Classics major wins big at conference

Posted on April 22, 2008 by Suzanne Ramsey

A paper by Sweet Briar College student Emma Meador ’09 received top honors at the Seventh Annual Undergraduate Classics Conference held March 28-29 at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio.

“Masks of Madness: Contextualizing Euripides’ ‘Bacchae,’ ” was one of 35 papers submitted to the conference. In addition to Sweet Briar, entries came from several Ohio universities, Ball State University, the College of William and Mary, Dartmouth College, Harvard University and the University of Virginia.

Meador, a classics major from Austin, Colo., researched and wrote the paper for Sweet Briar’s 2007 Honors Summer Research Program. She also presented her work at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Conference of Undergraduate Scholarship (MARCUS) held last fall at Sweet Briar.

Of the papers submitted, 30 were chosen to be presented at the conference. Students presented abridged versions of their papers and the complete works were judged by faculty members from the Miami University classics department.

When the judging was complete, Meador was declared the first-place winner, followed by students from Miami and Xavier University. As a prize, she was presented a copy of The Oxford Classical Dictionary.

Eric Casey, SBC associate professor of classics, was pleased with the judges’ decision. “She is the first student I have had here (or anywhere else I have taught) who not only wrote an abstract for a conference and got it accepted but even won a prize for the best paper at the conference. … It is really quite an honor,” he wrote in an e-mail.

On her Facebook profile, Meador lists “Euripides” among her favorite authors, along with “Ender’s Game” author Orson Scott Card and C.S. Lewis, who wrote the “Chronicles of Narnia” series. “He’s definitely my favorite now,” she said of the Greek playwright.

Although she studied classics in high school, Meador became interested in Euripides during her first year at Sweet Briar, when she wrote a paper about his tragedy “Alcestis” for one of her classes. Last summer, she chose “The Bacchae” as her topic for the Honors Summer Research Program.

The title characters in Euripides’ play were female followers of Bacchus, another name for the Greek god Dionysus. Although Dionysus appears on stage in Greek comedy, Meador explained, “The Bacchae” is the only known Greek tragedy to feature Dionysus as a character.

“‘The Bacchae’ is the latest surviving Greek tragedy, the last one that we have,” she said. “It’s the only one that puts the god Dionysus on the stage. All Athenian tragedy was performed in honor of Dionysius. I was just studying the effects of having him on stage.”

In the abstract for her paper, Meador writes, “The purpose of this paper is to explore the significance of the presence of Dionysus in Euripides’ ‘Bacchae’ by looking at the ‘Bacchae’ in the context of both its festival performance and its place within the history of tragedy.

“Dionysian themes run through much of tragedy, and the god would have been a highly visible presence during its performance. I argue that the late position of the ‘Bacchae’ in the history of tragedy allows it to reflect on the preceding body of work, and that the presence of Dionysus on the stage casts a new light on themes that had already been well established.”