A Cornucopia of Classics Resources

There is a clear recognition that diversity in university Classics curricula is an issue in need of action. The recent report on Equality and Diversity in Classics published by the Council of University Classics Departments in December 2020 included among its recommendations an action point on reading lists, noting that the reading prescribed for undergraduate students is often inadvertently dominated by the work of white male scholars. CUCD suggested that course co-ordinators should set targets for the inclusion of works by female scholars and scholars of colour in their recommended reading. As well as helping to make their contributions to the field more visible, this approach can promote greater viewpoint diversity and has a role to play in the wider ‘decolonisation’ of the curriculum. 

The Covid-19 pandemic has impacted heavily on staff workloads in the university sector. Drs Sian Lewis and Alice König recognised that this would make it harder for individual staff to carve out the necessary time to follow up this recommendation. Rather than letting change wait, they secured funding from the University of St Andrews’ Summer Team Enterprise Programme to employ a team of students to create a web resource which would capture diverse voices in Classics and offer staff and students a ‘cornucopia’ of references for all areas of study (ancient history, literature, archaeology, philosophy and reception studies). In order to be successful, change to the discipline needs to be collaborative rather than top-down, and they felt that engaging students in the process would be beneficial both in broadening the reach of the School to include contemporary topics and interests and in gaining input from students with experience of other academic disciplines.

A team of seven students from first to final year of study volunteered to take part, mentored by PG Coach Sanne van den Berg. Over six weeks they sifted through published books, articles, and a range of less traditional resources such as blogs, podcasts and outreach projects, to identify new items that would enhance and diversify existing reading lists. Together, they created a searchable site – ‘A Cornucopia of Classics Resources: Diverse Food for Thought’ – to highlight innovative work by female scholars and scholars of colour, enabling both staff and students to gain fresh perspectives on the ancient world. Staff in the School of Classics have already begun using the database as they prepare course materials for the coming academic year.

One of the strengths of the database is that it is endlessly expandable; as the students explain in their ‘Manifesto’, it has been designed to keep growing, with students and staff able to add new items as they discover them. Drs Lewis and König intend to apply for further funding in the coming year to embark on some more sustained expansion, recognising that the process of diversifying reading lists – and the wider discipline of Classics – has only just begun.

By Alice König

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