I bought an old book the other day.
Used to be, that wouldn’t have been the lede for any writing designed to grab your attention, but as pastimes go, it’s getting a bit less common, so maybe it will do.
The new Classics Everywhere initiative, recently launched by the SCS, supports projects that seek to introduce and engage communities all over the US with the worlds of Greek and Roman antiquity in new and meaningful ways. During the first round of applications, the SCS funded 13 projects, ranging from performances and a cinema series to educational programs and inter-institutional collaborations. In celebration of Black History Month, we’d like to highlight four of the projects funded in this round which aim to shed light on African-Americans’ interaction with the Greek and Roman worlds.
Like many others, I'm trying to funnel the anger and frustration that I felt at our panel on the "Future of Classics" at the Annual Meeting in San Diego toward taking action that can make a difference, even on a small scale. At the panel Professor Sarah Bond and Professor Dan-el Padilla Peralta promptly condemned the comments a speaker from the audience made about Dan-el as well as her intellectually and politically regressive defense of classical studies. My thoughts here are intended to carry forward their energetic advocacy.
On Thursday evening at the annual meeting of the SCS, together with about 150 others, I witnessed, experienced, and participated in something beautiful. With the enthusiastic support of the SCS, Classics and Social Justice, and the organization I work for, the Onassis Foundation USA, playwright and activist Luis Alfaro shared with a captivated audience his heart, his brilliance, and his creativity, a shining example of the good that can be done with and to Classics, and the reach our discipline can have to new, perhaps unexpected audiences. I resist here the urge to discuss some of the painful ugliness we saw at our meeting, leaving only a hint of it in the title I originally thought of for this piece, because I do not want to take away from the light Luis brought to us.
A recent surge of critical focus on pseudoscience and classics focused on issues from Hippocrates and scientific racism to the racial bias of Ancient Aliens sees scholars doing the work to convince our field that classicists, historians, and archaeologists ought to take action to address the dissemination of pseudoscientific views in popular media. Yet once we’ve accepted that we should confront pseudoscience in classics and archaeology, we find ourselves confronted with a rather different question: how can we best teach this in our classrooms?
As Arum Park has recently written about, a number of new initiatives at Princeton University and the University of Michigan have sought to diversify and support the field of Classics, particularly for students of color transitioning from undergraduate to graduate study. However, such initiatives can and should start much earlier. When students’ impression of Latin is that it is for white, affluent people, and that impression is reinforced by the demographic of the Latin program, lack of diversity becomes a self-perpetuating problem that spills over into postsecondary Classics departments and the field as a whole. Diversification efforts must start with the first levels of Latin in middle school and high school.
What is it like to teach a course in ancient slavery within a region where the reminders of antebellum American slavery still loom so large? Understanding servitude through the lens of slave systems in the ancient Mediterranean can challenge students to think about Greece and Rome in a less romantic light—and to recognize how they influenced American history too.
My course in ancient slavery came about three years ago, while I was a Visiting Assistant Professor of Classics at Kalamazoo College in Michigan. My colleagues asked me if I would be interested in teaching a special topics course on slavery in Greece and Rome. My previous experience in this topic was limited, but I was excited to take this opportunity to explore it.
At last year’s SCS annual meeting in Boston, the Program Committee sponsored a panel called “Rhetoric: Then and Now.” Among the speakers constituting that panel was Princeton University Professor Dan-el Padilla Peralta, who, in lamenting the “inadequacy” and “meagerness” of a number of recent efforts in the field to diversify and expand access, delivered the following provocation: “perhaps it is time for this contemporary configuration of Classics to die so that it might be born into a new life.”
Logeion allows searches of a series of Greek and Latin dictionaries and classical reference works. It was developed beginning in 2011 at the University of Chicago by students Josh Goldenberg and Matt Shanahan under the direction of Professor Helma Dik, and regularly adds new features and resources. Inspired by the innovative Dictionnaire vivant de la langue française, also based at the University of Chicago, it began with a nucleus of several reference works originally digitized by Perseus.