Over the past two months, I have enjoyed living at the Center for Hellenic Studies as a publications intern working with digital projects affiliated with the Center. These digital projects vary, but they are connected by a larger goal of increasing the accessibility of the field of classics, whether by presenting editions of ancient texts online, publishing scholarly articles or monographs on an open web platform, or posting online blogs and videos on classical topics. The primary digital project with which we worked was the First Thousand Years of Greek Project, a part of the Open Greek and Latin Project.
Having attended a small liberal arts school in Jackson, Mississippi, I am intimately aware of the importance of such digital initiatives. The Millsaps College department of Classical Studies is home to enthusiastic, engaging students who are eager to connect with the classical world and professors who are vastly knowledgeable and who serve as dedicated, considerate teachers and mentors to their students, but the size of the college and our department limits the availability of costly resources. As my classmates at Millsaps and I have often benefited from open-access publications and digital humanities projects, I was excited about the opportunity to contribute to projects which will similarly enable students, faculty, and others to freely interact with the ancient world. Our daily work with these digital projects included correcting OCR-scanned texts, editing editions of ancient texts using XML, tagging keywords in the Center’s online publications, and more. Also at the Center, my fellow interns and I talked over breakfasts and lunches with pioneers in the field of Digital Humanities such as Greg Crane, Neel Smith, Lenny Muellner, and others. We eagerly listened as they told us about the ground-breaking and important work they are conducting in their fields and about the potential of future digital humanities projects.
While my understanding of and appreciation for classical studies certainly matured through discussions with established scholars visiting the center, perhaps the most fruitful and impactful conversations I had were with my fellow interns, Linda McNulty and Pria Jackson. As students of the classics, we are uniquely trained to be critical in the way we absorb and process information; the nature of the discipline necessitates it. We read critically, listen critically, and think critically. Living and working with these bright, forward-thinking women for eight weeks cultivated an environment for such critical thinking about topics including: what constitutes “the classics,” the field of classics more broadly, where its current trajectory is, and how we as students and young people can grapple with these questions and engage with others to work towards constructive solutions. We regularly reiterated how fortunate we felt to be able to spend our summer at the Center assisting with important initiatives which will increase the accessibility of classical texts. We share a deep appreciation for the classics and a desire to study, work, and teach in a sustainable, socially conscious field. These important, timely conversations over dinners, coffee, or pages of XML reinforced this shared appreciation and desire. I have found in Linda and Pria fellow Hellenophiles, encouraging supporters, and dear friends.
This September, I will begin my studies at the University of Michigan’s graduate program in Classical Studies. With such a daunting new stage awaiting me, I feel very fortunate to have spent this summer at the CHS. Here at the Center, I have received an outpouring of advice from visiting scholars, ranging from the academic “read everything on your reading list” and “pick a topic you love rather than one that seems the most practical” to the personal or interpersonal “take time to maintain hobbies” and “cultivate lasting relationships with your colleagues.” Being surrounded by such a lively scholarly community encouraged me to join this productive environment and make extensive use of the Center’s vast resources myself. During my time here, I have read the ancient texts from my summer reading list as well as other enlightening, exciting monographs and scholarly texts from the CHS’s library. I have also been able to utilize the resources available more broadly in Washington, D.C. I took German night classes at the Goethe-Institut, read Plautus and Cicero at the Library of Congress, and listened to talks by visiting artists and art historians at local museums. With the advice I’ve received, the conversations I have had, and the resources made available to me, I cannot imagine a better, more enriching place than the Center for Hellenic Studies to spend this summer before beginning graduate school.
I would like to express my sincere thanks to Lenny Muellner, Lia Hanhardt, Dan Cline, and Matt Munson for helping us work on these digital texts and for patiently answering our many questions. My thanks also go to Allie Marbry, Lanah Koelle, and Greg Nagy for facilitating this internship and for making the CHS such an inviting, warm academic haven. Lastly, as always I am grateful to my mentor, Holly Sypniewski; without her encouragement and advice, I would not have had this extraordinary opportunity (nor countless others).