Call for Nominations of Graduate Students in Classics and Ancient History

A Seminar in Material Culture entitled Gods and Mortals in Ancient Art

Updated November 13, 2015 - See new details of the Nomination Process

Professor Bettina Bergmann of Mount Holyoke College will direct this seminar which will take place from July 11 to August 18, 2016, at The Getty Villa and Center in Los Angeles, CA, thanks to the support provided by a grant from the Getty Foundation.

The Society for Classical Studies (SCS) invites doctoral programs in Classics or Ancient History to nominate a student to participate in a 6-week seminar that will introduce ten graduate students to the use of material culture in their scholarship and teaching.  The aim of the seminar will be to equip students to recognize and interpret the “language” of images.  This seminar will be the first of three with the same purpose but with different foci and at different institutions.  The subsequent sessions will take place in the summers of 2017 and 2018. 

Background.  Despite new awareness of the scope of material evidence, all too often literary scholars treat images as sheer decoration or illustration, unaware that they express meaning as eloquently as texts. Indeed, in ancient societies visual images were the primary means of communication. Accommodating the visual repertoire can challenge the supremacy of text, which may be unsettling. Texts and images that purport to represent the same thing frequently contradict each other, but scholars who privilege text over image often overlook such contradictions or, if they notice them, tend to ascribe them to an “error” on the part of the artist or to the supposed existence of an otherwise unknown literary tradition.

This seminar will teach students to approach an artist’s act of creation on the same footing as an author’s, learning to decode the craftsman’s techniques in the same way that literary scholars analyze the construction of a text, and to contextualize an artifact with the same rigor and discrimination as a work of literature. In the process, the students will also be made aware that artifacts are not often preserved in a pristine state, and that even though they may not be subject to the same types of corruption as manuscripts, their use, abuse, and re-use down the centuries can render it very difficult to determine their original condition and purpose. Participants in this summer seminar will thereby become sensitized to problematic issues of preservation and conservation that often escape the notice of text-based scholars.

Faculty, Schedule, and Resources.  Professor Bergmann is the Helene Phillips Herzig '49 Professor of Art History at Mount Holyoke College.  She is an expert on Greek and Roman art and has published articles on the relationships among Roman architecture, painting, and literature. In 2010 she co-authored Roman Frescoes from Boscoreale: The Villa of Publius Fannius Synistor in Reality and Virtual Reality and in 1999 coedited The Ancient Art of SpectacleA draft of the syllabus for the seminar is posted here.  In addition to classes led by Professor Bergmann, it features talks by Getty Villa staff and by a visiting scholar, Professor Elaine K. Gazda of the University of Michigan.  Participants in the seminar will have access to the galleries, libraries, laboratories, and storerooms of both facilities of the Getty Museum:  The Getty Villa in Malibu and the Getty Center in Los Angeles. 

Expectations of Students.  In addition to participating in seminar sessions, each student will have weekly readings and assignments, some on original objects in the Getty collection. Also, each student will formulate a project and meet individually with Professor Bergmann once a week during weeks 2 through 5 of the seminar to discuss its progress.  The last week of the seminar will be devoted to presentations and discussion before submission of the final paper.  Professor Bergmann will grade each student’s participation in the seminar based on both the weekly and final assignments, and each student will be asked to complete an evaluation of his or her experience at the seminar.

Logistics and Funding.  Students selected for the seminar will have access to free housing at Getty scholar apartments located about two miles from the Center and eight miles from the Villa.  In addition, thanks to the generosity of the Getty Foundation, the SCS will provide a stipend to each student of at least $1,500 but no more than $2,000.  The final amount of these stipends will be announced once the Society determines the cost of providing transportation between the apartments and the two seminar locations.  The SCS believes that these arrangements will offset many but by no means all of the costs of attendance at the seminar. 

Nomination Process.  Each doctoral program may nominate only one student for the seminar.  The focus of the student’s academic work should be classical languages, literatures, and/or history and not archaeology or other areas of material culture.  Preference will be given to graduate students who have completed all or almost all of their coursework and are in the very early stages of writing their dissertations.  Nominators should elicit from potential applicants a CV and a statement of the value that the student expects to derive from attending the seminar, choose one applicant to nominate, and forward the CV and statement to the SCS, along with a brief endorsement.  The student’s statement should be 500 to 700 words in length and should describe how the seminar would advance the applicant’s education and scholarly interests.

A committee consisting of Professor Bergmann as chair and Professors Mary C. English of Montclair State University and Michael Gagarin of the University of Texas at Austin, the SCS Vice Presidents for Education and Publications & Research, respectively, will select participants from ten different academic institutions and a variety of countries of origin (although we expect the majority of students —and possibly all of them—to come from North America). 

Submit nominations electronically to the SCS Executive Director, Adam D. Blistein (blistein@sas.upenn.edu), no later than 5:00 p.m., Eastern Time, on Monday, December 14, 2015.  The SCS will announce the decisions of the selection committee in early February 2016.  Questions about the seminar program may be directed to Professor Bergmann at (bbergman@mtholyoke.edu).

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