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Letter from the Chair, Donald C. Haggis (Tabulae 2023)

It has been two years since we last published an edition of Tabulae and a lot has happened since I last attempted to chronicle our department’s annual activities and events. At the time, we were still in the dark days of the pandemic and the University was closed to in-person classes. Although the subsequent fall semester 2021 continued to be a challenge for us, we were almost back to normal in Murphey Hall by the following spring 2022, even being able to hold a graduation ceremony in person. So, I am happy to report that things are finally going smoothly for the department, though the past two years have brought a number of changes that deserve comment here.

Donald C. Haggis

Bob Babcock, Alumni Distinguished Professor of Classics, retired this time last year. An award-winning teacher, and world-class scholar of Latin palaeography and Medieval Latin literature, for over a decade, Bob has been a critical member of the department and university, producing work that has been fundamental in shaping how we understand the transmission and reception of ancient literature. While Bob is leaving teaching, he is certainly not leaving the field, and remains a significant presence in Murphey Hall. He has touched us all as a scholar, mentor, colleague, teacher, and friend, and we wish him and Elizabeth a happy and productive retirement.

Among other changes in the department, Patricia Rosenmeyer, our Paddison Professor of Classics, was named the Seymour and Carol Levin Distinguished Term Professor and Director of the Carolina Center for Jewish Studies in 2022. This is a distinction and honor for Patricia and for the Department, emphasizing the importance of our role in forming interdisciplinary connections with diverse communities in the College, such as Religious Studies, Asian Studies, History, and Middle East and Islamic Studies. Patricia of course continues to teach and advise students in Classics, and still has her main office in Murphey Hall.

We are also pleased to announce the arrival of a new colleague joining us next fall. On July 1, George Baroud will be appointed Assistant Professor of Latin Historiography and Roman Culture. George received his PhD from the Department of Classics at New York University, with the dissertation, “Language and Power in the Annals of Tacitus.” Before coming to UNC, he was a Faculty Fellow in Liberal Studies at NYU, and then Assistant Professor in the Department of Writing, Literature and Publishing at Emerson College in Boston. An award-winning teacher with a specialization in Tacitus, George has broad research interests, including contemporary conceptualizations of Classics as a discipline; classical reception in the medieval and contemporary Arab and Islamic worlds; and the intellectual relationships between Greco-Roman cultures and contemporary societies. We are pleased to welcome George and his family to the department and to UNC Chapel Hill.

Our department continues to benefit from a talented administrative staff. Kim Miles remains a cornerstone of the department providing critical support to our students and faculty as Student Services Manager. Although we were understaffed throughout much of the pandemic, we were finally able to appoint a new administrative assistant and registrar, Elissa Phillips, in the spring of last year. Elissa has a BA in Asian Studies—with a concentration in Japanese—and has extensive administrative experience. We are glad to have Elissa on board and welcome her warmly to the Classics community.

About the time that Elissa arrived, Cinnamon Weaver, our Department Manager for the past two decades, accepted the position of Business Officer in the Department of Statistics and Operations Research. Cinnamon of course played a central role in the Department, managing our business operations and supporting five different chairs and generations of students and faculty. The move to Statistics was a significant promotion for Cinnamon, and we all wish her the best of luck in this new phase of her career.

That said, I am very excited to report that L.E. Alexander joined our department this year to replace Cinnamon as Business Officer. As you know, L.E. had ably served as our administrative assistant and registrar before accepting a promotion in Global Studies in 2020. L.E. brings to the position extensive experience and knowledge of College and University structures, which are evident every aspect of her work for us in Classics. We are pleased and grateful to have her back in Murphey Hall where she has transformed our business operations and administrative functions, greatly enhancing our ability to conduct our research and teaching. Also, I should add that she and her husband Payton welcomed their new baby Maggie on October 2, so she has had a very exciting and busy year indeed.

While I will let you read about the faculty’s activities in their individual contributions to this edition of Tabulae, I mention just a few highlights. Sharon James published an edited volume, Golden Cynthia: Essays on Propertius (University of Michigan Press), which compiles papers in honor of the late Barbara Flaschenriem. Suzanne Lye received the Mellon Emerging Faculty Leaders Award (Mellon Foundation) as well as a fellowship from the Institute for the Arts and Humanities to work on a new book project To Starve and To Curse: Women’s Anger in Greek Literature and Magic. Hérica Valladares spent the fall at the American Academy in Rome as the Esther Van Deman Scholar in Residence to work on her new book project, Fashioning Empire: Roman Women and Their Objects.

Tim Shea had a year-long fellowship in Washington D.C. at the Center for Hellenic Studies working on his monograph on Archaic and Classical cemeteries in Athens. Janet Downie was also on leave, dividing her time between Chapel Hill, as a fellow at the Institute for the Arts and Humanities, and Athens where she worked in the Blegen Library of the American School of Classical Studies in Athens. Janet and Tim co-authored a paper, “Chorography, Cartography, and the Geo-Spatial Humanities” (for the Routledge Handbook of Cartographic Humanities), a result of their ongoing Carolina Seminar, “Cartography, Chorography, and Literary Landscapes,” which has become a significant interdepartmental collaboration between departments of Classics, History, and Geography. Janet and Tim will be joining me in the field this summer, where we will be taking 15 UNC students to Crete to excavate an Early Minoan settlement and cemetery (and the grounds of the Byzantine-Venetian church of Ayios Antonios).

In January, Jen Gates-Foster continued her fieldwork in the Egyptian Eastern Desert, and on her return from Egypt presented a brilliant departmental lecture, “Life at Berkou: A Newly-Discovered Roman Praesidium in Egypt.” Jen also co-organized this year’s Annual Conference of the North Carolina Consortium for Middle East Studies, “Border Politics: Bodies, Community, and Ecology,” an outgrowth of her collaborative teaching in the Triple-I course Borders and Boundaries.

Emily Baragwanath and Luca Grillo (now in Classics at Notre Dame) combined forces to organize an international conference in May, “Rhetoric and Historiography: New Perspectives.” Along with colleagues at Princeton and Stanford, the colloquium in Rome brought together scholars from around the world to reassess the methodological and material scope of A.J. Woodman’s Rhetoric in Classical Historiography, and to explore productive avenues of future research in ancient historiography.

One important development that I should mention is the renovation of the Epigraphy and Palaeography Room in Davis Library (room 6010), established in 1965 by T. Robert S. Broughton (Paddison professor of Latin, 1965-1971). We are in the process of integrating into this space the new UNC Spatial Antiquity and Innovation Laboratory (SAIL). The room’s traditional functions (and epigraphy collections) will remain intact but will be expanded to include new digital capabilities (computer facilities, digital projection, and software applications) that will permit students and faculty to explore ways of visualizing and understanding constructions of space through various culture-periods and cultural geographies, making it a vital resource for fields of ancient history, epigraphy and archaeology. The function of the Lab would be to integrate, synthesize, and analyze large-scale datasets derived from a wide range of fields—landscape archaeology, historical ecology, historical topography, and environmental archaeology, as well as traditional sources of archaeological excavation, intensive survey, historical cartography, and historical texts. The Spatial Antiquity and Innovation Laboratory would have both research and teaching functions and fit well within emerging data-science initiatives on campus by fostering data literacy within the humanities and humanistic social sciences; and provide a venue for integration of students in research projects of UNC faculty, as well as opportunities for international collaborative research development.

Our graduate students are producing excellent work and support for their research represents perhaps our biggest challenge and financial need as we compete nationally for the best students in the country and prepare them for advanced research and academic careers in a very competitive job market. Thanks to the support of dedicated funds such as the J. P. Harland Endowment Fund in Classical Archaeology, the Albert Suskin Memorial Fund in Classics, the Henry and Sally Immerwahr Graduate Student Excellence Fund, and the Berthe Marti Fund, this year our students will be presenting papers at the Society for Classical Studies, the Archaeological Institute of America, and CAMWS, and participating in excavations at Samothrace, Iklaina (Messenia), Eleon (Boeotia), Anavlochos (Crete), Knossos, Ayios Antonios (Crete), and Pompeii; as well as archaeological surveys on the islands of Andros, Tinos, Mykonos, and Amorgos (Small Cycladic Islands Project). Two students will be joining the Epigraphy of the Aegean Islands seminar, studying Greek inscriptions on the island of Paros (Hellenic Education Research Center), while another, the Advanced Seminar in the Humanities at the Venice International University.  I am also pleased to report that three of our graduate students, Amanda Ball, Jackson Miller, and Nick Bolig won prestigious fellowships from the American School of Classical Studies at Athens this year. I should add here that the three students defending their dissertations in classical archaeology this spring, Melanie Godsey, Katie Tardio and Katelin McCullough were all appointed in academic positions.

Our talented undergraduates, as always, have not failed to challenge and impress us. This year they have effectively colonized the Classics Common Room on the second floor of Murphey Hall, and their lively discussions and group study sessions are an inspiration to us all. Fifteen of them will be receiving their degrees this spring, including Emily Bratt who was awarded the Eben Alexander Prize in Greek, Madeline Nielsen, the Albert Suskin Prize in Latin, and Daniel Barrero, the Epps Prize in Greek Studies. The winners of the Herrington Prize performance competition went to Bradley Sadowsky (Latin) and Keith Theisen (Greek), both talented linguists, and the Herington Scholarship was awarded to Erik Hanson. Amelia Lojewski, a classical archaeologist, received both the Nims Scholarship and funding from the Medieval Studies Fund to join the Santa Susana Project, the excavation of Medieval levels of a Roman villa site in Portugal.

Generous donations to our department have made a profound impact on our students’ course work, research, and fieldwork. Funding from Nims and Snow awards are providing critical support for six of our undergraduates to go abroad to participate in summer programs of excavation and field study at Pompeii, Ayios Antonios (Crete), Santa Susana (Portugal), and Athens. I should add that two of our classical archaeology majors, Rachel Sarvey and Alyssa Parrnelli, both won the highly competitive Anne L. and S. Epes Robinson Honors Fellowship, from Honors Carolina, to conduct independent research connected to excavations at Ayios Antonios on Crete, and Gabii near Rome. Rachael Sarvey was also the recipient of the competitive Peter Knox Excavation and Field Work Award from the Classical Association of the Middle West and South.

In closing, I am saddened to have to document the passing of two of our colleagues, Kenneth Reckford and George Kennedy, both figures instrumental in shaping the Department of Classics over the last century. Kenneth taught at UNC for 43 years, until his retirement as Kenan Professor of Classics in 2003, mentoring dozens of our students and colleagues over the years—he directed some twenty-seven MA theses and eighteen PhD dissertations—and engaging all of us with his love of learning, his passion for literature, and his deep commitment to his students, colleagues, department, and university. Kenneth’s scholarship, especially on Euripides, Aristophanes, Horace, and Persius, but also Homer, Menander, Vergil, and modern authors such as Samuel Johnson, T.S. Eliot, L. Frank Baum, Tolkien, and Tom Stoppard, will remain with us as will his legacy of students. Kenneth’s generosity has had a profound effect on the Department and the College. He is recognized on campus for establishing the annual Mary Stevens Reckford Memorial Lecture in European Studies in the Institute for the Arts and Humanities, and in our department, the Reckford Graduate Student Fellowship Fund. The Reckford Fellowship provides critical support to our graduate program, which remains perilously underfunded by the University. Kenneth will be remembered fondly by us all for his brilliance, kindness, and generosity.

George Kennedy was appointed chair of Classics in 1966 and named the George L. Paddison Professor of Classics in 1973, playing a transformative role in reshaping our department and expanding the scope of our research, teaching and graduate programs, and making several critical hires, such as Brooks Otis, Douglas Young, and Emeline Richardson. Indeed, it was during George’s tenure as chair that our graduate program in classical archeology was established by Emeline Richardson and Sara Immerwahr. He will be missed by us all. The George Kennedy Fund for Excellence in Classics has been established in his memory.

Let me sign this letter by thanking our faculty, students, staff, and alumni who have worked to keep our department an intellectually dynamic and stimulating community, and one that remains at the forefront of research and graduate study in Classics. Our students and world-class faculty continue to produce important work and our programs remain vital to this institution and to our field. We are as always grateful to our many friends and supporters from outside the department, whose generosity and continuing commitment provide the vital resources we need to teach, to do pioneering research, and through our work and our students to contribute significantly to diverse communities at UNC and throughout the world.