Next week is the 45th Annual Northern Great Plains History Conference. Since the mid-1960s when a group of faculty at the University of North Dakota founded the conference, it has roamed universities across Northern Plains and assembled scholars from across the region. My paper for this years conference will look at the career of Horace B. Woodworth. He featured prominently in the first chapter of my history of the Department of History here at UND and is the topic of an article that I submitted to North Dakota History (but have strangely heard nothing about for the past two years; I am confident that this means that publication is imminent.)
I’ve blogged on Mr. Woodworth before, but today, I want to suggest that his career might have something to offer the academy today. Over the past few years there has been a flurry of books suggesting that the organization of the modern American University is somehow broken. Louis Menand’s recent book, The Marketplace of Ideas: Reform and Resistance in the American University (blogged here) and Mark Taylor’s, Crisis on Campus: A Bold Plan for Reforming our Colleges and Universities have both rooted the current (and typically ill-defined) problems with the university in growth of professionalization of the disciplines and the self-serving and exclusionary rhetoric that come to ossify the departmental/disciplinary mode of university organization. Both book (and numerous others) also saw fundamental changes in the American university as tied to changes in the organization of institutions; the traditional link between departments and disciplines must be weakened and replaced with a more integrated structure that better represents the dynamic realities of the modern workplace. In fact, as recently as last week, the president of the University of Chicago offered a similar argument noting the tensions between the need for individuals to fill highly specialized entry level positions and the need to produce people who can thrive in the higher reaches of the modern economy through their ability to manipulate and integrate abstract ideas.
What can Horace B. Woodworth teach us about these critiques? When he came to the University of North Dakota in 1885, he had degrees from Dartmouth and Hartford Theological Seminary and had worked as a teacher, headmaster of private schools, a preacher and a farmer. His first post was as Professor of Mathematics, Physics, and Astronomy. By 1888, Woodworth was the Chair of Didactics, Mental and Moral Sciences, and the Principal of the Normal Department. In 1890, he left the Normal Department and assumed the title Professor of Mental and Moral Science and History. By the time he retired from the University in 1904, his title was simply Professor of History.
Such a dynamic career would be impossible today, of course, as the barriers between disciplines (particularly the sciences and the humanities) are virtually insurmountable. At the same time, Woodworth’s career path reflects a response to pressures produced both within and outside of the institution. The emergence of professional disciplines with more clearly defined professional standards guided Woodworth to a great specialization in teaching and in his research. This ultimately culminated in the publication of his book, The Government of the People of the State of North Dakota in 1895.
While I understand that today universities are far more complex institutions than they were in the time of Woodworth and the pressures of tenure, increasingly narrow disciplinary training, and bureaucratic ossification constrain career paths for most academics, it is nevertheless true that our 19th century predecessors were capable of dynamic changes over the course of their academic careers. As another example was someone like William F. Allen at the University of Wisconsin where he served as the Professor of Latin and Roman History; Allen was another New Englander trained as a Classicist at Harvard, Berlin, and Göttingen, but his most important contribution to academic life was his work editing Slave Songs in the United States.
The careers of individuals like Allen and Woodworth do not provide a template for a modern scholar to follow, but certainly demonstrate that the disciplinary organization in which we now reside (quite comfortably) is not immutable. In fact, the response of these early faculty to tensions from outside and within their institutions offers a dynamic model for university faculty today. University faculty should be engaged in their environment and our training offers us unique opportunities to act in dynamic ways that not only can improve the educational life of our institution, but also carve out and form the basis for new disciplines, fields of study, and knowledge. Change is not only possible, but good.
I was fortunate enough to spend the last four days in Austin, Texas at the Corinth in Contrast conference. The conference sought to bring together archaeologists working in Corinth and scholars interested in New Testament studies, particularly the work of Paul and his correspondents in Corinth. The hope was to produce more informed scholars on both sides of the discussion: archaeologists, on the one hand, who have a better idea of the impact of their work on the field of New Testament studies, and, on the other hand, New Testament scholars who have a more solid grasp significant, ongoing work at Corinth. As I’ve blogged here in the run up to the conference, the theme was “studies in inequality” and generally speaking the papers presented showed a real willingness to attempt to understand inequality in Hellenistic and Roman Corinth.
So, here are a few of my notes on what was a pretty illuminating four days:
1. While it comes as no surprise, the folks who studied the New Testament were generally more engaged with archaeology than the archaeologists were with New Testament texts. In fact, many of the New Testament scholars had significant experience doing field work or were directing their own projects. This almost certainly followed the age old precedent of Biblical archaeology, which one could argue dates to Late Antiquity and the excavations of St. Helena. I couldn’t help think that archaeologists will probably benefit by the sustained interested in their field by New Testament scholars especially as resources to Classical studies continue to decline.
2. Mechanisms of inequality. The scholars working in New Testament studies had much clearer ideas about how individuals or groups in Corinth produced inequality. Steve Friesen and James Walters, for example, both argued that ritual forms of interaction served to reinforce and challenge (at different times) unequal relationships in the Pauline community. Among the archaeologists, Guy Sanders identified share-cropping as a method for maintaining economic inequality and a cycle of dependency; Sarah James saw the political arrangements following the sack of Corinth in 146 as crucial context for a hitherto overlooked group of Corinthians who probably struggled for an economic and political place within Greek society as much as they have within the dominant historical narrative of the city. Pettegrew suggested that inequality may have been a product of Corinth’s place as an emporium in the ancient world and seemed to suggest that market forced created a kind of inequality in a way that our image of a state sponsored diolkos would not. (The diolkos was the supposed road across the Isthmus of Corinth ostensibly designed to facilitate dragging ships between the Corinthian and Saronic gulf).
3. Inequality and Marx. One thing that really struck me as a historian was the almost complete absence of Marx from the conference. Marx, to my mind, was the foremost theorist of inequality in the academic world today. In fact, it would be fair to suggest that Marx’s critique of social inequality was central to our imagining of a future where social, economic, and political inequality did not exist. While it is always easy to say that Marx lurked in the background of many of these papers (and to be fair Guy Sanders did mention Marx and James Walters referenced Althusser), it really amazed me that Marx’s interest in the material conditions of inequality and his later use by so many literary theorists did not form a central axis around which New Testament scholars and archaeologists could find common methodological ground.
4. Religion and Inequality. It’s hardly surprising, of course, that a conference that combines New Testament scholars and archaeologists would understand religion to be a major mechanism for producing (and challenging) inequality in the ancient world, but at the same time, it was remarkable to see the difficulty archaeology has in penetrating the dense intersection of cult, economy, and society. Ron Stroud’s paper on Corinthian Magic and Ritual did the best at this by looking at the archaeological evidence for the activities surrounding the use of curse tablets at the sanctuary of Demeter and Kore at Corinth during the Roman period. He was successful in suggesting that the rituals surrounding the use of curse tablets represented the activities of a group who were alienated from access to more highly structured and regulated types of religious power. In the case of the curse tablets from Demeter and Kore at Corinth, these individuals appeared to be women who sought recourse to both personal and social grievances by appeals to black magic.
5. Historical Inequality. One thing that wanted to hear more about at the conference is the historiography (if you will) of inequality. In other words, I wanted to understand a bit more about how our expectations and understanding of (in)equality have shaped our reading of the ancient world. Steve Fiesen’s opening remarks prompted me to consider the crucial link between teaching about inequality in the past and producing a better future. Michael White’s closing remarks returned to some of these point by pointing out how different expectations of equality were in the ancient world and how the elaborately dendridic systems of patronage the created social cohesion, in fact, relied upon certain expectations of inequality to function. If nothing else the relationship between the patron and client (in its simplest form) implied a difference in power between the two parts of the dyad. A couple of papers suggested that the inequality of the ancient world depended, at least in part, on our approach to the past, how we have organized our evidence from the past, and what we think it means. Sarah Lepinski for example, pointed out that the lack of interest in Roman wall painting and the social and cultural networks involved in its production stemmed in part from the way tendency in the modern nation of Greece to overlook a “colonial” period in its own history. By overlooking the Roman period we have consigned Roman Greeks to an unequal status both to the dominant Roman power and to earlier “free” Greeks of the Classical period.
The opportunity to contemplate these ideas was the product of a brilliantly organized conference with plenty of time for informal discussions, engaging plenary sessions, and fantastic logistical coordination. The conference experience easily ranks among the best that I’ve encountered. Thanks to everyone involved from the organizers, Steve Friesen, Daniel Schowalkter, and Sarah James to the graduate assistant Ann Morgan!
One more thing, David Pettegrew has promised some comments of his own on the conference over at his new Corinthian Matters blog. They aren’t posted yet, but keep your eyes peeled!
I’m at Corinth in Contrast in Austin, Texas today. I’ll post an update this afternoon. Meanwhile, please stay tuned. If there is good internet access, I’ll drop some Tweets on y’all (http://twitter.com/billcaraher) with the hashtag #CIC.
This year’s Cyprus Research Fund Lecture will feature Prof. David K. Pettegrew of Messiah College. David is not only a long time collaborator with my in both Greece and Cyprus, but also regarded as one of the foremost scholars on Late Roman Corinth. His talk will focus on over a decade of archaeological and historical research on the Isthmus of Corinth. We hope he’ll let us podcast his talk so that anyone, anywhere can listen to him!
Here’s a description of his talk:
Corinth has come down in history as the quintessential maritime city that became powerful and wealthy by capitalizing on the movement of commercial goods and peoples across a narrow isthmus at the center of Greece. The connecting isthmus also allegedly made Corinth politically unstable, corrupt in morals, and exceptionally depraved. As St. Paul’s letters show, Corinth was a Christian community with problems.
Why was Corinth so consistently associated with travel, trade, and wealth in ancient thought? And how did a land bridge facilitate commerce and traffic and contribute to the city’s development in the Roman era?
In this lecture, David Pettegrew considers what the ancient texts and material evidence suggest about travel and commerce across the Isthmus and its effects on the maritime character of the city in the first and second centuries AD.
The talk is Thursday, October 21st in the East Asia Room of the Chester Fritz Library. There’ll be a small reception after the talk.
As readers of this blog know (here and here), I’ve been working on a conference paper for the Corinth in Contrast Conference at the end of this week. This paper is, in effect, an archaeological and architectural argument for the impact of Justinian on the Corinthian Isthmus. (These ideas developed, more or less, from my analysis of a pair of texts that reference Justinian from the Isthmus).
You’ve read the drafts, so here’s the paper:
Medieval and Post Medieval Archaeology of the Mediterranean – 2011 Archaeological Institute of America Colloquium
I just heard the good news that the Medieval and Post-Medieval Interest Group of the AIA has had a panel accepted at the 2011 AIA. The proposal is from David Pettegrew (the Interest Group president from 2008-2010) and Amelia Brown (current president 2010-). I’ll post updates on the panel including the abstracts for the papers and hopefully the podcasts of the actual panel over at our Pendentive Blog.
Here’s the abstract for the entire colloquium session and the paper titles. Looks like a great panel.
“Travel to Greece between Antiquity and the Grand Tour”
Two sets of travel texts have consistently formed the backdrop to archaeological interpretations of ancient Greek sites and landscapes: Pausanias’s 2nd-century Description of Greece and early modern accounts of western Europeans, who themselves often wrote with an awareness of Pausanias. Throughout most of the 20th century, archaeologists attempted to relate these texts to the new discoveries of excavation and survey, while in very recent years scholars have sought to understand these accounts, and the landscapes they represent, in terms of their particular social and intellectual contexts. In general, however, there has been very little research on travel to Greece between Pausanias and the start of the Grand Tour, despite the growing recognition that interregional communication continued uninterrupted between the 3rd and 17th centuries, both in Greece and in the Mediterranean more broadly. Indeed, the textual evidence for Late Antique, Byzantine, and Ottoman travel to Greece is greater than is often realized as historians, geographers, imperial functionaries, sailors, merchants, students, Hellenes, Christian pilgrims, monks, ‘barbarian invaders,’ refugees, pirates, Crusaders, knights, and armies, among many others, visited the peninsula and islands of Greece. It is true that most of these travelers did not (or even could not) record their visits to Greek lands in writing, but the extant textual evidence is not insubstantial. Some educated travelers followed ancient writers and prefigured the Grand Tourists by recording their interest in the monuments of classical antiquity while others ignored the classical past and sought places associated with St. Paul and Christian holy men and women, or viewed sites unaware of either Christian or classical pasts. The textual evidence itself exists in the context of an ever-expanding body of material culture of Late Antique to Ottoman date produced by both urban excavation and regional survey. In this colloquium, we analyze the varied written sources for different kinds of travel into, within, and around Greece between the 3rd and 17th centuries together with the regional archaeological evidence to illuminate landscapes from Late Antiquity to the Ottoman era. Our goal is to combine both kinds of evidence to better understand post-antique travel and the sites and landscapes visited before the Early Modern era.
“Intellectuals on the Isthmus of Greece,”
David K. Pettegrew, Messiah College
“Christian Pilgrimage to Byzantine Corinth,”
Amelia R. Brown, University of Queensland
“Two Italian Travelers on Karpathos in 1923 and c 1423, and an archaeological explanation for Sorzadori,”
D.J. Ian Begg, Trent University
“’To tell you something very special’: Cyriaco of Ancona in Greece,”
Diana Gilliland Wright, Independent Scholar
“Athens through Ottoman Eyes.”
Pierre A. MacKay, University of Washington
Here are two cool conferences to fire the imagination.
First, the Gennadius library will host a conference entitled “Philhellenism, Philanthropy, or Political Convenience? American Archaeology in Greece” next week. The Gennadius web site provides information on the scope, the speakers, and the abstracts. As one might expect the American School Director, Jack Davis, and the School’s Archivist, Natalia Bogeikoff-Brogan, have assembled an impressive group to talk about the deeply intertwined phenomena of philanthropy, philhellenism, and archaeology. I suspect that the ongoing events in Greece will provide this conference with an even more urgent backdrop. (Also check out the one-day conference on Mistra two days later!)
Next fall, the University of Texas will host a conference called “Corinth in Contrast“. This is the third in a series of conferences focusing on the history and archaeological of Ancient Corinth. The first has appeared a book, called Urban Religion in Roman Corinth, and I suspect that the second conference is a forthcoming publication. I am among those invited to give a paper which I have tentatively entitled, “The Ambivalent Landscape of Christian Corinth: the Archaeology of Place, Theology, and Politics in a Late Antique City”. As the conference is centered around:
“the polarities that we often use to characterize forms of inequality—urban/rural, male/female, Greek/Roman, rich/poor, pagan/Christian, Jew/Gentile, monotheist/polytheist, slave/free, high/low status, etc. Participants are also encouraged to move beyond these polarities by 1) bringing forward new data; 2) reexamining existing data; 3) showing connections between different forms of inequality; and/or 4) applying new methods or theories. The focus on Corinth should allow us to produce more nuanced appraisals and more complicated categories of analysis. “
Since ambivalence is a viable opposite of polarity, I think I should be able to speak to the major themes of the conference.
It’s also exciting to see that there will be a PKAP contingent including David Pettegrew and Sarah Lepinski as well as Sarah James who is one of the conference’s organizers and an honorary PKAP member by marriage. The Corinth-Koutsopetria Axis is a intellectual alliance to be reckoned with!
I’ve just finished reading through John Bintliff and Hanna Stöger’s, Medieval and Post-Medieval Greece: The Corfu Papers (2009). It’s an edited volume produced from a conference in Corfu in 1998. The papers, however, have largely been updated and represent a nice cross-section of the kind of work being done in Medieval and Post-Medieval Greece. The papers focus on ceramic studies, the results of intensive pedestrian survey, studies on settlement patterns, new directions in the study of domestic and monumental architecture, and, finally, discussions of issues of cultural research management in Greece. I found W. Bowden’s short analysis of the Christian archaeology in Greece with an emphasis on church in Mastron, Aetolia, which scholars have traditionally dated to the 7th-8th centuries. Bowden suggests that simple stylistic dating based either on decoration or architecture can be misleading especially considering the prevalence of re-use and conscious anachronism in the Middle and Late Byzantine period in the region. Also worthy of note is Platon Petrides short review of Late Antique Delphi, which doesn’t say anything new here, but is still a nice overview of post-ancient period at the site. T.Gregory, F. Lang, J. Vroom offer some useful commentary on the use of intensive survey and the study of ceramics in the study of Medieval and Post-Medieval Greece; Gregory’s article, which has been substantially up-dated, has a nice critiquing the impact of “second-wave” intensive survey projects on our understanding of Medieval and Post-Medieval Greece. The final three papers (M. Mouliou, K. Sbonias, and L. Tzortzopoulou-Gregory) deal with issues of cultural resource management in Greece. L. Tzortzopoulou-Gregory’s paper provides more useful evidence for the difficult position that foreign (or even just non-local) archaeologists find themselves in when they are placed between the national archaeological bureaucracy, local communities, and non-local/non-national research interests.
I received my copy of this volume the same week that I was invited (along with many others) to a “conversation” at Dumbarton Oaks on Byzantine Archaeology in North America. While I will not be able to attend, I was invited by the director of Dumbarton Oaks (as I am sure were many of my colleagues) to send along any thoughts I might have about this particular topic. I was struck by how rarely Dumbarton Oaks publications appeared in the bibliographies of the various articles in this volume. The main reason for this absence is because few of the papers showed much concern for the kinds of art historical approaches long favored by Dumbarton Oaks (for this critique see Kostis Kourelis open letter). The approaches favored by Dumbarton Oaks have tended to particularly ill-suited to research in the Greek countryside where textual evidence is relatively scarce, monumental architecture is often in poor condition, representing stylistically “crude” or provincial work, or even “late” by Dumbarton Oaks standards (although DO has contributed significantly to preservation of neglected buildings, the definition of provincial style, and late and post-Byzantine art), and the field techniques and methods require some specialized training to evaluate and critique. Ironically, Dumbarton Oaks’ interest in economic history, the history of everyday life (particularly as manifest in realia in saints lives and other Byzantine documents), and the character of “the provincial” in terms of style and influence on the traditional centers of Byzantine society (Constantinople, Thessaloniki, et c.).
The Bintliff and Stöger volume (along with another recent volume focusing on the same period and region) have shown that the tools exist to develop more nuanced interpretations of the Byzantine countryside. And that these analyses have much to offer traditional textual approaches to the history of Byzantium. In fact, one fault I might offer among the articles in the Bintliff volume is the relative lack of attention to questions that extend beyond the national or local boundaries of Medieval (or even post-Medieval) Greece. The transnational approaches fostered by institutions like Dumbarton Oaks could work to counteract a tendency toward studies that emphasize the modern region or nation at the expense of more revealing Medieval concepts of political, economic, and cultural organization. Moreover the relative absence of sustained discussion of texts, urban centers, or elite art in the Bintliff volume is not necessarily a strength. The very areas neglected (to some extent, but not ignored) in the Bintliff and Stöger volume are areas where Dumbarton Oaks could and perhaps even should show the way by showing the value of traditional methods and approaches to contemporary archaeological research.
It seems clear to me that the archaeology of the Medieval and Post-Medieval Mediterranean is at a watershed moment. As Kourelis noted, a generation of pioneers in the field of Byzantine archaeology are approach retirement age. Part of their legacy is there a strong group of ambitious and dedicated young scholars. This informally-defined group seeks not only to push the methods advanced by folks like Tim Gregory, John Bintliff, Jack Davis, and others, in their individual scholarship but to find ways to push institutions like the American School in Athens and Dumbarton Oaks to bring these methods into fold of traditional research on these periods and places. This should not involve rejecting the important traditions of scholarship at these institutions — after all, hardly a week goes by when I don’t consult a publication produced at Dumbarton Oaks and I value the amazing support that I have received from the American School in Athens — but showing how recent developments in, say, survey archaeology, applied post-modern or post-processural theory, or even kinds of reflective, historical criticism of past and present institutional practices, can enrich the disciplines to which we are all committed.
Today and this week are going to be huge, and I mean that in the most generic, non-specific way possible.
1. The University of North Dakota’s Graduate School Scholarly Forum is today and tomorrow. At noon today Richard Kahn (who has blogged for us at Teaching Thursday!) will present in the Dean’s Lecture Series a talk entitled “Education as the Avatar of Sustainability“. He teaches in our department of Educational Foundations and Research and has just released a book called Critical Pedagogy, Ecoliteracy, and Planetary Crisis: The Ecopedagogy Movement (Peter Lang, 2010).
Here are some more interesting sessions and papers:
Session 12: Department of History
Memorial Room, Tuesday 9 March, 2:20pm
“Words of Death: A Theology of Death in the Alexandrian Sayings of the Desert Fathers,” Paul A. Ferderer (Faculty Sponsor, Dr. William Caraher) Department of History
“Women’s Associations and Employment: Succor and Impediment of Married Women, 1920-1933,” Thomas Harlow (Faculty Sponsor, Dr. Kimberley Porter) Department of History
“Independence in Cape Palmas: The Contentious Path For Autonomy in Maryland in Liberia,” Matthew Helm (Faculty Sponsor, Dr. Eric Burin) Department of History
“What Are You Afraid Of? How Governments Have Reacted to Real (or unreal) Threats,” Mark Herrmann (Faculty Sponsor, Dr. Kimberley Porter) Department of History
Session 21: Social Sciences Writing Panel Memorial Room, Wednesday 10 March, 1:00pm
Scholarly Writing Planning and Finding Success in Writing for Publications, Dr. J. Sagini Keengwe, Dr. Travis Heggie and Dr. Cynthia Prescott.
and at the same time:
Session 20: Tutorial Badlands Room, Wednesday 10 March, 1:00pm
Python and Scientific Computing in Open-Source, Gökhan Sever, Department of Atmospheric Sciences
Python has become the programing language of choice across the Digital Humanities. Check out William J. Turkel, Adam Crymble and Alan MacEachern, The Programing Historian for more on Python.
2. Be sure to check out a fantastic guest blogger over at Teaching Thursday. Deena Larsen, on the premier English Language E-Lit writers, has offered the second in a series of posts on using Electronic Literature in the classroom called Teaching the Writers Conference. As the title suggests, these posts appear in conjunction with the 41st Annual University of North Dakota’s Writers Conference, which this year will focus on digital and new media.
3. If you still haven’t had enough excitement you should be sure to check out Dan Reetz talk on Thursday in the Arts and Sciences Interdisciplinary Speaker Series:
Reetz hit it big last year when his DIY book scanner went viral in the blogosphere. He was featured in a substantial article in the December 2009 Wired Magazine. He’s a new kind of hometown, digital folk hero. Be sure to check out his talk.
Have a great weekend!