Faculty News and Notes
I had excellent classes on Ovid and Roman Satire in the fall, and made substantial progress towards publishing the results of the class research project from my 2017 Cicero seminar. This spring, thanks to a Kenan Senior Faculty Research Leave, which gave me the term to devote to writing, I got a good start on my next book, a facing page Latin – English edition of the complete works of ‘the Sappho of Saxony’, a tenth-century nun named Hrotsvitha (also called Roswita) of Gandersheim. She is best known for a series of plays she wrote in imitation of Terence. Hrostvitha says that her fellow-nuns were spending all their time reading Terence (she says ‘wasting’), and were getting ‘overheated’ in the process by his unedifying subject matter: drinking, feasting, pimps and sex-trade workers, young lovers, and disobedient teenagers of both sexes. She hoped to supplant his salacious tales by inflaming her readers with her own stories of prostitutes turned chaste. Hrotsvitha also wrote a series of poems on Christian martyrs and a couple of epics, one on the heroic deeds of Otto the Great, and the other on the foundation of her home monastery, Gandersheim. There has never been a translation of her complete works into English, and that is what I am working on. I will travel to European libraries in May and June to look at tenth-century manuscripts of Terence of the sort she would have read. I hope to get a better sense of how she worked, and, in particular, what sort of glosses and commentaries on Terence’s plays she may have had available to her.
I published articles this year on medieval drama; on a newly discovered fragment of a Gospel book that may have been written by one of the scribes of the Book of Kells (this was a joint publication with my mentor, Francis Newton); on Ratherius’ reading of Persius; and on the sole manuscript of Ratherius’ major work, the Praeloquia, which has Ratherius’ notes for revising the work. I was awarded an Alumni Distinguished Professorship this year, and also won a Tanner Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching this spring, one of the highlights of my career!
In the Fall I had the delight of teaching for the first time (assisted by TA dream team archaeologist Melanie Godsey and philologist Brian McPhee) my completely overhauled large lecture course, The Greeks, and of doing so in Greenlaw 101: one of UNC’s new smart lecture theaters. The room has no front, but is instead surrounded on all sides with screens, the roller chairs enabling students to zip into appropriate groupings as needed. Once, for instance, groups considered ways in which an ancient or modern painting (the one projected on their screen) captured Homer’s depiction of Hector, and then presented their findings to the whole class. Dispensing with the text book, we read swathes of primary texts, engaged in debates, watched student-produced videos on Plutarch’s Lives of the star politicians of fifth-century Athens and performances of scenes from Euripides and Menander, and enjoyed visits by expert guest speakers (including our own Professors Race, Stadter, and Duncan). My research took me around Europe, for talks in Utrecht, the Netherlands (on Xenophon, for a panel on ‘History, Fiction, and Historical Fiction’ at the American Comparative Literature Association annual meeting, which surprisingly was held off U.S. soil for the first time); in Munich, Germany (on Herodotus’ narrative art, for the Herodot-Sommer workshop); and in London (the key-note lecture at the KCL Graduate Colloquium in London, which I presented jointly with Prof. Duncan, on the theme of ‘Tragedy Beyond the Walls: Materiality, Memory, and Cognition in Classical Athens’).
The highlight of this academic year, for me, was hosting the first meeting of a new working group on Imperial literature at UNC at the end of April. Ten visiting scholars and several local colleagues and grad students made the first meeting of The Second Sophistic Colloquium (TSSC) a great success: new research, new connections, and much lively, wide-ranging discussion. In the classroom, I offered an undergraduate course on the Greek novel in the fall – good preparation for what I hope will be a horizon-expanding (canon-busting) graduate seminar this coming year. I also taught the Junior Seminar for the first time, on “The Ancient Body in Health and Illness” – a topic that got me thinking about possible interdisciplinary collaborations in the undergraduate curriculum, as well as the challenges and opportunities of undergraduate research in Classics and in the Humanities more generally. Research this year has taken me to Regensburg, Germany, for a conference on “Insider Doubt” in Greco-Roman and early Christian literature, where I presented a paper on Aelius Aristides’ re-writing of traditional mythology in his prose hymns. I have also been spending time on Lucian, the romance motif in Imperial literature – and of course my book project on Imperial landscapes, which will claim most of my attention this summer in libraries here on campus and at the American School in Athens.
For the first time since I arrived in 2015, I was able to spend an entire glorious summer in Chapel Hill, writing three chapters for edited volumes that explored the intersection of materiality, cognition, and aesthetics in Attic tragedy. Conversations about these projects, outgrowths of my core research on ugliness in Greek drama, have usefully oriented and clarified my thinking as I enter the final stretch of work on my manuscript, Ugly Productions.
Fall semester got off to an exciting start with a trip to London, where I participated in the annual KCL-UNC colloquium. Our colleagues at King’s College were exceptional hosts, and I was pleased not only to catch the exemplary papers presented by students from both institutions, but also to begin laying some groundwork for future collaborations with KCL’s annual Greek Play—which I think would look particularly good in UNC’s Forest Theater.
On the topic of performance, this fall I debuted a new Honors First Year Seminar entitled “Greek Drama from Page to Stage.” Pairing improvisation with critical theory, Aristotelian prescription with the exigencies of production, the class gave rise to a remarkable esprit du corps among the multi-talented students. In addition to their own memorable productions, thanks to generous funding and assistance from First Year Seminar Program and Arts@TheCore, students joined me in attending the NC debut of the opera Cold Mountain and learning how to adapt classic works for the stage from librettist Gene Scheer, who visited our class.
Carolina students continue to impress, both at the graduate level (we blazed through three tragedies and one comedy in “survey” this fall) and in my undergraduate courses, where I was lucky to have another opportunity to teach Plato in Intermediate Greek and offer my favorite lecture course, Athletics in the Greek and Roman World. But competitive pride in our institution cannot keep me from mentioning how glad I am that Claire Catenaccio joined the Classics faculty at Duke this year; I look forward to future collaborations with her and her students, some of which are already underway. This summer I’ll again be based in Chapel Hill, as Lauren and I eagerly expect the arrival of our second son—but not, I sincerely hope, while I’m briefly away in Louvain, Belgium, to take part in a conference on Greek humor.
Summer 2017 saw the last excavation season at Horvat Omrit in Northern Israel before we pause for a multi-year study phase in our work at this Roman site. This year we had two UNC undergraduates with us in the field—Emily Gray and Jermaine Bryant. Emily and Jermaine worked and played hard during their summer season, working daily in the trenches and traveling to visit sites across Israel with other members of the team from Carthage College and St. John’s/St. Benedict’s College. The results from this final season were spectacular, as we uncovered more Roman wall paintings in a monumental building of the late first century AD. The scenes we recovered this year include a Nilotic scene containing papyriform boats, pygmies and a fantastic hippopotamus. These frescoes, along with the paintings recovered last year, suggest that this large Flavian-era building was part of a cluster of high-status buildings at Omrit that participated in the visual culture of the Roman elite in the Eastern Empire. Further work on the frescoes, including conservation and study, will take place in Summer 2018.
Along with my work in Israel, I spent another productive and short season at the site of Bir ‘Abbad in Egypt’s Eastern Desert where we continued to uncover the remains of a 3rd century BC military fortification used by the Ptolemaic army as a staging ground for elephant hunting and as a stopover for travelers in this remote region of Egypt. The fort is remarkably well-preserved and a rich source of new written and material information about the establishment of the frontier in the early years of the Ptolemaic Empire. Our work in the Eastern Desert will be supported for the next five years by a European Research Council Grant for 1.5 million Euros. This prestigious award will bring researchers from France’s CNRS and the University of Lyon to UNC-CH for collaborative work on this exciting new material. UNC graduate student Melanie Godsey traveled to Egypt this December to work on faience recovered by the project and will continue to take part in the analysis of the pottery from the mission.
This past summer, we completed the final field season of our second five-year phase of excavation at Azoria in eastern Crete (www.azoria.org). The work in 2017 was the culmination of 16 years of excavation, conservation, study and publication at the site. The basic field team this year consisted of ten senior staff archaeologists, seven graduate-student trench supervisors, 40 undergraduate field-school students, and 23 local field staff. We were joined in the field this year by our graduate students Catharine Judson, Brandon Baker, Amanda Ball, and post-baccalaureate Alex Griffin; as well as undergraduates Tucker King, Paige Nehls, Ruddy Banny, Andrianna Dallis, and Callie Williams.
Our work on the archaic city now provides sufficient evidence to delineate a broad zone of public buildings occupying the upper west and south slopes of the South Acropolis. The Communal Dining Building and the Monumental Civic Building evidently formed the core of an Archaic-period civic complex (late 7th c. B.C. to early 5th c. B.C.)—both were used for public feasting and sacrifice—while contemporary residential buildings were situated at the periphery of the civic zone. This past summer we completed the excavation of several buildings, including the West Building, which is a particularly important discovery because it brings into sharper focus an important pattern emerging from the work at the site. That is, that a large part of the space within the city center was devoted to various forms of scaled-up and centralized, probably state-level, storage, processing, and consumption of food.
The finds from the West Building constitute important evidence for the mobilization and storage of large-volume agricultural surpluses, indicating an intermediary facility between houses and public dining buildings. In such a structure, citizen landowners could have made payments of foodstuffs to be collected, measured, monitored and temporarily stored before being cycled into storerooms and kitchens of the civic complex. The West Building adds to this emerging picture, providing a very clear example of state-level administration of foodstuffs, and its discovery introduces the possibility that other such freestanding storage magazines might exist elsewhere on the site in areas yet unexcavated to the west.
What does the discovery of the West Building mean for the study of the early Cretan city? The emphasis on surplus storage at Azoria accords well with epigraphical evidence from sites such as Axos, Gortyn and Datala, which, in general, point to agriculture as the basis for the political economy of the Cretan city. Payments as wages, for the sustenance of employees, for sacrifices, and to the andreion include amounts of grape must, barley, figs, and other produce. We are not provided a detailed list of things in inscriptions, but we do know from the Gortynian code that produce was collected and managed by officials called the karpodaistai (“produce distributors”), who oversaw payments to public stores. The archaeology of storage at Azoria thus provides some critical details lacking in these 6th and 5th c. epigraphical sources.
We have not yet begun sorting out the full artifact inventory from the rooms of the West Building—it is a monumental undertaking—though some interesting things have come to light. Of course, large decorated pithoi are the most prevalent artifacts, including one jar decorated with running hoplite figures in the so-called Knielauf or Waffenlauf position. Some interesting things mended before leaving Crete include a large incense burner; a variety of small metal and worked bone finds, including a bracelet, fish hook and dress pin; and several miniature vessels that we might be able to relate to abandonment phase sacrificial activities within the rooms. This idea of ritual or ritualized abandonment is also indicated by the presence of agrimi horns; structured deposits of burned lower legs and horn cores of goats; and triton’s trumpet shells.
The fieldwork at Azoria in 2017 was conducted by the Department of Classics at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, under the auspices of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens, and the Archaeological Ephorate of Lasithi and the archaeological directorate of the Greek Ministry of Culture and Sports. The excavation was funded this year on grants from the National Geographic Society, the Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation, the Institute for Aegean Prehistory, and the Stavros Niarchos Foundation, with support of the UNC Department of Classics and the Research Laboratories of Archaeology.
Last June I participated in the Cuma conference, at the Villa Vergiliana, on Vergil and Elegy, and spent a lovely week in Rome beforehand. I’ll be back in Rome in May, and I hope the weather will be significantly cooler than last June, when the whole of Italy was sweltering. I was kept very busy with classes and departmental administration (supervising graduate placement, graduate admissions, graduate exams). I have several book chapters forthcoming; two books (one edited volume on Propertius) and my still-oversized manuscript on women in New Comedy are in the works. Like many others, I was snowed out of the SCS meeting in Boston last January, but I made it safely to CAMWS and back, with a talk on the Presidential panel; I also went to the University of Washington, by invitation of their grad students, to deliver the John and Mary McDiarmid lecture. I am happy to report that one dissertation, one M.A. thesis, and one senior honors thesis all reached completion since my last report. This year I became chair of the SCS Membership Committee, finished my 3-year terms on the Mellon/ACLS dissertation completion fellowship committee and on AJP’s Gildersleeve Prize committee. To my great surprise, I was honored with the Womens’ Classical Caucus 2017 Leadership Award, and I still haven’t figured out who nominated me. I taught a new First-Year Seminar course, on reception of Greek tragic heroines, and am delighted to say that the research and creative projects performed by my students were both lively and stellar, a great way to end a crowded school year.
This year my classroom commentary on Aeneid 8 for Focus-Hackett has come out, with an attractive purple cover; most people will want two, one for home, one for the office. Thanks go to more than one class of LATN 221 that tested out my Aeneid 8 notes. Randall Ganiban and I are co-editors for a Hackett volume on Aeneid 7-12 with a slightly different version of my commentary and those of five other scholars, and we hope to have that out before long. I’m the acting Director of Graduate Studies in the Department in Spring 2018. I continue as President of the Vergilian Society: I gave a paper at the Vergilian Society’s Symposium Cumanum on “Vergil and Elegy” in the Summer of 2017; my paper on “Genre, gender, and the etymology behind the phrase Lugentes campi at Aeneid 6.441” will appear in a collection of essays on Greek and Latin poetry (more on the extensive Carolina contingent at that Symposium elsewhere in this Tabulae). I’ll also be back at the Symposium this summer, giving a paper on Horace’s Ars Poetica related to my ongoing book project on satire and didactic. At the snowy Boston SCS meeting this past January, I introduced and chaired the Vergilian Society panel I had organized on “Dido in and after Vergil.” My “Response to Pandey and Torlone, with Brief Remarks on the Harvard School,” from an earlier VS panel, has appeared in a special issue of Classical World on the so-called “Harvard School” of Vergilian studies. I’m chairing a paper session on Vergil at CAMWS. I reviewed Anne Rogerson’s Virgil’s Ascanius: Imagining the Future in the Aeneid (Cambridge 2017) for BMCR. A paper I mentioned last year on “Evander’s love of gore and bloodshed in Aeneid 8” will appear this year in a Festschrift for my Holy Cross teacher Blaise Nagy. To continue and update a theme from last year’s Tabulae: my daughter Marika, now a UNC sophomore, has been a producer of productions on campus of the musicals “Chicago” in the Fall and “Into the Woods” in the Spring.
Other than my various duties as Chair, the single largest focus of my time and attention this year has been the new house that I’m building with my husband John. (The green is the subclading; it is not the color of the exterior!) This is the culmination of many years’ dreaming and scheming, and although John is the one in charge, it necessarily occupies a good bit of my energy as well. Progress is steady but the end is still months away. By the time of next year’s newsletter, however, we should certainly be moved in.
On the research front, things have been relatively quiet. I did take part in September in a conference on religious violence in antiquity, held at the Université de Montréal and at the University at Ottawa. Somewhat unusually, the first day and a half were at the Montreal location; we then all bundled ourselves into cars and vans and drove to Ottawa, where the second day and a half took place. It was nice to be back in Canada and to see a number of old friends and meet new ones. My paper, on animal sacrifice and the Roman persecution of Christians, will in due course appear in the conference proceedings. Also in September I delivered a lecture at Brown University (my first visit to Providence) on animal sacrifice and euergetism in the Hellenistic and Roman polis. This paper will also be published, in a special issue of Religion in the Roman Empire focusing on the economy of Roman religion. In this piecemeal way I continue to make progress on my long-term project on the changing cultural meaning of animal sacrifice in the Roman empire.
In the fall I taught as usual our large lecture course on classical myth, with the excellent assistance of three of our graduate students. I owe particular thanks to Andrew Ficklin who handled all the lectures when I was out of town and also dealt with the new technology for administering the pop quizzes. I fear that I’m becoming an old dog who can’t be taught new tricks, at least when it comes to technology! In the spring semester I taught a graduate course on Apuleius, the first time in five years that I’ve had a chance to teach at the graduate level. Apuleius is always fun, and it’s all the more fun working through the material with our lively graduate students.
Looking back at the past year, I’m amazed at how much has happened since last summer. In June 2017, I went to visit Prof. Jennifer Gates-Foster’s excavations at Omrit, Israel. It was wonderful to meet the whole Omrit archaeological team and have a chance to learn more about this fascinating site. As a Roman painting specialist, I was especially excited to see the frescoes they had unearthed during the previous season. These paintings depict an enclosed garden and feature adorable little ducks and fish. From Omrit, I flew across the Mediterranean to Cuma (modern-day Bacoli) on the Bay of Naples to participate in the Symposium Cumanum on “Vergil and Elegy” at the Villa Vergiliana. I’m delighted to report that our department was very well represented at this event, which featured papers by Profs. Jim O’Hara and Sharon James along with the work of several UNC alumni—Profs. Hunter Gardner (South Carolina), John Henkel (Georgetown College), and Christopher Polt (Boston College).
Back home in Chapel Hill, things continue to be busy. As President of the NC Triangle Area Society of the Archaeological Institute of America, I have endeavored to organize a thought-provoking and enriching series of events, which this year included a symposium on current projects by doctoral students in Classical Archaeology and lectures by Profs. Elaine Gazda (Michigan) and Gideon Avni (Hebrew University). In the spring, the AIA, the Department of Classics, the Department of Art and Art History, the Ackland Art Museum, and the College of Arts and Sciences co-sponsored two events featuring the ground-breaking work of “hair archaeologist” Janet Stephens. Stephens, whose research into Roman hairstyling techniques has been featured in a number of scholarly journals and other more popular venues (such as NPR and The Wall Street Journal), offered both a public lecture and a hands-on workshop on reconstructing Roman hairstyles for a diverse audience that included students, faculty, and other members of our local community interested in this topic. The impetus for inviting Stephens to Chapel Hill was the approval of a new interdisciplinary course entitled “Art and Fashion from Rome to Timbuktu” that I co-taught this past semester with Prof. Victoria Rovine (Art and Art History). The course was a great success as was Stephens’ visit to UNC, which was featured in March 14 issue of The Gazette.
Other than a short trip to Brazil to visit my family in late May-early June, my plans for this summer are to stay in Chapel Hill to tackle several writing projects, which include putting finishing touches on my book manuscript and writing an article on Roman shoes. Although I am sad I will not be joining Jim O’Hara and Chris Polt in Cuma for this summer’s Symposium Cumanum, I am looking forward to returning to the Villa Vergiliana in October for the fall’s Symposium Campanum organized by Prof. Brenda Longfellow (Iowa) on “Women on the Bay of Naples.”