American Classicisms

American Classicisms

This working group investigates the role played by the classical traditions of Greece and Rome in American institutions, intellectual life, and popular culture. It focuses primarily on instances of classical reception in the United States, but welcomes projects and perspectives that supersede or challenge national frameworks.

In earlier iterations of the working group, we asked how Americans in the 18th and 19th centuries accessed, constructed, mobilized, and appropriated knowledge about these pre-modern societies — often times to the exclusion of others. For the 2020–2021 academic year, we are expanding the scope of this question to include the 20th and 21st centuries. We hope that a wider temporal aperture will give us more agility in responding to the crises of the contemporary moment and in reckoning with the histories of racism and oppression that have accompanied the uses of classical antiquity in the American context.

Drawing on resources and histories local to Yale University and its New England setting, the working group is committed to bringing evidence from an array of media — texts, paintings, sculpture, photographs — under the scrutiny of scholars with diverse expertise. Our aim is to build an interdisciplinary community that can tackle methodologically demanding projects under headings such as Reception Studies, Intellectual History, or the Sociology of Knowledge.

The working group meets once monthly to discuss a schedule of shared readings. We are currently soliciting recommendations for the 2020–2021 program and welcome participants especially from the fields of African-American Studies, American Studies, Art History, Classics, Comparative Literature, English, History, Religious Studies, and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. Prior knowledge of ancient languages and Greco-Roman materials, while helpful, is not necessary.

Sponsorship for American Classicisms for the 2020-2021 academic year is provided by the Whitney Humanities Center.

Meeting Dates and Topics (Fall 2020)

Thursday, October 15 at 5 PM: William Sanders Scarborough

Thursday, October 29 at 5 PM: H.D.

Friday, December 4 at 4 PM: Theresa Hak Kyung Cha, Ocean Vuong, and Younghill Kang

Zoom links and readings provided over list or by request (