From the Beginning
In 1841, when the Ann Arbor campus opened its doors, its faculty included only two professors, one in Mathematics and one in Greek and Latin Languages. This disposition reflected then-prevailing views about the nature of higher education. The earliest freshman curriculum, for instance, included courses in Greek and Latin literature, Greek and Roman antiquities, rhetoric, and grammar. By 1852, the study of Greek and Latin culture had grown sufficiently to permit their separation into two departments. This separation persisted until Greek and Latin were once more merged after the Second World War.
During the last decades of the nineteenth century, as Michigan developed into a national research university, the two departments continued to exercise heavy influence on undergraduate education. Two of the Latin Department's faculty members (Erastus Haven and Henry Simmons Frieze) served as Presidents of Michigan, while another (Charles Kendall Adams) went on to become President of Cornell and then of Wisconsin.
Of far more lasting impact on our Department, however, was Francis Kelsey, who served as Professor of Latin for nearly four decades from 1889 until his death in 1927. Kelsey's tireless acquisition of antiquities provided the core of the University's extraordinary papyrological and archaeological holdings. But Kelsey also built a faculty around his wide-ranging interests, and that faculty successfully replicated itself in succeeding generations. The Departments of Greek and Latin thus became established and renowned as research centers particularly in so-called "ancillary" disciplines (such as papyrology, numismatics, Roman law, and archaeology) as well as in more traditional areas of classical literature and philology.
Long before the merger, therefore, Michigan was already distinctive for its commitment to Classical Studies understood as an entirety, rather than to, for instance, classical languages and culture. The Department took all of Greco-Roman antiquity as its proper subject matter. Only ancient history was established outside the Department, with the appointment of Arthur Boak in History (1914); still, many of our faculty members continued to pursue historical subjects.
But storm clouds were already gathering. During the first half of the twentieth century the College gradually reduced, and finally abolished, its entrance and degree requirements in classical languages. The crisis that resulted would eventually lead to the emergence of the Department in its modern form.
In the College Catalogue for 1852-1853, there appears a remarkable statement about the mission of the Department of Latin:
The primary object of this department is to give the student a critical knowledge of the structure of the ancient languages themselves, of the principles of interpretation, and of those rhetorical principles which will enable a person to express himself in idiomatic and perspicuous English. In the department, therefore, nearly as much attention is paid to the study of English as to the study of Greek and Latin. But another and not less important object which is aimed at, especially in the later studies in this course, is the full comprehension of all that relates to the author read. It is not merely the words and the outward expression of thought to which attention is directed, but the thought itself; and in connection with this analysis of the subject matter of each author, the age and other circumstances in which he wrote are carefully considered. This leads to a general study of antiquity, the laws, government, social relations, religion, philosophy, arts, manufactures, commerce, education: in short, everything which belonged to Grecian and Roman life.
In general, this statement of policy has remained valid until the present day.
The modern history of the Department begins in 1957, when Gerald Else was recruited (from Iowa) to serve as its Chair. Else faced the difficult task of modernizing the Department. Under his leadership, the Department reconstituted its graduate offerings in a more up-to-date and appealing form, and it also took the first steps toward creating, with History of Art, the Interdepartmental Program in Classical Art and Archaeology (IPCAA). Else was likewise a vigorous spokesman for newer interdisciplinary approaches to classical literature.
By the early 1970s, however, the Department faced a far larger crisis: the impending retirement, within the space of about five years, of many of its most renowned scholars, who together comprised half the Department. The faculty thus confronted the possibility, or even the prospect, of a drastic reduction in its size unless it could successfully remake itself by generating new sources of students. The Department took this threat very seriously. Especially under the leadership of John H. D'Arms (who became Chair in 1972), it undertook a series of initiatives that substantially transformed it, and successive Chairs (including Ludwig Koenen and Sharon Herbert) have sustained and extended these initiatives. In effect, the teaching mission of the Department now began to assume its present form.
The key element of this change was the creation of a battery of courses in translation, and the appointment of new faculty qualified and eager to teach such courses in addition to their more traditional scholarly duties. The new courses were in two areas. First, the Department considerably expanded its offering in Classical Archaeology, especially its introductory and advanced courses for undergraduates. Classical Archaeology now accounts for over twenty percent of the Department's enrollments.
Second, the Department established an array of new undergraduate translation courses in Classical Civilization. Most faculty members in literature were expected to mount at least one such course each year, so that the effort would be spread as broadly as possible. Introductory courses, organized initially by Don Cameron, anchored the new curriculum and soon proved immensely popular with freshmen; and other faculty subsequently developed large upper-level courses in such areas as mythology and daily life, as well as smaller and more esoteric offerings in subjects like Roman law, film, and witchcraft. Classical civilization now furnishes about half of the Department's enrollments.
To the extent possible, we tried to prevent these new courses from doing harm to our more traditional curriculum in Greek and Latin. Elementary Latin, in particular, has continued as the mainstay of our language base, especially for students seeking to meet the College's language requirement. Our enrollments in intermediate and advanced Latin, and in Greek at all levels, have continued strong. Since the Department regards undergraduate language instruction as crucial to its educational goals, we have struggled to maintain as much as possible of these programs, and even to improve them through the creation of special courses for concentrators (of whom we now have about 100).
In recent years the Department has also realized two long-term goals. First, we have opened a new language front: Modern Greek courses, still confined to elementary teaching but with robust numbers. Second, we have joined with the Department of History in creating a new program in Greek and Roman History.
On the graduate level, our initiatives have had a more limited effect on the basic curriculum, since we continue to cherish rigorous principles of graduate education. The original "Else curriculum" has been considerably modified over the years, but its essential lines remain, particularly in our "600-level" courses in ancillary disciplines such as papyrology. Our insistence on this general objective is perhaps most clearly shown through our recruitment of top-notch younger scholars in classical literature and in philosophy. Nonetheless, our graduate students are now mainly supported through teaching assistantships in elementary Latin and in Classical Civilization, since teaching in these areas is now all but required for their future employment.
Our initiatives since the early 1970s have succeeded in preserving our Department's size and academic strength throughout the financial turbulence of the past three decades. We have entered the new millennium with considerable optimism that Classical Studies will not only survive at the University of Michigan, but will remain central to its goals of liberal education.
Faculty Interviews / Memoirs
John G. Pedley Memoir
Emeritus Professor of Classical Archaeology and Greek; Director Emeritus, Kelsey Museum of Archaeology
Department of Classical Studies, LS&A
Dr John Pedley received his BA in Classics, with specialization in Ancient History, at Cambridge University in 1953 and the MA in 1959. Entering the graduate program in Classical Archaeology at Harvard University in 1960, he spent a year at the American School of Classical Studies in Athens (1963-1964), and received his doctorate in 1965.
Joining the Michigan faculty as Assistant Professor in 1965, he was promoted Associate in 1968 and Professor in 1974. He served as Acting Chair of the Department of Classical Studies for two years in the 1970s and as Director of the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology from 1973-1986. In 1978 he received a Senior Faculty Distinguished Achievement Award. In 1996-97 he was appointed Distinguished Senior Lecturer and received the Warner G. Rice Humanities Award. He has served as Visiting Scholar at Cambridge University, as Resident in Archaeology at the American Academy in Rome and as Guest Scholar at the J. Paul Getty Museum.
His teaching and research have focused on the ancient Greek world with particular reference to art and archaeology, and notably to sanctuaries and cities, architecture, sculpture and painting. His research has included field work in England at Verulamium and Corstopitum, in Greece at Pylos and in Turkey at Sardis. He co-directed the Michigan excavations at Apollonia in Libya , served as co-principal investigator of the Harvard-Michigan fieldwork at Carthage and directed excavations on behalf of the Corpus of the Ancient Mosaics of Tunisia at El Djem. He was field director of the Michigan-Perugia excavations at Paestum in Italy in the 1980s. He has published 12 books and over 80 articles and reviews.
In the course of his career he has received fellowships from the American Council of Learned Societies, the American research Institute in Turkey, Harvard University, the American Philosophical Society and the National Endowment for the Humanities, and numerous awards from the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities for improvements to the collections and programs of the Kelsey Museum, and for the excavations at Paestum.
A Life Member of the Archaeological Institute of America, he has served on numerous committees including the Executive, the Lecture Program and the Monographs Committees, and chaired the Nominating and the Fellowship Committees. He has served on the Overseers’ Committee to Visit the Department of Classics at Harvard College, as Assessor of Archaeological Projects for the Canada Council, and on UNESCO’s Comite Consultatif on the Sauvegarde de Carthage. He has chaired the Rome Prize Classical Studies Jury for the American Academy in Rome and served on the Comitato Scientifico of Ostraka and of theCentro Studi Phistelia, Parco Nazionale del Cilento e Vallo di Diano.
Classical Archaeology at Michigan: Fieldwork and the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology
On arrival in Michigan in 1965 I found that course offerings in classical archaeology were thin with no undergraduate major and no graduate program. Fieldwork had however begun that summer under the aegis of the Kelsey Museum at Apollonia in Libya, spurred by work started by Oleg Grabar of the History of Art department at an Islamic site in Syria. With Apollonia in view I thought it time for a renewal of the vigorous engagement with classical archaeology that had been characteristic of Michigan in Francis Kelsey’s time.
At Apollonia the Michigan project was led by Clark Hopkins, Professor of Classical Art and Archaeology, assisted by Richard Goodchild, the Controller of Antiquities of Cyrenaica. Following Hopkins’ retirement in 1965 the work was co-directed by Donald White (Department of History of Art) and by me, again assisted by Goodchild. The research resulted in a detailed discussion of the city’s fortification walls, the recovery of the plan and elevation of an extramural temple, and the identification of a building inside the city as a Byzantine bath complex. These results, together with the work of earlier scholars on the theater, the churches, and the palace of thedux were published as Apollonia, Port of Cyrene, Excavations by the University of Michigan, 1965-1967, Supplement to Libya Antiqua, vol. IV (1976). The sculptures from the site followed: A Catalog of Sculpture from Apollonia, Supplement to Libya Antiqua vol.VI (1978). All publication costs were met by the Libyan Department of Antiquities. The publication of the site underscored the cordial relationship developed between Michigan and Libya, and marked the reappearance of Michigan classical archaeologists in North Africa after an absence of some 30 years.
The Kelsey Museum of Archaeology
The university’s collections of classical antiquities, begun by Henry Frieze (1817-1889) and expanded enormously by Francis Kelsey (1858-1927), were kept at the time of Kelsey’s death in various corners of the campus. After his death the university began to gather these together into Newberry Hall, a magnificent old building (built 1888-1891) designed for the Student Christian Association. As the building’s use for religiously based activities diminished, at some time in the 1920s it was leased to the University, and subsequently (1936) donated outright. Renamed the Museum of Archaeology it opened its doors in 1929. It was not until 1953 that the Regents endorsed the renaming of the building again to bear Kelsey’s name.
From 1929 onward little consistent thought seems to have been given to the best academic use of the collections, and in the later 1960s questions began to be asked in the Executive Committee of the College of LSA about its usefulness. These rumblings came to a head in the fall of 1971 when the actual closing of the museum was under consideration. As acting chair of the Department of Classical Studies I thought it my duty to intervene.
I enlisted the aid of sympathetic Michigan faculty, Ann Arbor citizens (of whom Senator and Mrs. Gilbert Bursley were the leaders), senior scholars from other universities and others who had benefited from the collections. I thought a letter writing campaign might help. There were two major categories of beneficiaries: school groups, and knowledgeable American and foreign scholars. Letters were sent out explaining the situation and asking for support. The reaction was rapid. Many schools encouraged students who had visited the museum to write. In no time the Dean’s Office was swamped with postcards, letters, and notes. Senior colleagues also reacted quickly, writing persuasively from prestigious American universities and from Europe.
Within a month I was asked to serve on a four person committee set up to make recommendations about the museum’s future. This committee divided equally between two solutions: the first, to take the Museum out of the College and attach it to the Museum of Art, thereby giving it direct access to funding from the Office of the President; the second, to keep the Museum in the College, strengthening it but leaving it to compete for funds with teaching departments. I was one of the two who on financial grounds favored removing the museum from the College and attaching it to the Museum of Art. The Executive Committee of the College decided otherwise.
After a while Dean Frank Rhodes asked me to be the next director. My wife and I spent a whole weekend going over the building: it was a discouraging business. The exterior is impressive, but the interior, ill-suited to a museum’s needs, was hopelessly out of date with areas of the basement and upper floors disorganized and cluttered with odds and ends. A series of meetings with the Dean ensued in which I described the situation and made a number of requests. Although he would only commit to a few of them, I was impressed by his sympathetic attitude and agreed to give it a try.
I took up the directorship in July 1973. The staff was very small. It consisted of the director, an elderly curator, an equally elderly preparator, a part time registrar, a part time conservator, and a part time librarian. There was no organizational chart, no regularly scheduled Executive Committee meetings, no secretary, and no programmatic framework to make sense of the collections. There was not enough space for the proper storage of the collections or for their effective use. Functioning with just two objectives, a program of exhibits geared to schoolchildren and an intermittent fieldwork program, the place was somnolent, understaffed and underused.
I thought effective administration of the Museum required an effective Executive Committee, so I set about persuading colleagues from related Departments to serve. My first approach was to Jimmy Griffin, Director of the Museum of Anthropology. Griffin was not known for sympathy to the Humanities, still less for admiration for the Kelsey Museum, but he was an eloquent champion of museums. He agreed to serve and was a big help. The chair of Classical Studies, John D’Arms and the chair of History of Art, Clif Olds, and senior members of History and Near Eastern Studies, Chester Starr and Alan Luther, also agreed to participate. We met monthly. Every initiative I proposed was discussed by this committee and no action was taken without its support.
Our first task was to outline responsibilities and goals, and then programs. There was agreement that preservation of the collections was our prime responsibility - a conservation program was therefore a priority. A fieldwork program and in-house research on understudied materials were necessities. Another objective was publication of the collections – monographs, catalogs, articles, gallery guides and exhibitions. Other programs considered necessary included renovation; acquisitions; and outreach. Finally, underscoring the museum’s role in the College, we wanted to encourage the use of the collections by client Departments.
Dean Frank Rhodes had agreed that the Museum could appoint a secretary and a replacement preparator. He had also agreed to consider the recruitment of an archaeological conservator and the installation of a laboratory. I’d also stressed to him the importance of hiring an archaeologist to cover the courses I was surrendering to take the directorship. The College authorized such an appointment, and Sharon Herbert, a Stanford graduate with fieldwork experience, joined the Department of Classical Studies in the fall of 1973. Fifty percent of her teaching load was to be courses in classical archaeology. In making the case for a conservator I enlisted the help of the Keeper of the Laboratory of the British Museum. After a visit to the Kelsey he wrote to Dean Rhodes unequivocally advocating the installation of a conservation lab and the appointment of a trained conservator. The Dean agreed.
The Dean’s commitments were duly met. In the course of my first year as Director, Pat Berry became the museum secretary, David Slee was hired as the new preparator, and in 1975 Amy Rosenberg, a conservator trained at the London Institute of Archaeology, joined the staff. A conservation laboratory was installed on the second floor of the building and work began. In 1978 we were able to appoint a Registrar, Pam Reister, who took in hand the large back log of work.
To meet the needs of programs of exhibitions, publication and fieldwork, more curators were needed. With the help of the chairs of Classical Studies and History of Art two new appointments were secured, each to be shared with a department, thus tying the museum more closely to the university’s intellectual life. Both appointments were to be Romanists, since the underlying plan, building on the strengths of the Museum’s collections and the presence on campus of distinguished Roman historians, was to secure for Michigan a leading position in Roman studies. With new curators in place the museum could publish the collections (exhibitions, catalogs, monographs), and begin the excavation of a Roman site. Two excellent appointments were made: Elaine Gazda, who was teaching at the University of Southern California, agreed to serve as senior curator of the collections overseeing the new exhibitions program, and John Humphrey, fresh from a Bryn Mawr doctorate, agreed to edit the first volume of Apollonia and plan and execute a new fieldwork project. Furthermore, on the retirement in 1978 of curator Louise Shier we were authorized to make another curatorial appointment. Another young scholar, Margaret Root, joined the faculty, a joint appointment between the Kelsey and History of Art, to help with the exhibitions program and to curate and publish the near eastern collections. A specialist in Achaemenid art and archaeology, and another Bryn Mawr graduate, at the time of her Michigan appointment Root was teaching at the University of Chicago.
In this way a scaffolding of programs came into place, conservation, exhibitions and fieldwork being the cornerstones. Others followed: a publication program, a lecture program, a renovation program, a program of acquisitions, and an outreach program including a volunteers group, the Associates. I myself took responsibility for the renovations, the acquisitions, the lectures and some of the publications.
Graduate Program in Classical Art and Archaeology
The Interdepartmental Graduate Program in Classical Art & Archaeology, begun in 1969 and headquartered in the Museum, and chaired by me, was faltering. It needed new staff and fresh thinking. The departures of Oleg Grabar to Harvard and of Donald White to Penn had been serious blows but the new curatorial faculty appointments (50% Museum, 50% Department and therefore with teaching responsibilities) restored the program’s equilibrium. New courses, seminars and research projects, many involving the Museum’s collections, were introduced. By these means and by subsequent expansion of faculty, staff and facilities Michigan has been able over the years to attract more and better trained undergraduates to a graduate program recognized as one of the best in the nation.
Since the antiquated state of the galleries required immediate attention, I applied to the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities for help. Both were sympathetic, and between 1974 and 1977 provided six substantial grants enabling us to hire Vincent Ciulla, a New York art gallery consultant, to design and execute a program of new installations with fresh designs, colors, cases, and lighting. This initial program of renovation however only affected the ground floor galleries and the conservation space. What had been achieved was only a short term solution.
The answer to the problems of space for display galleries, suitable storage areas, enlarged laboratory space, administrative and curatorial offices, student research space and the overall updating of the museum lay in the construction of a new wing on the car park behind the Museum. In early 1977 I began casting about to see how this could be done. Fundraising was in its infancy in the University, and the College had only a single fundraiser. In consultation with Wilbur K. Pierpont, Vice President for Financial Affairs, about whether it would be proper for the museum to seek donors by itself, Pierpont told me in no uncertain terms that he couldn’t imagine the university turning down a gift sufficient to meet the costs of a new wing. Together the Associates group and I began contacting several people we thought might be sympathetic; it took a while but eventually (l982) we found a person who said she would provide the few millions needed at that time to build a New Wing. But at this point the Dean, Peter Steiner, stepped in. He wanted the money for another project. So without informing the museum he approached the donor himself. When she refused him saying she wanted the money to be used for the museum, he turned to President Shapiro. The donor could hardly refuse the President. Accordingly, the funds were diverted and the much needed New Wing had to wait a further 30 years to be built, at a far larger cost. In the 1990s, however, there were some improvements: further modifications in the building including partial climate control did take place. The New Wing constructed in 2009 has transformed the building at long last into a fully effective university museum.
This unfortunate experience with fundraising brought into sharp focus for me the fact that small non-teaching units have little say in the College. Large departments generating many student credit hours are much more likely to have members of their departments on the Executive Committee. This inevitably works against the smaller units which have to rely for support on the impartiality of the Dean of the moment and the occasional sympathetic voice on the Committee. Different deans viewed the Kelsey Museum in different ways. Frank Rhodes understood the museum’s problems and was consistently supportive, as was his successor, Billy Frye. Frye was exceptional for the breadth of his vision and his appreciation of all the units and departments in the College, large and small. On a visit to the Kelsey his remark “how can I learn more about the collections?” was both telling of his attitude and much appreciated by the staff.
In addition to housing the classical collections, the Museum had been used by the University as a depository for materials for which there was no obvious home. Following the formulation of what fell within its purview, and what didn’t, the Executive Committee of the Museum decided to remove materials not germane to the classical Mediterranean world. These included furniture of oriental origin which was transferred to the Exhibits Museum, and the residue of a collection of firearms the larger part of which had been sold earlier. The firearms were offered to the Museum of Art and the Exhibits Museum, which were not interested in them, and then to the Clements Library which took a few items. The rest were sold at auction in 1984 and the proceeds added to the Acquisitions Fund. This fund had already been enriched by contributions from the Museum’s Associates group and used to acquire objects to fill gaps in the collections.
There was a fundamental imbalance in the collections which - with only a few objects of artistic merit - consisted largely of artefactual materials. There was no example of larger scale Greek or Roman sculpture or Greek painted vases, in sharp contrast to the collections of other Big Ten universities, notably Indiana. It seemed logical to me that the Museum of Art should have shouldered responsibility for Greek and Roman art, but it had not, arguing that the Kelsey Museum was the place for all ancient western materials. In this situation, we decided to acquire a few larger objects of ancient art, and try to persuade the Museum of Art to help. In this I found a sympathetic colleague in the then director of the Museum of Art, Bret Waller, and the two museums shared some notable acquisitions. Over the years the collections increased in scope and character by the purchase of a few pieces of sculpture and vase painting, notable both for their suitability for teaching and for their artistic merit, so that by the end of my tenure as Director the imbalance between artefactual and art objects in the Museum had been somewhat redressed and the University could at last boast one or two substantial examples of Greek and Roman art.
As I set my sights on re-energizing the museum’s fieldwork program, two possibilities were in view, one in Israel, the other in Tunisia.
Israel: Tel Anafa
In 1972-73 Sharon Herbert had worked with Saul Weinberg of the University of Missouri at Tel Anafa, a small Hellenistic and early Roman settlement in Israel, which Weinberg had opened in 1968. When Weinberg was approaching retirement and looking for a successor, he approached Herbert. I suggested to them both and to the director of the Museum of Art and Archaeology at Missouri, Osmund Overby, that a joint Missouri-Michigan continuation of Weinberg’s work under Herbert’s leadership might suit everybody. It did. Consequently, the Kelsey Museum joined with the Museum at Missouri to continue the work, initially with Herbert and Weinberg as co-Directors, subsequently with Herbert as sole director. Five seasons of work at the site, between 1978 and 1986 ensued.
In early 1972 the director of the Corpus of Ancient Mosaics of Tunisia, Professor Margaret Alexander of the University of Iowa, asked if I would direct the fieldwork that summer and the summer of 1973 at Thysdrus. Bearing in mind that Michigan had excavated in Tunisia at Carthage long ago (1925), I was interested to renew the connection. The purpose of the project, begun in 1967, was to research and catalogue all Tunisian mosaics of the Roman period. Work had recently been completed at Utica, and Thysdrus was next on the agenda. This was an ideal opportunity for Michigan faculty and students to gain experience of archaeological work in Tunisia, and of Tunisian archaeological sites, practices and personnel.
Our work involved the lifting of mosaics from a suite of houses, the study of the foundation laid for the mosaics and the sifting of the earth beneath for evidence (sherds, coins etc.) bearing on the date of the pavements. The archaeological evidence together with stylistic analysis would establish a chronology and typology, enabling the Thysdrus mosaics to take their place in the whole Corpus. The result of our investigations placed the installation of the mosaics between ca.180 and 250 AD. The project not only allowed team members to experience archaeological fieldwork and daily life in an Arab country, but also to broaden their intellectual horizons by visiting other cultural sites, e.g. Kairouan where the Grand Mosque, built in the later 7th century AD is considered by many Moslems to be Islam’s 4th holiest. It also brought the University of Michigan to the attention of the Tunisian authorities at a time when the Tunisians wereattempting to organize an international project of work at Carthage.
Following the work at Thysdrus, I’d made enquiries about further fieldwork opportunities in Tunisia, to no avail. In the interim the Tunisian Institute of Art and Archaeology with the endorsement of UNESCO had organized an international project at Carthage, the Campagne Internationale de Sauvegarde de Carthage. Invitations to participate had been sent to various national institutions, among them the Archaeological Institute of America. The AIA passed the invitation to the American Academy in Rome. Potential participants were invited to a meeting in Tunis, at which possible sites for exploration were to be discussed and divvied up. At this meeting the American Academy was represented by Professor Frank Brown. The French were allocated the houses on the Byrsa, the hilltop overlooking the harbors, the Germans were given the forum, the British the harbors, other countries other sites. The Tunisians wanted the Americans to take on the Baths of Antoninus Pius, but Frank Brown, seeing little significant research there, displayed no interest, so no American team participated at the outset. Before long however teams from Britain, Poland, Germany, Denmark, Bulgaria, Italy, France, and Canada were in the field.
In the spring of 1974 I received a phone call from Professor G. Ernest Wright, Curator of the Semitic Museum at Harvard and President of the American Schools of Oriental Research. He had received a communication from the Tunisians inviting ASOR to join the Carthage project. His reaction had been to form a consortium to represent the United States, and Michigan was on his list. I said that I didn’t favor large consortia since difficulties often arose between members, but that the idea of a joint Michigan-Harvard project appealed to me. I reasoned that since Harvard’s Semitic Museum’s interests would best be met by a Punic site - and the sanctuary site, the Tophet, partially excavated by Michigan in 1925 would be a logical starting point – and Michigan’s by a Roman site, the research aims of the two would be quite different requiring two separate teams. In this way tensions could be minimized. Professor Wright and I agreed to proceed on that understanding, each museum gathering its own team and negotiating separate permits, all under the umbrella of ASOR. In the summer I met in Carthage with Larry Stager, field director of the Harvard team and John Humphrey, field director of the Michigan team, to identify sites and negotiate permits. The Harvard team decided on resumption of work at the Punic site explored by Michigan in 1925. For Michigan, John Humphrey and I settled on a large field at the foot of the Byrsa where Tunisian archeologists in 1969-71 had found a 5th century Christian basilica and a late Roman house with fragments of mosaic pavements depicting charioteers. After minor but necessary wrangling the Tunisians granted the permits.
The Michigan work began the following year in the field below the Byrsa, graduate students directing Tunisian workmen in the squares which mapped the site. Work was concentrated in two areas: the house with the charioteer mosaics, and an ecclesiastical complex close to the church investigated by the Tunisians. John Humphrey directed the excavation with the help of Michigan students and a group of outstanding specialists: John Hayes (pottery), Katherine Dunbabin (mosaics), Dick Ford (ethnobotany), and W. H. C. Frend (the early Christian church).
The stratigraphy in both areas was complicated. The compression of floor levels in the so-called House of the Greek Charioteers, with numerous robber trenches adding to the difficulties, called for sharp eyed and sensitive excavators. But an outline history of the house emerged, suggesting construction in the late 4thcentury to a typical North African peristyle house plan, little alteration throughout the 5th century with the exception of the replacement of mosaic panels, and a phase of reconstruction in the 6th. At the other site, the ecclesiastical complex, the building put up in the 5th century was re-floored on several occasions; towards the end of the 6th some of its functions changed. Part of the building was turned over to domestic use which continued throughout the 7th century punctuated by moments of disruption, wall robbing, and pitting. Roof collapse was followed by episodes of debris dumping and filling, evident in stratified rubbish dumps. It was an extremely difficult site with complex stratigraphic problems, but Humphrey and the Michigan people mastered it. Under Humphrey’s editorial leadership the results were published rapidly, Excavations at Carthage conducted by the University of Michigan I-VII (1976-1982), Michigan setting the pace for the other teams participating in the UNESCO project.
The work in Carthage created another link for the University. The day to day life of an archaeologist involves close communication with the workmen in the trenches. At Carthage our students used what knowledge of French they had. One Michigan student, however, a Jordanian, was fluent in Arabic. To the workmen, however, he was just another Michigan student. On the final day of the season one of the workmen’s remark to Ghazi “You speak excellent Arabic for an American” caused some hilarity. That Michigan Ph.D., Ghazi Bisheh, became Director-General of the Jordanian Department of Antiquities.
The leader of the French team, Serge Lancel, happened to be at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton in academic year 1978-1979, the year in which the museum celebrated its 50th anniversary. Two projects were planned: an exhibition (Carthage Then and Now) linking Professor Kelsey’s work at Carthage in 1925 with the museum’s new work, and a conference bringing together the American and Canadian participants in the UNESCO project. At the conference held in Ann Arbor representatives of the two Canadian (one anglophone, one francophone) and the two American teams were joined by Professor Lancel. The papers were published quickly in book form: J.G. Pedley (ed.) New Light on Ancient Carthage(University of Michigan Press, 1980).
In early 1980, as the publication phase of the Carthage work was winding down, I began searching for another project. It was important that the museum’s fieldwork program be visible and that graduate students should have opportunities before them on a Michigan project. Excavation at Tel Anafa was in progress but work there was only possible intermittently. So I turned to Mario Torelli, Professor of Greek and Roman Archaeology and Art History at the University of Perugia, to see if there might be possibilities in Italy. Torelli had lectured on campus in 1974 and been visiting Professor here in 1978. In the spring of 1981, Torelli sent a telegram asking whether Michigan might be interested in joining Perugia in the exploration of a sanctuary site at Paestum. It’s hard to imagine a more exciting prospect. Paestum offered opportunities for research at one of the most prominent sites in Italy, famous for its Greek temples and continuous inhabitation into Roman times.
I went to Italy as soon as I could. Mario and I drove to Benevento to meet the Superintendent of Antiquities, Werner Johannowsky, who agreed to give us a permit. The following morning we examined the site. Earlier exploration had discovered unusual architectural features with pottery and terracotta figurines of Greek, Hellenistic and Roman date. Since these materials suggested continuous use from the 6th c. BC to the 3rd AD we thought we could retrieve the origins of an important Roman cult. The pottery and figurines could shed light on religious activities as well as on patterns of cultural influence and exchange in and around Paestum and between Paestum and other sites where Greeks and Romans mingled with indigenous peoples. Work began in 1982 continuing both in the field and at the museum for two months and was renewed annually through 1985.
Four seasons of work bore much fruit. We successfully deciphered the stratigraphy of the site identifying levels from the archaic period through the classical and Hellenistic down into Roman republican and early imperial times. We reconstructed the architectural history of the parts of the sanctuary accessible to us, whose major features are an early 5th century BC temple extensively repaired in the Roman period, and a 5th century dining hall enlarged in early Roman times (3rd century) and further enhanced by a 1st century BC reworking of the interior to include several horseshoe shaped niches. Close by is apiscina, a large fish pool, a Roman addition to the sanctuary, perhaps the living place for sacred fish. The oldest buildings so far unearthed were not erected till the late archaic period, suggesting that the earliest (6th century) cult activity, attested by the wealth of terracotta figurines of that date, may have taken place in the open air. However, an early 20th century tomato paste (Cirio) factory sits on part of the sanctuary, so that architectural members and a sculpted stone metope found at the time of the factory’s construction (1908) may represent an earlier religious structure the location of which may not be determined until the modern factory is dismantled.
As to the history of the cult, the numerous fragments of terracotta figurines are almost exclusively of familiar types variously identified as Hera, Athena, Aphrodite or Artemis. A distinctive group presents images of a standing goddess, nude, which allows us to link the earliest activity at the site with Aphrodite. Such nude female images are rare at other Greek sites in Italy and Sicily but occur more frequently in the eastern Greek world where they are thought to represent Greek Aphrodite or Phoenician Astarte. Such an eastern link for our goddess is underscored by the existence of the piscina in the sanctuary and connection to the Dea Syria, popular in the east, in whose cult fish played an important role. The continuation of the cult of Aphrodite is demonstrated by our discovery of several inscriptions of the Roman period attesting the presence of Venus (Greek Aphrodite) in the sanctuary. And the survival of the name in the contemporary name of the site as thelocalita Santa Venera is obviously significant.
Beyond the dedications, other evidence of cultic activity is apparent in the dining hall where we found the debris of ritual meals. The niches in the dining hall introduced in the Roman phase are to be connected with other ritual activities, and it’s reasonable to conjecture that thepiscina similarly will have been the focus of religious practice. These results were published as preliminary reports in theAmerican Journal of Archaeology (1983, 1984, and 1985) and in two substantial volumes titled The Sanctuary of Santa Venera at Paestum (Rome, Giorgio Bretschneider, 1993, 2003).
Though I took up the Directorship of the Kelsey Museum hesitatingly, I left it in 1986 content to see the Museum active on many fronts and content to have taken on the responsibility for its welfare. Pari passu with that contentment is a satisfying sense of having had a hand in the inauguration and growth of programs, undergraduate and graduate, in classical archaeology the success of which echoes that of Francis Kelsey a century ago.
John Griffiths Pedley
Don Cameron Interview
Cameron Interview Transcription
Donka: It is December 17th, 1996, 3:00 in the afternoon on the second floor of Angell Hall and I am with Professor Don Cameron who has been kind to agree to talk to us about the history of the extremely successful Great Books program here at the University of Michigan of which he has been a director for many, many years. First I would like to ask you Professor Cameron to give us a brief intellectual autobiography of yourself as an introduction.
Cameron: Well I grew up in Michigan and went to the University of Michigan as an undergraduate thinking I was going to be a mathematician. And in the end of my sophomore year when it dawned on me that I would never be a world famous mathematician, I thought maybe I would have a crack at being a world famous classicist. So I switched to a major in Latin under the auspice of my beloved teacher Frank Copley. So I entered the classics program and took a degree in Classics, Latin actually because I only started Greek in my junior year. I graduated in 1956 and once again under the auspices of my beloved teachers, Frank Copley among them, Arthur Hansen and Warren Blake, I was admitted, by virtue of their letters of recommendation I should think, to the graduate program at Princeton after a ten week bicycle trip through Europe to broaden my horizons. I arrived at Princeton where I spent three years in their rather quick graduate program. In those days there was such a shortage of PhDs, even in classics, that the Woodrow Wilson foundation had instituted a financial program to stimulate young people to go into the humanities sort of to staff the universities of the country depleted after the war, so I went to Princeton with a Woodrow Wilson fellowship which paid everything in my first year. I might mention the startling fact that my graduate tuition in 1956 at Princeton was $600 a year. That should make people gasp. I had studied linguistics with Waldo Sweet as an undergraduate at Michigan and continued my study of linguistics at Princeton, became a specialist in Indo-European, which I now teach at the University of Michigan, still a graduate course in comparative grammar in Greek and Latin. I did a dissertation there on the Seven Against Thebes of Aeschylus under the direction of Robert Duff Murray and Samuel Atkins. In those happy days, one’s fate was somehow arranged by one’s elders. I came home for Christmas in 1958 in Michigan and had a phone call from Gerald Else the chairman of the classics department at Michigan asking me to come down and talk to him. I did and he offered me a job, right like that, which I accepted, right like that. So in the fall of ’59 I came to the University of Michigan as a pre-doctoral instructor with the magnificent salary of about $1,800 dollars a year I think. In those days, you got your job before you finished your PhD. I finished my PhD in those next three summers, that’s a pretty good clip. It adds up to one year of actual work because while I was teaching I didn’t get much done. I finished my PhD in 1962 and have been on the staff of the University of Michigan from 1959 to the present. Publishing on Aeschylus in my early days, I began to teach Great Books in I think ’62 it was…which was then the non-honors form of Great Books. It was just a class of 25 ordinary undergraduates fulfilling their humanities distribution requirement. In those days it was under the auspices of the Professor of Archaeology here Clark Hopkins. As the years rolled by I proceeded through the ranks to full professor eventually and teaching comparative grammar… all kinds. When I first came I taught every author of Greek and Latin you could think of. My first course I taught here was on Tacitus’ Annals and though I was a little bit wet behind the ears I seemed to carry that off alright. In 1965 I was asked to give a lecture in Honors Great Books on Virgil and as a result of that I began to lecture in Great Books…which was by that time under the auspices of the English department…for four years from ’65 –’69 giving one of the lecture sections while the TAs in those days were graduate students in English. Several students from that period, in ’65-’69, have reappeared on my shores this year as a matter of fact because their sons and daughters are now in Great Books 191 which I’m teaching again so they can come back to visit.
Donka: Would you be willing to mention some of their names or…?
Cameron: Well off the top of my head I can’t, I will have to look that up I’m afraid. So I became…I served as graduate chairman of the department from ‘77-’80 while Professor D’Arms, the chairman, was Director of the American Academy in Rome. In the course of this I developed an interest…I resurrected a boyhood interest in zoology and became an entomologist and finally was appointed adjunct curator at the Museum of Zoology. I specialize on spiders and scorpions and particularly that combination of zoologist and classicist allows me to be a real expert on the history of zoological nomenclature. People consult me from all over the world. I was thrilled one year to get a letter from the Secretary of the Russian Academy of Sciences who needed my advice on something. I began to teach Honors Great Books regularly in the fall of 1983. I have done that…it’s been my principle effort for many years to direct the whole Great Books program but particularly lecturing in the course required of all honors students Great Books 191 and 192 comprising of Greek, Roman, biblical, and Renaissance literature in translation to be Papa Bear to 16-20 teaching assistants every year. Any questions about that?
Donka: There are few people who know as much about the conception of the Great Books program in general than you do. What is the history of this program nationwide?
Cameron: The history will startle you. That is, it is a surprise…it was a surprise to me to learn that the founding father of Great Books programs in the United States was unusually General of the Army’s John J. Pershing. Under the following remarkable circumstances, Pershing commanded the American expeditionary force in the First World War of course and once the armistice was signed there were American troops serving as occupation troops in Europe. Pershing with having to deal with the problem of idle soldiers who didn’t really have to do much, conceived the idea of having a kind of Doughboy University. There were plenty of people in the army in Europe who had been college professors. So he got them together to organize a university. Among them…these guys decided in their wisdom that the place that this Doughboy University should be located would be smack dab in the middle of the Burgundy country at the city of Beaune, which is a great commercial marketplace for Burgundy wines. One particular young man from Columbia whose name was John Erskine put together a curriculum for the doughboys in which they read the books that everybody wanted to read. This is the origin of the Great Books curriculum. This university under Pershing didn’t last very long because the expeditionary force soon came home but John Erskine returned to Columbia and there instituted the Great Books program and that Columbia Great Books program is still in operation as John Erskine founded it. Among the pupils of Erskine at that time were people like Lionel Trilling and Mortimer Adler who has become a kind of patron saint of the Great Books ideas. Subsequently some very famous names, some rather disreputable ones I think of particularly this surprised me Whittaker Chambers the notorious accuser of Alger Hiss was one of Erskine’s pupils in the Columbia Great Books Program. Adler then sort of graduated to teaching in this Great Books program after having been a student and when the dean of the Yale Law School, Hutchens, was appointed as the young, new president of the University of Chicago, Mortimer Adler went down to New Haven to talk to Hutchens about this Great Books program. Hutchens was so excited about it that when he got to the University of Chicago, he instituted a Great Books program and indeed hired Mortimer Adler, sort of imposed him on a somewhat reluctant philosophy department at Chicago and he himself taught in it as did Adler for many, many years. In those days in Chicago it was a kind of a pressure cooker course in which they read a book a week and it didn’t matter whether the book was the Prometheus Bound, which is manageable, or the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire given which to do it in a week would fail any scholar. So that Chicago phase turned into a sort of industry. It was supported by the Continental Can company and there was a sort of spinoff in which Adler did sort of seminars for industrialists and businessmen in the Chicago area to enlighten them and this brought in some money. Then Adler published this sort of Great Books list and it became a publishing enterprise. The University of Michigan on the other hand…at the University of Michigan the history of Great Books is a little later. It dates from 1947. When the Second World War was over, the history of Great Books seems to be tied to wars-the First War, the Second War…when professors came back from the Armed Forces in 1946 to resume their professorships and the university had to meet the challenge of accommodating the needs of returning veterans who under the G.I. Bill of Rights were coming to colleges in droves and my dear teacher Frank Copley was then I think just an assistant professor was in charge of admissions of veterans. There were all kinds of accommodations, how do you calculate credits for somebody who has fought for four years in Europe or the Pacific and wants to finish a BA degree? Well Frank Copley was in charge of that. The other thing that changed was this was an opportunity for the University of Michigan to modernize its curriculum. The history of curriculum change is an interesting one and Howard Peckum’s history of the University of Michigan revised now by the Stenecks will give you the sort of history of how curriculum changed at the University of Michigan. In the 1840s every undergraduate in the literary department as it was called had to take the same courses. There was nothing so much…there were no electives at all. This changed under President Angell…I don’t need to go through the phases of change except that in 1947 the faculty invented the system that we have now by which there are distribution requirements for the first two years, and concentration for the last two years, concentration in the department. That scheme of distribution plus concentration was instituted in 1947 as the great curriculum reform after the Second World War. There was a humanities requirement in those distribution requirements and Clark Hopkins, Rhodes Scholar, Yale PhD, excavator with Rostovtzeff and others at Dura-Europos, was THE professor of archaeology here. We only had one and he did everything Greek, Roman, Christian. He was a great swimmer, a varsity swimmer, a champion swimmer and kept up his sort of patronage to the Michigan swimming team of which his son Cyrus Hopkins was a star in the years of the late ‘50s. It is Clark Hopkins who conceived the idea of Great Books at Michigan, patterned not on the Chicago plan but upon the Columbia plan which he moved on. The idea was to solve a perpetually reoccurring problem at the University of Michigan, the problem freshman never saw full professors. So the scheme was that these would be small classes of 20-25 for freshman, it would fulfill partly the distribution requirement in the humanities, a two semester sequence taught by the great professors at this university as an intimate class. The first semester was Great Books 1 in those days before inflation of grade numbers, Great Books 1 and 2. Great Books 1 was essentially the Greeks and the Romans going from Homer through Tacitus and Great Books 2 was everything from Dante up through Jane Austen or however far anybody wanted to go. The teachers there were the best teachers in the humanities; not only the humanities because some of the scientists wanted to get in on this humanities teaching. Kenneth Jones, the botanist, was a renowned humanities teacher in Great Books. In those days teaching Great Books, by the arrangement of the college under the Dean, was part of the regular teaching duties of these men from various departments, that is, the department donated the time of these great men. Frank Copley was my Great Books teacher when I was a freshman in 1956 and that is one of the reasons why I am a classicist today. I can remember the first day sitting in anticipation, because I being a mathematician didn’t much want to take all this literary stuff, and the first day this charming man, with a face like a burst of sunshine came in with a smile and crinkling eyes that I will never forget, just emanated a sort of mischievous joy, introduced us to the course. The last thing he did on this first day of Great Books was to tell us the story of the Iliad. I remember him sitting on the windowsill of one of those classrooms in Mason Hall, which had wide windowsills for this purpose, cocking his knees under his crossed arms and just telling us this story of the Iliad. I think that was the moment I became a classicist. It took me two years to make the decision, but Frank Copley telling the story of the Iliad was astounding. It was very moving; I’ll never forget it and that’s when I knew that I was going to love this literature. Now I’ve lost my train of thought thinking about that. Back to Michigan! Louis Bredvold, famous professor of English taught in it, Otto Graf from the German department taught in it, I’ve mentioned Kenneth Jones in botany. There were about 15 sections of Great Books and it was one of the very popular courses in the University of Michigan and as I say when I came back on the faculty I was enlisted to teach Great Books in 1962 in this pattern. Then there came a change with the institution of the college Honors program, which was developed by Professor Robert Angell and others in the late ‘50s and really sort of got underway about 1960. One of the formative ideas of the Honors program was that these Honors students would profit by studying a great civilization together so that all of them would have sort of a common intellectual ground which they could use for the rest of their college career and the choice was obviously the Greeks. So, in those days, Honors students did not take the ordinary class of Great Books 1 and 2 that the non-Honors students took. Instead, they had a scheme which seemed a little backwards at the time for Honors students-a lecture of a 100 or 250 people broken up then into sections twice a week.
Donka: And this change took place in the ‘60s, right?
Cameron: This change took place in the ‘60s. No, ordinary Great Books which is a 4-hour a week, 4 meetings a week sort of class continued for non-Honors students. Honors students then sat in lecture twice a week and then broke up into sections taught then by teaching fellows in the English department, they were called teaching fellows then. And that fulfilled the English composition requirement as well as part of the humanities requirement, so you kind of got a double shot. It was a way of dealing with the fact that bright students were often bored with the ordinary English composition courses. Thus, giving them the Greeks to write about was a solution. Then it sort of went overboard because it was two semesters of the Greeks and Romans, which is a little sort of overdoing it a little bit, but those who lived through this throughout the ‘60s until about 1969 seemed to like it alright. It was a popular course. When it was first invented the lecturers were two men from the English department and not to put too fine a point on it, but they were not as well equipped to lecture on Greek literature as say perhaps a classicist, for whom it was a professional concern. There was a certain amount of unrest in those early years when the English department sort of took over the Great Books program. This was done not without a certain amount of political pain because Clark Hopkins who had invented this went on sabbatical and when he came back from sabbatical he discovered that the Great Books program, “his baby”, had been taken away from him and lodged in the English department. There was considerable annoyance on his part and many people thought that was a bad way to treat him. The lecturing in Great Books, now called 191 and 192 for Honors students, left something to be desired. In fact, there were some rather notorious protests on the part of the Honors students. There was one day which they…these lectures were in the Angell Hall auditoriums A and B and one day the students pushed a piano in front of the door to prevent the lecturer from entering his own lecture hall. This had sort of opened a protest. Well this is recognized by the English department. The Classics department was complaining about this and I remember complaining to one of the bright English graduate students TAs in Great Books that the English department had no business teaching Greek Literature and he argued his point that “Yes they did,” but some of this got back to the English department and so I was asked in the Spring of 1965 as a guest lecturer, to give a lecture on the Aeneid. It was one of the hardest things I had ever done. I spent probably a week writing out in detail this lecture, I had never given a full lecture before and so forth. It was, though I shouldn’t say, a magnificent success. It went over terrifically with the result that I was then asked to give one of the lecture sections, there were two of them, two groups of about 250, while one of the English professors, the better of the two, gave the other section.
Donka: I should interject here that Professor Cameron’s lectures in the Great Books program are still a favorite for both undergraduate and graduate students. I mean they are really acted out and performed almost on the stage and they’re thrilled, undergraduates are thrilled with them and everybody really enjoys them immensely. So, it’s still the tradition.
Cameron: Well, then as time went on Professor Buttrey, who had just arrived in the Classics department at Michigan, Buttrey had been at Yale and about 1964 or 1965, ’65 maybe, he came to Michigan. I can’t remember when it was but maybe about ’68 that Buttrey became the other lecturer in Great Books and the Buttrey-Cameron team had some renown as the two Great Books lecturers. Still, it was under the auspices of the English department and the English department supported its own graduate students for teaching Greek literature. But things were fixed up. There was much more satisfaction on the part of the undergraduates. And Buttrey and I, because we were really good friends and enjoyed each other’s company and tease each other mercilessly and think alike about literature, we made a very successful team. I went on leave in 1969, in January 1969; I went to Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin to teach for six months. So, what were they going to do? Well, they sort of consolidated the two lecture groups into one huge lecture group and enlisted a kind of committee, a succession of lecturers that gave sort of the second term of the course. That was the last time they ever did that; that didn’t turn out to be very successful. What happened after that is that I came back from Appleton, Wisconsin and the Honors Great Books course had fallen back completely into the English department and the English professors of various kinds were lecturing. Professor D’Arms was chairman of the Classics department at this time and feeling that we shouldn’t let the English department do all the teaching about Greek literature, he called me into his office and told me what my future was going to be. My future was going to be to invent Classics courses that would deal with Greek and Roman literature and civilization. So we invented Classical Civilization 101, the Greeks-the World of the Greeks, and Classical Civilization 102, the World of the Romans.
Donka: And that was in what year?
Cameron: About 1970, I think, or ’71. It was three lectures a week and one recitation a week. We got this instituted and the original idea was that the faculty of the Classics department would share in the lecturing, so we would have many guest lecturers, and that’s the way we did it for quite a while. But with all of these things that are sort of committee courses, as personnel changes as people get busy as people are on leave, the original scheme begins to fade away because they aren’t there to lecture so some fall guy, mainly me, began to fill in on the lectures which weren’t there until pretty soon I was giving all of the lectures in these courses with a few guest lectures from time to time. There was one fall afternoon, I was sitting in my office and Alan Stillwagen who was the Associate Director of the Honors program and an old friend of mine from undergraduate days, we lived in the same dormitory, came wandering up tentatively to my office and said “We got too many Honors students, we can’t accommodate them in Honors Great Books there aren’t enough spaces, there aren’t enough room in the lecture hall. And we got this overflow; we don’t know what to do with them. You think you could set up an Honors section of Classical Civilization 101.” Well my predatory instincts came into play and I said that I think we could probably do that. So I taught the Honors section, there was one…I guess there were two Honors sections of Classical Civ 101. This was in that period where English professors were lecturing in Great Books. So the kids with a real interest in Classics tended to choose the alternative, Classical Civ 101 and 102 over Great Books and we tried to foster that. So we began to make end roads and Great Books is still a companion, excuse me, Classical Civilization courses are still a companion for Great Books courses and now Honors students can choose among them and the bulk of them go into Great Books but a happy number prefer Classical Civ, especially those who are particularly interested in going on in Classics, but that’s how that happened. I taught Classical Civilization since it was founded to about 1984 I guess it was, about 14 years I was running that course. Sometimes under considerable strain because in the period of 1977-1980 I was also Chairman of the Classics department and tried to teach this big lecture course and so on and keep that going. I rather taught an overload in those days while trying to be Chairman. I don’t know what I was trying to prove, but I tried to do everything: be Chairman, teach Greek courses and Classical Civ courses and do it all, keep all those balls in the air. I don’t know, I managed it but at some strain to myself. Then the problem of lecturing in Great Books, being recognized by the English department, the then Director of the Great Books program, Professor Hornback, very wisely decided that in order to make Honors Great Books better you ought to have a classicist lecturing. Let me put a footnote, there was a period when our representative in partibus infidelium, that is to say Ralph Williams who is a professor of English, but has a degree from this department in Classics as well, so he counts as a classicist and there was a period when Ralph Williams was giving those lectures in which there was nothing…it was just fine. When he stopped doing that, Burt Hornback very wisely asked Ted Buttrey to give the lectures in Great Books. So for many years, and I can’t remember exactly the span of years, Buttrey lectured in Great Books program while the TAs were from the English department and from other departments. Hornback began to spread out and use TAs from other Humanities departments, including some classicists, a pattern which I have continued and I think is the best pattern for Honors Great Books. So Buttrey was teaching. Then there came a kind of crisis. Classical Civ was still under my auspices. I was teaching both the lectures and the Honors recitations in those days. And again there was some dissatisfaction in the way Honors Great Books was run and the way Great Books was run, I was sort of innocent in this I was a bystander, but somewhere off over the horizon there was a certain amount of faculty ferment about the Great Books program. With some faculty politics and some sort of personal nastiness involved and so on and so forth and the higher echelons of the Dean’s office and the chairmen sort of getting together sort of mysterious cabal, it was decided that the solution to these problems was to make Cameron Director of Great Books, see let Cameron do everything. So for the year 1983 and ’84, not only did I teach Classical Civ 101 and 102, though by that time I had shifted the Roman side, 102, over to other members of the Classics department, particular Hal McCullough who was here then. While at the same time, presiding over Great Books 191 in which Buttrey was still lecturing and then Great Books 192, which we began to shift, Great Books 192 before I took over began with Dante and ending with James Joyce’s Ulysses and it was one of those sorts of pressure cooker courses in which you read Dante in one week and you read Paradise in another week and somehow it was being very perfunctory as there was too much reading. We read Don Quixote in no time at all, these big things which the kids were not getting through. So I revised that into a reasonable reading list which brought us from Plato to Boccaccio as it is now. Then finally I was able to shift Classical Civ off onto other younger faculty in the Classics department so they could do that while I devoted my whole time to Great Books. Then, Professor Buttrey, who was still lecturing in Great Books in the first term while I did the second term, decided to retire early though he was a young man. He then retired and moved to Cambridge, England where he still resides, still a very active classicist. Therefore, I sort of took over Honors Great Books entirely giving the lectures in both the first and second term and also trying to develop other Great Books courses, that is for Honors students and non-Honors students. We had always had on the books Great Books of the Far East, that was a vigorous course taught regularly. Great Books of the Near East had sort of fallen into disrepair and I tried to resurrect that successfully with the aid of Brian Schmidt.
Donka: When did these additions start?
Cameron: Oh, the additions, Great Books the Far East and Great Books the Near East were very early in the history of the Great Books program. In the faculty discussions in 1947 there was proposed that we should do more than just Greeks and Romans, that there should be Great Books courses on other cultures and Far East and Near East were invented in ’47 and ’48 and taught in those years and they’d always been there. Great Books Far East was always very vigorous; Great Books the Near East sort of had fallen out of habit. I had invented with the aid of Domna Stanton in the French department, we put together Great Books by Women Writers which was a very successful course for many, many years. Again, a course in which we sort of brought together several lecturers, we enlisted the aid of several people to lecture in it on very special subjects from Hildegard of Bingham, I’m very proud of the fact that we were teaching Hildegard of Bingham in Great Books long before she sort of became trendy and popular, so we were ahead of the game there, down to Virginia Wolfe and so on, a very successful course. Another course I urged a friend of mine to invent was oddly titled Great Books of the Founding Fathers in which Professor Mills Thornton of the History department reads the writings of our Founding Fathers, Jefferson and Hamilton and Benjamin Franklin and John Dickinson and so forth, not excluding if you like Locke and Montaigne. That has always been a favorite course taught with some regularity depending on Mills Thornton’s schedule. Then we have some mini-courses, that is courses that only take half of a semester or several weeks. Bob Wallin, who is a classicist, once an undergraduate in our Classics department, studied Classics at Stanford if I remember correctly, a very good classicist in his own right, happens to be in the administration, the information center called Checkpoint. Bob Wallin taught not only a non-Honors Great Books which had the inflated number 201, but often gave, and still does, a mini-course say a half of semester in which you would read Sophocles or another half of semester in which he would read Virgil, another half of semester in which he would read Thucydides or Herodotus, and those have been really, really successful. So we have tried to expand the offerings as much as we could in Great Books remembering that it is essentially a program to provide Humanities distribution courses for underclassmen. It is now and I think it serves that purpose very well. It has become a very important element in the Honors program. I have lost of testimonials from undergraduates, especially after they have graduated and looked back upon it. Looking back fondly on Great Books because Great Books is the best thing that most clearly defines the Honors program for the Freshman Honors student, I mean it is the one thing that they are all doing and it gives it a kind of cohesion and a morale I think if you are doing it right, I think we can claim we are doing it right. It is a defining feature and it is a very well appreciated and effective kick-off for the undergraduate career for an Honors program. I think it is fair to say we have a very good press in the University, a great satisfaction among our students. There is always about 5% malcontents down there that are not interested in the Greeks or the Romans or the Renaissance or anything.
Donka: That’s inevitable.
Cameron: They tend to be, how do I put this, they tend not to want to read anything but science fiction and are offended if they are obliged to read Plato, but we can tolerate that. There always is a certain amount of discontent, but very little. I think by and large we have a happy student body in Great Books.
Donka: Well thank you Professor Cameron.
Gerald F. Else Interview
Shackleton Bailey Audio Interview