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Please note that we have extended the deadline from November 30, 2016 to February 1, 2017.


The Society for Classical Studies (SCS), founded in 1869 as the American Philological Association (APA), seeks proposals from academic institutions interested in hosting a six-week seminar in the summer of 2018, during which ten graduate students enrolled in programs in classical philology or ancient history will increase and improve their ability to use the art and material culture of the ancient Mediterranean world in their scholarship and teaching. This seminar has been funded by a generous grant from the Leon Levy Foundation and will take place over dates to be selected by the host institution in the summer of 2018. The first such seminar, funded by the Getty Foundation, took place at the Getty Villa in 2016, and the second, funded by the Samuel H. Kress and Henry Luce Foundations, will take place at Emory University in 2017.

Each of these seminars is to be organized by a different scholar, housed at a different institution, and attended by a different group of ten graduate students. After the completion of at least three seminars, SCS will evaluate the series, and, if they are considered successful, seek endowment funding that will allow us to continue to hold them on an annual basis.


Scholars who consider themselves primarily literary critics, historians, or philosophers, regardless of their period of specialization, have increasingly come to realize that they need to incorporate a nuanced and sophisticated approach to art historical and archaeological evidence in their scholarship and teaching. They need to learn to interpret visual and material evidence as much as textual; and, an even greater challenge, they need to bring these modes of reading together, rather than pursuing them separately. The importance of integrating the reading of images into classical studies that are primarily text-based was emphasized in the Presidential Panel at the 2012 APA meeting, organized by that year’s president, Kathleen Coleman, which was subsequently published as Images for Classicists (Cambridge, MA, 2015).

But very few graduate programs have evolved to accommodate the demands of this new realization. Graduate students trained in PhD programs in the Classics in the US often have very little exposure to the artistic and material record of the ancient world, and no training in sophisticated methods of analyzing and interpreting it. These seminars are designed to begin to fill that gap. They reflect a growing sense in the SCS that the profession as a whole must take responsibility for doing so, rather than leaving this to chance. The SCS has until recently tended to assume that the coexistence of classicists, archaeologists, and art historians in departments or faculties, along with the more than a century-old joint meeting with the Archaeological Institute of America, was enough to provide classics students with the interpretive skills they needed. But it is increasingly true that this is not the case.

Skills-based summer seminars in specialized fields are a staple of graduate training, such as the seminar in numismatics conducted by the American Numismatic Society or the summer course in Greek and Latin epigraphy at Ohio State University. The SCS seminars will be conducted by an art historian or archaeologist, or by a combination (if possible), for up to ten participants, with regular classes interspersed with guest lectures by specialists in various media. Each seminar will take place in an institution with access to a museum collection where the students could get direct experience of handling ancient artifacts, as well as a deep library collection in Greek and Roman art and archaeology.

Seminar Description

The aim of the seminars is to equip students to recognize and interpret the “language” of images. Despite the new awareness of the scope of material evidence, all too often text-based scholars treat images as sheer decoration, unaware that they express meaning as eloquently as texts. Accommodating the visual repertoire can also 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 artist’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.

The responsible integration of the visual register into traditional literary scholarship has become especially urgent, now that the digital revolution has made images of ancient artifacts so easy to acquire. The SCS took an initial step in this direction in 2011 by developing a web site designed to guide scholars and students in accessing images and treating them responsibly in teaching and research. This web site is now a permanent resource that will be upgraded and updated over the coming months and years:

The seminars take this initiative to the next level, by contributing to the formation of a new generation of text-based scholars equipped with the skills and confidence to integrate the evidence of art and material culture in their work. At the same time, summer seminars in general have an exceptional capacity to create scholarly communities, as students from multiple institutions come together in learning, creating career-long networks of shared interests that go beyond those formed inside single institutions. Such networks have resulted from the numismatic and epigraphic summer seminars, and the SCS believes that they could be an exceptionally valuable outcome of a summer seminar in the interpretation of visual and material evidence.

Responsibilities of Host Institution and of SCS

The host institution selected to organize this seminar will designate the faculty for the seminar and provide the classroom and museum space where instruction will take place. The seminar director(s) will also select the ten students who will attend the seminar and help them to secure accommodation near the seminar location. It is expected that each of the ten graduate students will come from a different institution. SCS will provide the funding described below for the seminar, collaborate with the host institution on issuing calls for applications by graduate students, and assist each host institution with logistical details.


SCS will provide a total of $36,000 to the host institution. Of this amount $20,000 is designated for stipends for the student participants, in order to make sure that the program is accessible to students from less wealthy universities. It is expected that each of the ten students will receive the same stipend, but SCS will consider proposals that anticipate a few larger stipends for, e.g., one or two students coming from overseas. (Stipends for the other students would have to be reduced accordingly.) The remaining $16,000 is designated for faculty. In the budgets that SCS submitted to potential funders, it assumed that $10,000 of this amount would provide a modest stipend for the director(s) of the seminar, who would also be its principal instructor(s). The remaining funds ($6,000) would underwrite travel expenses and honoraria for additional instructors. However, proposals may suggest a different use of the $16,000, if, for example, the institution wants to invite more instructors from beyond its own faculty.

Content of Proposals

Each proposal should contain

· The name(s) of the seminar director(s). Attach the c.v. of each director to the proposal.

· The name(s) of any additional faculty for the seminar. Attach the c.v. of each additional faculty member to the proposal.

· A description of how the institution will distribute the $36,000 in grant funds to be awarded by SCS.

· A schedule, in as much detail as possible, of all instructional activities for the seminar that shows the dates over which the seminar will take place and the topics to be covered and related projects to be assigned to the students. The exact curricular tie-in for all sessions in museum galleries and other venues should be explained.

· A description of all facilities (including classrooms, museum space, libraries, and other research resources) where instruction will take place and where students can prepare responses to seminar assignments.

· A description of logistical resources (housing, food service, campus transportation) that the institution can make available to the students.

· A plan for evaluating both the work of each of the 10 students and the overall seminar.

Submission and Review of Proposals

Proposals should be submitted as a PDF file in an e-mail attachment to SCS Executive Director Helen Cullyer ( no later than 12:00 noon, Eastern Time, on Wednesday, February 1, 2017. An SCS committee consisting of its Vice Presidents for Education (Mary English) and for Publications and Research (Donald Mastronarde), and a third member whom they have selected (Kathleen Coleman, Harvard University), will review proposals and make its decision by February 16, 2017.


(Photo: "_DSC7061" by rhodesj, licensed under CC BY 2.0)