Response from Graduate Students

The SCS has received a response from a group of graduate students to Professor Joy Connolly’s blog post Working Towards a Just and Inclusive Future for Classics. This repsonse is posted below.

The student authors are anonymous and neither SCS staff nor Officers know their identities. As agreed with the Communications Committee, this piece is not appearing on the SCS blog, since the current policy is not to publish anonymous submissions on the blog. However, the Communications Committee and SCS staff agree that it is important to give students a voice and publish their contributions to debates about the future. The SCS leadership recognizes that there are circumstances under which anonymity can protect younger and more vulnerable members of the profession (see the dialogue following the board statement on ad hominem anonymous attacks), and shares the hope of the students, expressed in their final paragraph, that we can move towards a future where the protection of anonymity will no longer be necessary. 

The SCS office requested just one edit, on placement service data, to the submission. The post has not been otherwise edited or revised.

Working Toward a Just and Inclusive Future for Classics: A Response

by Classicus Proletarius

In her recent blog post on the website of the Society for Classical Studies, “Working Toward a Just and Inclusive Future for Classics,” Prof. Joy Connolly (hereafter C) makes a powerful call to action in the wake of the events that transpired at the recent Annual Meeting of the SCS. We agree that young scholars should be encouraged and rewarded for articulating new and positive visions for the field and for striving to make it more inclusive. Above all, we agree that the Classics community needs to address what Dan-el Padilla Peralta here calls “the collective pathology of a field that lacks the courage to acknowledge its historical and ongoing inability to value scholars from underrepresented groups.” However, as graduate students who have been moved by C’s call to action, we are concerned by the potential outcomes and the limited scope of these proposals.

C’s recommendations concern two groups of the Classics community that are in very different positions: (1) faculty members with tenure, and (2) graduate students, adjuncts, postdocs, lecturers, contingent faculty, and other early-career scholars who are not protected by tenure. While we commend the recommendations directed towards tenured faculty, we are concerned that the suggestions listed under the heading “For departments undertaking searches” would compel graduate students and early-career scholars to express opinions in an environment that does not offer them true freedom of expression. In the course of their employment as teaching assistants and instructors at universities, graduate students lack the protections to question the ethics of teaching undergraduate courses in Classics that promote, in the words of the SCS Board of Directors, “a view of the Classical world as the unique inheritance of a falsely-imagined and narrowly-conceived western civilization.” We must use the course descriptions, syllabi, and textbooks that we are given and often have little say in shaping the narratives we are asked to impart to undergraduates. To pose a strenuous objection to these narratives on ethical or political grounds risks both our job security as graduate instructors and our reputation in the context of an ever-shrinking academic job market (more on this below). This is a worrying prospect for all graduate students and early-career scholars, but it is most troubling for those who have been historically marginalized and who are attempting to develop new narratives and extended political awareness within the field. It is neither just nor realistic to compel applicants and employees to express political positions in an environment that has never offered them institutional protection to do so.

There are also material obstacles that must be overcome in order to achieve a just and inclusive future. The participation statistics from the AIA/SCS’s placement service tell a straightforward but brutal story: while the number of jobs listed has decreased only slightly between 2003 and 2018 (the total number of postings declined by 12.7%), the number of participants in the placement service grew steadily, increasing by 58.1% from 370 applicants in 2003-2004 to 585 in 2017-2018. Furthermore, there has been a steep increase in the number of contingent faculty positions over the last fifteen years. The percentage of tenured or tenure-track jobs out of the total number of jobs posted dropped from 59.6% in 2003 to 36% in 2018. Whereas roughly one in four participants in the placement service could get a tenured or tenure-track job in 2003, less than one in ten could land such a job in 2018. While we understand that the number of people enrolled in the SCS/AIA placement service is not necessarily a direct reflection of the number of applicants, the overall trend is discouraging. Although the statistical realities of the academic job market are rarely addressed in a direct and public way, they pose a fundamental challenge to any efforts to make the field more inclusive, especially given that many graduate students make large personal and financial sacrifices in order to pursue advanced degrees in Classics. And while choosing to pursue a job outside of academia is nothing to be ashamed of, most PhD students in Classics are given no guidance about how to navigate the non-academic job market. If the hiring rate for newly-credentialed K-12 teachers fell to less than 10 percent, it is hard to imagine that this would not be regarded as a major crisis that warranted immediate political action and structural reform.

The numbers speak for themselves: the chances of gaining stable employment as a tenure-track professor in Classics or an affiliated department has gone from bad to abysmal over the last several decades, and there is no indication that this will change in the near future. Meanwhile, contingent and temporary academic positions relegate many highly qualified scholars with PhDs to the ranks of what has been called the academic precariat, as the university moves toward a model inspired in part by the “gig economy.” This is, of course, part of a much wider problem in humanities departments and academia as a whole, and we are well aware that this problem begins with the university administration and not with the academic faculty. Yet we also believe that this problem demands a response from tenured faculty: the only people with the institutional protection to advocate for real change through political action.

Without the prospect of an economically stable future, we fear that none but the most privileged students will feel encouraged to join and advance in the field. This exclusion will disproportionately affect groups who are already underrepresented in the Classics community.  We worry that under these conditions, it will be ethically problematic to encourage students without independent wealth or an economic safety net to join the Classics community. As Carmen Machado wrote in a powerful reflection on adjunct teaching: “I want teaching to be a career, something that I can afford to keep doing. The irony of this setup has not escaped me: the adjuncts who teach well despite the low pay and the lack of professional support may inspire in their students a similar passion—prompting them to be financially taken advantage of in turn. It strikes me as a grim perversion of the power of teaching. A key lesson in higher education is that few things matter more than good questions—and, if we don’t speak up, students will never know what to ask.”

We are aware that this is a multifaceted problem that will require continued discussion from all members of the Classics community, which means including graduate students and contingent faculty. We end this response with a set of actionable proposals that we believe address some of the institutional and material realities that underpin discrimination and inequality. We propose that the 2020 Annual Meeting of the SCS hosts an action-focused meeting that addresses the issues we have raised above and creates a collective bargaining body, such as a faculty union, that seeks membership, negotiates with university administrations, and works toward the following goals:

  1. Change the name of the field and advocate for the study of ancient Mediterranean languages, history, and culture within the humanities without invoking an oversimplified and problematic notion of “Western Civilization.”
  2. Secure funds for undergraduate scholarships for students from underrepresented groups, including students of color, first-generation college students, and students from low-income families.
  3. Institute a form of affirmative action directed toward populations that are most underrepresented in the faculty and grad student body.
  4. Join the SEIU Faculty Forward Movement and work with the AAUP in order to advocate for a living wage for all professors and contingent faculty.
  5. Support graduate student unions and advocate for a living wage for all graduate student workers. This should include health insurance for graduate student workers and their families.
  6. Obtain paid maternity and paternity leave for all university employees.
  7. Encourage a reasonable retirement age for professors (i.e., 65).
  8. Establish university-wide general education requirements for undergraduates that include the study of the humanities and the humanistic social sciences, including literature, philosophy, history, art, and archaeology.

Finally, we want to address the anonymity of this statement. We are aware of the SCS’ recent board statement condemning “anonymous online attacks,” as well as the response defending anonymous speech as a valid method of communication in an environment characterized by stark imbalances of power. We believe that anonymity has allowed us to express ourselves more freely than would otherwise be possible. We hope that the Classics community can move toward a future where the protections of anonymity will no longer be necessary in order for all community members to engage in productive debates about the discipline.


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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. 

It’s not just that old books have been crowded into a corner of the market for attention by media unimagined only yesterday, but that there are natural cycles that have also been disrupted.  When I was young, we haunted second-hand bookshops and the like because we needed books––good books––ones that had been printed before we were born and long since gone out of print.  Now we’re rich:  everything seems to stay in print forever.  I used to snap up $2 hardcover copies of Henry James novels on the assumption that someday I’d read them.  Now I wonder what I would do with a tired old hardcover when I can count on crisp new paperbacks being deliverable to my door by Amazon in 24 hours any time I want one or e-versions to my iPad in seconds.  In the 1980s, when I wanted a decent copy of Boswell’s The Life of Samuel Johnson of my own to reread, I spent a month searching for one I could purchase––in Philadelphia no less.  My Henry James anxiety only dissipated during the glory years of bookstore superstores. 

View full article. | Posted in on Thu, 08/15/2019 - 8:56pm by James J. O'Donnell.

Williams Sanders Scarborough, an 1875 graduate of Oberlin College, was a pioneering African American scholar who wrote a university-level Greek textbook. Kirk Ormand, who now teaches at Oberlin, interviewed Prof. Michele Ronnick, who has recently published a facsimile edition of Scarborough’s Greek textbook, First Lessons in Greek (1881), with Bolchazy-Carducci press. Prof. Ronnick is the world’s leading expert on Scarborough. She found, edited, and published Scarborough’s autobiography in 2005, and has researched Scarborough’s time at Oberlin and as President of Wilberforce University.[1]  

Kirk Ormand: You are publishing a facsimile edition of William Sanders Scarborough’s First Lessons in Greek.Tell us a bit about why Scarborough’s book is important to the history of the profession.

View full article. | Posted in on Thu, 08/08/2019 - 9:01pm by Michele Valerie Ronnick.

Generic Interplay in and after Vergil

Symposium Cumanum 2020

Villa Vergiliana, Cuma

June 24–26, 2020

Co-directors: Brittney Szempruch (United States Air Force Academy) and John F. Miller (University of Virginia)

Although Vergil famously opens the Aeneid with a definitive statement of poetic intent—arma virumque cano—scholarship has long highlighted the poet’s propensity for the complication of firm generic boundaries. Amid a range of theoretical responses that have shaped the past nearly one hundred years (Kroll 1924; Cairns 1972; Fowler 1982; Conte 1986; Harrison 2007), the Vergilian corpus has emerged as some of the most productive ground for the in-depth study of generic flexibility (e.g. Nelis 2004; Seider 2016).

View full article. | Posted in Calls for Papers on Wed, 08/07/2019 - 10:12am by Erik Shell.

The Fragment (Research Institute)

The 2020/2021 academic year at the Getty Research Institute will be devoted to the fragment. Issues regarding the fragment have been present since the beginning of art history and archaeology. Many objects of study survive in physically fragmented forms, and any object, artwork, or structure may be conceived of as a fragment of a broader cultural context. As such, fragments catalyze the investigative process of scholarship and the fundamental acts of the historian: conservation, reconstruction, and interpretation. The evolution of an object—its material and semiotic changes across time, space, and cultures—can offer insights into the ethics and technologies of restoration, tastes for incompleteness or completeness, politics of collection and display, and production of art historical knowledge.

While the fragment has been described as the central metaphor of modernity and the paradigmatic sign of a contemporary worldview, its history as a trope runs much deeper. Cultures of the fragment have flourished throughout history under such guises as the reuse of architectural parts and the cult of relics, the physical and conceptual image-breakings of iconoclasm, and the aesthetics of repair. Fragmentation can occur through artistic processes, acts of destruction, or forces of nature. It can be willful, accidental, or inevitable, but it is necessarily transformative.

View full article. | Posted in Awards and Fellowships on Wed, 08/07/2019 - 9:55am by Erik Shell.

The SCS Committee on the Awards for Excellence in the Teaching of Classics at the College Level has revised the guidelines for award nomination. One to three awards for excellence in the teaching of Classics will be given to college and university teachers from the United States and Canada. Thanks to a very generous gift to the Society’s Gatekeeper to Gateway Campaign for the Future of Classics from Daniel and Joanna Rose each winner will receive a certificate of award and a cash prize of $500. In addition, each winner’s institution will receive $200 to purchase educational resources selected by the winner. The awards will be presented at the Plenary Session of the Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C., in January 2020.

New nomination process for 2019: In order to simplify the nomination process, increase the number of nominations, and encourage the submission of comparable information for each candidate, a new nomination process is being piloted for 2019 (see below). Feedback on changes is welcome and may be sent to the Executive Director.

For more information about the award, you can visit the page here: https://classicalstudies.org/awards-and-fellowships/awards-excellence-teaching-classics-college-level-0

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View full article. | Posted in SCS Announcements on Fri, 08/02/2019 - 1:02pm by Erik Shell.
Header Image: Late antique mosaic likely depicting Theseus sailing away from the Labyrinth (Utica, Tunisia, 3rd C CE, now at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. Image by Sarah E. Bond).

'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, Kathryn Topper addresses the divisions between Art History and Classics.

For specialists in Greek and Roman art, professional life is an endless navigation of disciplinary divides. Often it seems like we belong to a disciplinary no man’s land – too archaeological for other art historians, too art historical for field archaeologists, and too visual for text-oriented Classicists whose training has predisposed them to doubt the intellectual seriousness of scholars who study something as seemingly straightforward as pictures.

The uneasy position of ancient art historians relative to the allied disciplines arises from historical factors, but it’s also a consequence of the nature of our material. When you work in a field in which reconstruction and interpretation almost invariably go hand in hand, you tend to need all the tools in your own toolbox, and in the neighbors’ toolboxes, too. As a result, historians of ancient art spend a lot of time working in disciplines dominated by colleagues whose priorities and training are very different from our own.

View full article. | Posted in on Thu, 08/01/2019 - 9:09pm by Kathryn Topper.

National Humanities Center

Residential Fellowships 2020-21

Call for Applications

The National Humanities Center invites applications for academic-year or one-semester residential fellowships. Mid-career, senior, and emerging scholars with a strong record of peer-reviewed work from all areas of the humanities are encouraged to apply.

Scholars from all parts of the globe are eligible; stipends and travel expenses are provided. Fellowship applicants must have a PhD or equivalent scholarly credentials. Fellowships are supported by the Center’s own endowment, private foundation grants, contributions from alumni and friends, and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Located in the vibrant Research Triangle region of North Carolina, the Center affords access to the rich cultural and intellectual communities supported by the area’s research institutes, universities, and dynamic arts scene. Fellows enjoy private studies, in-house dining, and superb library services that deliver all research materials.

Applications are due by 11:59 p.m. ET, October 10, 2019. For more information and to apply, please visit the link below.

View full article. | Posted in Awards and Fellowships on Tue, 07/30/2019 - 12:37pm by Erik Shell.
The Conference on Mediterranean and European Linguistic Anthropology 2020
 
Following the growth of The Global Network for Linguistic Anthropology, we announce The COMELA 2020, The Conference on Mediterranean and European Linguistic Anthropology 2020.

Purpose and Structure - Over 500 scholars globally will gather to present papers and engage in progressive discussion on the Linguistic Anthropology, Language and Society, and related fields, of The Mediterranean and Europe. The COMELA is fully Non-Profit, where all publishing with the JOMELA (its scholarly journal) is free, as the COMELA refuses to implement a pay to publish system. The COMELA sources funding/grants to assist people in impeded economic positions, who require funding to access the COMELA Conference, and display strong ability in their work. COMELA proceedings will be indexed with SCOPUS and will contribute to ranked and cited publications for all those accepted to present, as well as publishing papers in Top Tier Journal Publication Special Issues.

Location - American University of Greece, Athens, Greece

Date - September 2-5, 2020

View full article. | Posted in Calls for Papers on Mon, 07/29/2019 - 9:38am by Erik Shell.
"Empty Theatre (almost)"by Kevin Jaako, licensed under CC BY 2.0

Calling all Actors, Designers, and Creatives—to participate in a staged reading of

The Gladiator
by Robert Montgomery Bird

Directed by Rob Groves

Friday, January 3, 2020

SCS/AIA Annual Meeting, Washington D.C.

The Committee on Ancient and Modern Performance's annual tradition of staged readings at the annual general meeting will continue this year with a production of an engaging example of Classical reception, Robert Montgomery Bird's 1831 retelling of the Spartacus story, The Gladiator!

View full article. | Posted in Performances on Tue, 07/23/2019 - 9:24am by Erik Shell.

I have always been a proponent of reading outside of one’s own field. We are all pressed for time, of course, and keeping up with the scholarship in our own areas of expertise is itself a constant challenge. But reading outside of our traditional areas of study is one of those intellectual activities in which even a little goes a long way towards exposing us to real and imagined worlds that can allow us to better reconstruct the ancient Mediterranean.

As an ancient Mediterranean historian, I have gained most from my reading in (loosely) adjacent historical fields, especially early China and early modern Europe. I have also benefitted from exploring research in social-scientific disciplines with which history is in ongoing dialogue, especially sociology and cultural anthropology. My reading in these fields could hardly be called systematic, but it doesn’t matter. The time spent reading outside of ancient Mediterranean history almost always repays the reader by presenting new questions, new approaches, and new ways to think about familiar material.

However, today I want to explore something a little different: how my ideas about the Roman Empire, my research and teaching focus, have been shaped by creative literature—an essential tool, I have found, for facilitating the leaps of historical imagination necessary for an empathetic (if ultimately incomplete) understanding of a world so alien from our own.

View full article. | Posted in on Mon, 07/22/2019 - 2:21pm by Carlos Noreña.

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