1. Classical Studies Today
Contemporary research in classical studies focuses on the ancient civilizations of Greece and Rome, both in their own right and within the broader context of the ancient world. The historical impact of these civilizations and their continuing relevance and value in the modern world are also of central interest. Current research in Classics is done from many diverse points of view and uses a vast range of texts and material remains. In addition to scholarship based directly on traditional philological, textual, and historical methodologies, modern research considers the political, social and economic structures, science and technology, religions and philosophies, and creative and performing arts of the ancient world and their legacies. The field of classical studies is by its very nature interdisciplinary and was the first interdisciplinary field in the humanities.
This wide range of materials and approaches allows classical scholars to generate new understandings of even the most familiar authors and events. Classicists also have ongoing interactions with other modern disciplines (many of which have their own roots in Greek and Roman thought) and with broader theoretical developments in the humanities and social sciences. Through their historical depth and interdisciplinary breadth, classical studies contribute vitally to our understanding of the modern world in areas such as literature, art, government and law, political and social ideologies, religions and their conflicts, trade, and international relations.
2. Research Training and Practice
Research training in classical studies normally requires a rigorous doctoral program that includes both general training in the field and the development of a specific area of expertise through the preparation of a doctoral thesis. The general training is designed to produce competence in reading ancient Greek and Latin texts and a broad knowledge of the Greco-Roman world in its historical context. Training may also encourage familiarity with a range of documents and artifacts, competence in reading scholarly literature in various modern languages (typically German, French and/or Italian, in addition to English), and a broad awareness of the field, its specializations and scholarly history, and its relevance to the modern world. Specializations may be in language, literature, history, archaeology, material culture, art, philosophy, science, religion, economic, political or social structures, theater and performance, reception studies, or in technical areas such as archaeological fieldwork, epigraphy (the study of inscriptions), papyrology, paleography (the study of ancient and medieval texts and documents), and numismatics (the study of coins). Command of primary source material – literary and documentary texts, images, archaeological sites,and material artifacts – is at the core of scholarship in all these areas. Students acquire research and writing skills needed for scholarly publication, as well as skills used in teaching and communicating with a broader non-specialist public. (Advice on preparing work for publication is given in the SCS's online statement, Publishing the Scholarly Article in Classical Studies.)
Research in the field proceeds through an ongoing dialogue of publication and discussion. Peer assessment and evaluation are vital elements in the research process, and the presentation of research in oral form at conferences and workshops is also important, as the most helpful feedback is often received in these less formal settings. Research proposals, funding applications, and submissions for publication are typically assessed by two or three anonymous referees, as well as by the responsible agency or editorial committee. Many journals include reviews of published books, and a few are devoted wholly to reviews. Electronic publication and the production of digital resources are valid forms of scholarly output that should be subject to the same general criteria of evaluation.
The depth, range and complexity of classical scholarship mean that it takes time for young scholars to establish themselves in the field. Even senior scholars commonly take several years to prepare monographs, new editions of classical texts, corpora of documentary texts or material artifacts, or archaeological site reports. Appointment to an assistant professorship is based primarily on the dissertation and teaching experience during graduate school or temporary teaching positions. Many new Ph.D.’s will have delivered conference papers, and some will have published articles, or reviews as well. Appointment to tenured rank frequently requires, in addition to accomplished teaching and professional service, the publication of a book and/or several substantial articles, along with evidence of their quality and of further substantial research in preparation. Good research in classics generally requires individual study, reflection, and solitude, but it can also be collaborative and interdisciplinary. In recent years there has been a marked trend to publish work in conference proceedings, companions, handbooks and collections of various sorts; digital research databases and handbooks are also increasingly common.
Materials for research in classical studies are highly varied and widely scattered geographically. Although the material evidence is increasingly available on line, often it must be studied in its original setting in Europe, the Middle East, or North Africa. Museums in these areas, in North America, and elsewhere conserve and provide access to artifacts such as inscriptions, pottery, sculpture, metalwork, coins, wall paintings, mosaics, and architectural remains. Some major research libraries hold collections of ancient papyri and the medieval and renaissance manuscripts through which ancient texts were transmitted to the modern world. Academic libraries have larger or smaller collections of modern editions and scholarly literature. In North America there are specialized research institutions such as the Center for Hellenic Studies and the Dumbarton Oaks Center for Byzantine Studies in Washington D.C. In the Mediterranean area, research is facilitated by the American Academy in Rome, the American School of Classical Studies in Athens, the Canadian Academic Institute in Athens, and similar institutions sponsored by other countries.
As the scope of investigation in classical studies has broadened, so have research methods and organization. Digital resources are increasingly important, and their creation and development have become a major area of scholarly activity. Classicists have led the way in building such projects at the national and international level. The Thesaurus Linguae Graecae, for example, was the first comprehensive electronic database of any literature. Some large-scale projects and international collaborations are assisted by national funding agencies and academic bodies. Digital resources developed in recent years include databases of texts and images, topic-based collections of information for study and teaching, virtual re-creations of archaeological sites, interactive text mapping and geospatial mapping resources, language teaching resources, searchable dictionaries and bibliographies, and journal and review publications. A list of digital projects in classics is maintained by the Digital Classicist wiki.
L'Année philologique, a comprehensive annual bibliography of classical studies published since 1927, is a particularly striking example of the field's willingness and ability to adopt new technologies for scholarship. Thanks in part to the generous support of SCS members, this essential research resource is available by subscription on a web site that combines new volumes with older volumes put into digital form by another SCS sponsored project, the Database of Classical Bibliography.
4. Scholarly Needs and Support
For individual scholars, the research process involves acquiring or accessing traditional research materials, traveling to libraries, museums, sites, and conferences, accessing electronic resources, and communicating with colleagues. These elements all have costs, although the costs are usually modest in comparison with those in other academic fields. Equipment is not generally a major factor. For many classical scholars, the most pressing need is simply for time—time to locate and access primary and secondary materials, to reflect upon and interpret these, and to prepare work for publication. In their academic careers, most scholars must balance the demands of teaching (which may often serve as a stimulus to research) and administrative service with the demands of research projects that require regular and extensive periods of concentrated study.
Funding is available at various levels. Individuals with low-cost projects may sometimes rely on funds and periodic research leaves offered by their own institutions. More substantial funding is available competitively from national agencies such as the National Endowment for the Humanities, the American Council of Learned Societies, the American Philosophical Society, and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, and from private foundations, among which the Guggenheim Foundation, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and the MacArthur Foundation give grants for distinguished work. The general scarcity of research funding in the humanities is a continuing concern.
Research in Classical Studies is characterized by its variety of approaches, range and depth of materials, and academic rigor; the relevant bibliography is often multi-lingual and spread over a long time-span, so that even a relatively short publication may be based on extensive research and make a substantial contribution to knowledge and understanding. Ties between research and teaching are strong, and the boundaries of the discipline are expanding, thanks to new materials, technologies, methodologies, connections with other fields, and above all the individual and collective initiative of its practitioners.
Adopted by the SCS Board of Directors, January 11, 2015