Presidential Letter - Annual Meeting Location (Pt. 2)

In my most recent letter, I outlined the reasons why there are so few cities that can accommodate the SCS-AIA Joint Annual Meeting. That constraint has mainly to do with facilities, and it will likely remain even if we decide to meet at another time of year. In fact, it could get worse, because at another time we might face more competition from the corporate sector, and thus higher costs. But there are good reasons to consider meeting at another time of year, anyway.

Before we get to that, why do we meet when we do in the first place? Many will remember that we once met between Christmas and New Year’s Day, which was a more advantageous time than the current one in certain ways. There was no chance of interfering with anyone’s teaching schedule. Not only had the climate not yet got out of control, but the December date remains less subject to outlandish weather (at least so far). And hotel rates are lower then, because most people are at home with their families. But, in fact, families are the main reason that we, and other learned societies, made the change that we did. (Credit for this goes largely to the WCC and to analogous organizations in other disciplines.) Some years ago, as we realized that the current date tended to interfere with the start of the new semester at some schools, we revisited the question of when to meet. SCS actually voted to go back to the old date, and AIA voted for a date in November. Staying put was everyone’s second choice, and that about sums it up. But what would we say now?

As I wrote in my previous letter, all of these decisions are predicated on one assumption:

"SCS members and AIA members agree that they want SCS and AIA to continue holding a Joint Annual Meeting."

I’ve already made the point that SCS members and AIA members, when they were last polled, could not agree on a first choice of when to meet, and that both sides were willing to compromise, in preference to parting ways. It probably won’t be any easier to agree on meeting at some other time. Summers are impossible for AIA, because so many of their members are in the field. For SCS members, on the other hand, meeting when classes are in session has never had much appeal. One reason is that there are already quite a few meetings during the fall or spring semester that many of our members usually attend. Among Classics organizations, CAAS meets in the middle of the fall, CANE and CAPN in March, and CAMWS also in the late spring. Besides those, there are ASOR and SBL in November, CAA in February, and AAH in April. This is not an exhaustive list, but you get the picture.

Before deciding that we should stand pat on timing, but focus on meeting in warm-weather cities, please remember a point I made in my previous letter, and let me add another.

First, the universe of possible venues is pretty small, barely more than two dozen cities, of which only half a dozen are really attractive to members (not because they say they want to go there, but because they actually do); and the majority of these are not warm-weather cities. In fact, most of the warmer venues draw significantly fewer members than the colder ones.

Second, holding a winter meeting in a warm city doesn’t guarantee that your travel will be trouble-free. The last time we met in the South, I personally had my worst SCS travel adventure ever. My plane left balmy San Antonio, a city I love to  visit, right on time, but was barely able to touch down in Atlanta because of a massive blizzard that was heading up the east coast, closing every airport in its path. After two days in Atlanta, I was booked on a flight home to Philadelphia through Detroit, where again the airport was shut down moments after I landed. I did finally make it home, but four days later than I expected. The obvious point is that the air travel system is a system, and your plans can be ruined either because of where you are, where you have to go, where you have to change planes, or even because of something that happened in a different part of the country altogether.

In spite of all that, it may be that when we currently meet is still on balance the best time, or the least bad time, to meet; I’m not convinced of that, but it’s not impossible. On the other hand, while a different time will bring with it different problems that we can’t foresee, we shouldn’t let that stop us from making a change if that seems the best thing, or even the least bad thing, to do.

Most of you will have thought of all this, but I thought it was worth just putting it in writing before we get started on a decision-making process. We will do that as soon as we can confer with the AIA leadership, but in the meantime, I invite you to write me informally with any thoughts you may have about when and where we should meet in the future.

- Joe Farrell

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Recently, the SCS has focused attention on the importance on the variety of career paths pursued by those earning a Classics PhD. The Society has held a Career Networking event in 2018 and 2019 at its annual meeting, and will publish this summer a graduate student of edition of "Careers for Classicists", which will provide advice about seeking jobs inside and outside the academy. In recognition of the variety of types of employment open to Classics PhDs and in response to a request by an ad hoc group on graduate student issues, a precursor to the current Graduate Student Committee, the Career Planning and Development Committee has developed the following statement on the importance and value of many different careers. This statement has been endorsed by the SCS Board of Directors.   

Statement on Career Paths for those earning the PhD in Classical Studies

View full article. | Posted in Public Statements on Tue, 06/25/2019 - 9:20am by Erik Shell.

The Society for Classical Studies is proud to announce an upgrade to our Precollegiate Membership category.

In addition to enjoying all their current benefits, Precollegiate members will now enjoy full member benefits. These benefits include voting in SCS elections, serving on SCS boards and committees, and the opportunity to submit abstracts for the AIA/SCS annual meeting.

The annual dues for this membership will be $38 as of September 2019. Membership can be completed by joining online at scs.press.jhu.edu/membership.

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

View full article. | Posted in SCS Announcements on Tue, 06/25/2019 - 9:01am by Erik Shell.

The twenty-second biennial New College Conference on Medieval and Renaissance Studies will take place 12–14 March 2020 in Sarasota, Florida. The program committee invites 250-word abstracts of proposed twenty-minute papers on topics in European and Mediterranean history, literature, art, music and religion from the fourth to the seventeenth centuries. Interdisciplinary work is particularly appropriate to the conference’s broad historical and disciplinary scope. Planned sessions are also welcome. The deadline for all abstracts is 15 September 2019; please see the submission guidelines on the conference website.

View full article. | Posted in Calls for Papers on Mon, 06/24/2019 - 10:02am by Erik Shell.

The Presence of Plotinus: The Self, Contemplation, and Spiritual Exercise in the Enneads

Poznań, Poland, 9th-10th June 2020

An international conference organized by the Scientific Committee on Ancient Culture of the Polish Academy of Sciences
and
the Department of Classical Studies of  Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań

Invited speakers:

Sara Ahbel-Rappe (University of Michigan)

John Bussanich (University of New Mexico)

Martin Laird (Villanova University)

Christian Tornau (Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg)

The subject

View full article. | Posted in Conferences, Lectures, and Meetings on Fri, 06/21/2019 - 9:21am by Erik Shell.

(Written by David T. West)

Grace Starry West (1946-2019)

Grace Starry West, 72, died of complications from lung cancer on Sunday, May 19 at her home. She was a member of the SCS since 1973, Chair of the Local Arrangements Committee in 1999, and trustee of the Vergilian Society from 1986-1989. Her name will be especially familiar to Vergilians on account of her groundbreaking UCLA dissertation on “Women in Vergil’s Aeneid” (1975), and to students and colleagues from the University of Dallas, where she helped Classics grow into an outstanding program with three tenured faculty members and a steady flow of majors. As John F. Miller, Professor of Classics at the University of Virginia, recently observed: “Her work on Virgilian women was pioneering; her leadership at Dallas admirable.”

View full article. | Posted in In Memoriam on Fri, 06/21/2019 - 9:12am by Erik Shell.

'Addressing the Divide' is a new series of columns that looks at the ways in which the modern field of Classics was constructed and then explores ways to identify, modify, or simply abolish the lines between fields in order to embrace broader ideas of what Classics was, is, and could be. This month, we look at the divide between classical archaeology and philology by speaking with archaeologists Sheira Cohen, Eric Kansa, Kristina Killgrove, James Newhard, and Alison Rittershaus

View full article. | Posted in on Fri, 06/21/2019 - 7:55am by Sarah E. Bond.

The American Academy in Berlin invites applications for its residential fellowships for the academic year 2020/21.

The Academy seeks to enrich transatlantic dialogue in the arts, humanities, and public policy through the development and communication of projects of the highest scholarly merit. Past recipients include anthropologists, art historians, literary scholars, philosophers, historians, musicologists, journalists, writers of fiction and nonfiction, filmmakers, sociologists, legal scholars, economists, and public policy experts.

Approximately twenty Berlin Prizes are conferred annually. Fellowships are typically awarded for an academic semester, but shorter stays of six to eight weeks are also possible. Benefits include round-trip airfare, partial board, a $5,000 monthly stipend, and accommodations at the Academy’s lakeside Hans Arnhold Center, in the Wannsee district of Berlin. 

For 2020/21, the Academy will also award three specially designated fellowships: two Andrew W. Mellon Fellowships in the Humanities, for work that demonstrates an interest in the topics of migration and social integration, race in comparative perspective, or exile and return. In addition, in memory of its founder, the Academy will name a Richard C. Holbrooke Fellow for a project that looks at diplomatic approaches to resolving major global issues, from armed conflicts to environmental challenges to the impact of new technologies.

View full article. | Posted in Awards and Fellowships on Fri, 06/14/2019 - 10:00am by Erik Shell.

Congratulations to Davina C. Lopez (Eckerd College) and Pamela Zinn (Texas Tech) for their 2019 ACLS Development Grants!

You can read the full list of 2019 recipients on the ACLS website.

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(Photo: "library" by Viva Vivanista, licensed under CC BY 2.0)

View full article. | Posted in Awards and Fellowships on Thu, 06/13/2019 - 10:21am by Erik Shell.
The Sphinx of Naxos. Archaeological Museum of Delphi. Picture by Yoandy Cabrera

This month, we spotlight the graduate research of Dr. Yoandy Cabrera Ortega, who recently defended his dissertation on the portrayal of human emotions in ancient Greek myths and in modern literature from Spain and Latin America. 

My dissertation was an interdisciplinary one, intertwining different approaches and fields such as classical reception, queer studies, affect theory, and Hispanic studies.

View full article. | Posted in on Thu, 06/13/2019 - 8:46am by Yoandy Cabrera Ortega.

Can a computer understand the hendecasyllables of Catullus, the declamations of Seneca, or the letters of Pliny? Not yet, and maybe never in any conventional sense of this word. No one has succeeded so far in teaching a computer to comprehend language – that is, to reason about, generate, act upon and, importantly, communicate intentions through symbolic speech – let alone to appreciate texts written in a dead language with a sophisticated literary tradition. (Embodied cognitive science claims, in fact, that without a human body no computer can ever hope to achieve human understanding). But it is possible to represent the meanings of the Latin language in a way that can be manipulated and analysed by computers. The idea of training machines in these meanings forms the basis for the field of natural language understanding, which is a specialized kind of natural language processing (NLP) focused on modelling linguistic semantics.

View full article. | Posted in on Fri, 06/07/2019 - 6:48am by William M. Short.

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