that is, a world that seems to feature the most interesting female characters was nevertheless written by men, performed by men, judged by men, and watched by “an audience that was either exclusively male or nearly so.” Spenser Lenfield’s introduction to “The other poet from Lesbos,” Alcaeus for admirers of Sappho fits into this category as well.)
- Risky, provocative arguments that push the boundaries of accepted consensus views
- Creative and funny pieces that don’t take the Classics too seriously
Take a look at these articles. More are on the way. Some of them might make for interesting reading for your students. Even better, think about writing an article for Eidolon. Others might use what you write in their class— I saw someone post Mike Fontaine’s article to a Facebook group for Latin teachers, and some people have said they would use my Petronius piece in class. It’s not as hard as you think to come up with ideas — just pay attention to any time you feel like you understand something from the contemporary world in a particular way because you know about antiquity, and write that up (Conversations you had with your students are a great place to find inspiration). Take note especially of that last category — “pieces that don’t take the Classics too seriously.” We could definitely use more of that in our field. Whatever your area of interest, the editors are looking forward to seeing your pitch at firstname.lastname@example.org. And did I mention they’ll pay you? You (probably) won’t be able to quit your day job but it’s a nice recognition of the value of our point of view. Even better, you’ll be promoting our field and its unique perspective to the world.