Jack L. Davis, Professor of Greek Archaeology at the University of Cincinnati and former director of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens (2007-2012), here contributes to The Archivist’s Notebook an essay about the non-archaeological pastimes of some of the School’s most distinguished past members, including Carl Blegen, Emily Vermeule, Rhys Carpenter, Oscar Broneer, and Dorothy Burr Thompson.
Not so long ago I stumbled across an internet site called “The Academic Ladder,” a career counseling service. Its newsletter headlined a story of interest: “Get A Life! A Chart For Living A Balanced Life (Even If You’re An Academic),” by Gina Hiatt, clinical psychologist.
“Why do academics lead unbalanced lives?”
You can never do enough. The academic life is a writer’s life, only worse. This is because the academic constantly feels that he or she has not done enough. … There is always someone better than you. Academics constantly compare themselves to each other. … And face it: no matter how good you are at some aspect of a profession or field, there is someone else who does another part of the profession better.
In the long run, this is no way to live a life. You will end up with health problems and not enjoy your career, if you don’t balance your life better. There is more to life than academia!
While recognizing that academics may not feel they “deserve” leisure time as a “reward,” Gina suggests ways to live more balanced lives by finding things to do, other than work, that are relaxing, fun, and important. Most of us at least are somewhat familiar with the concept (I am constantly being told by loved ones that I should relax more and have more fun), but the notion that leisure time should be filled with important activities is another matter entirely, and brings to mind Theodor Adorno’s 1963 essay “Free Time.” There he succinctly wrote:
Time and again in interviews and questionnaires one is asked what one has for a hobby. … I am startled by the question whenever I meet with it. I have no hobby. Not that I’m a workaholic who wouldn’t know how to do anything else but get down to business and do what has to be done. But rather I take the activities with which I occupy myself beyond the bounds of my official profession, without exception, so seriously that I would be shocked by the idea that they had anything to do with hobbies -that is, activities I’m mindlessly infatuated with only in order to kill time- if my experiences had not toughened me against manifestations of barbarism that have become self-evident and acceptable. Making music, listening to music, reading with concentration constitute an integral element of my existence; the word hobby would make a mockery of them. Read the rest of this entry »
Jack L. Davis, Carl W. Blegen professor of Greek Archaeology at the University of Cincinnati and former director of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens (2007-2012), here contributes to the Archivist’s Notebook an essay about the history of the School’s admission exams.
Είναι οι βάρβαροι να φθάσουν σήμερα.
Και τώρα τι θα γένουμε χωρίς βαρβάρους.
Οι άνθρωποι αυτοί ήσαν μια κάποια λύσις.
The barbarians are coming today.
What will become of us without barbarians.
They were in themselves a kind of solution for us.
Constantine Cavafy, 1908
Are Greek-less barbarians knocking at the gate of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens?
Louis Menand (The Marketplace of Ideas, 2010), has written that there “are things that academics should probably not be afraid to do differently — their world will not come to an end…”. Yet institutions of higher learning are notorious for the “gate-keeping” mechanisms, procedures, and policies they employ to preserve the status quo. Central to the process of academic reproduction are examinations.
Exams have long puzzled me, particularly those administered by the American School of Classical Studies (ASCSA or “the School”). Forty years ago when I arrived as a student, I found in place a system that remains largely the same today. Candidates for the following academic year sit for admission exams. Of the 16 foreign schools in Athens that are recognized by the Ministry of Culture, ASCSA is, I think, the only one that controls membership in this way.
Members of the Managing Committee of the School, representing mostly Classics departments in nearly 200 universities and colleges in the United States and Canada, set the exams. There is one in Ancient History and another in Ancient Greek that all applicants must take, while students may choose between a third in Ancient Greek Literature or in (pre-Byzantine) Greek Archaeology. The prize is a yearlong fellowship in Athens that includes room and board. Read the rest of this entry »