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Wed, Jan 24


USC Doheny Memorial Library, 240/241


A three-part event examining the role of public humanities in relation to the American prison system presented by the Levan Institute for Humanities and Ethics, USC Department of Classics, USC Society of Fellows in the Humanities, USC Thematic Option, USC Prison Education Project, and the USC GWNP

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Time & Location

Jan 24, 2018, 12:00 PM – 9:00 PM

USC Doheny Memorial Library, 240/241, Los Angeles, CA 90089, USA

About the event

Organized by the Levan Institute for Humanities and Ethics and co-sponsored by the Department of Classics, USC Society of Fellows, USC Thematic Option, USC Prison Education Project, and the USC Chapter of the Global Women's Narratives Project. Thanks go to Dr. Jessica Wright (USC Society of Fellows in the Humanities), Prof. Lucas Herchenroeder (USC Classics), and Remaya Campbell (USC Levan Fellow) for their ideas and organization of the program.

In its mission statement USC professes commitment to "the development of human beings and society as a whole through the cultivation and enrichment of the human mind and spirit." But how are we to interpret and enact this mission? How do we—students, scholars, staff at USC—work toward this goal.

In a three-part event, we seek to consider our role in carrying out the university’s mission, and the role of the public humanities generally, as they concern the educational needs of the American prison system.

Our event centers upon a performance by The Medea Project: Theater for Incarcerated Women, to take place at 7:00pm in DML 240. The performance will be preceded by a reception, starting at 6:00pm, in DML 241, and followed by a Q&A session with Rhodessa Jones, founder and director of The Medea Project.

The performance will be framed by two panels, each designed to encourage discussion about the public humanities and social responsibility in preparation. Presentations will be short, and presenters will draw upon their own experiences inside and outside of the academy to address two key questions provoked by The Medea Project: What is the role of classics outside the academy? And: What good are the humanities in prison?

Lunchtime Panel: What Is the Role of Classics Outside the Academy?

DML 241 | 12:00–1:30pm | Lunch Provided

Panelists: Rhodessa Jones (founder and director of The Medea Project), Amy Richlin (The University of California, Los Angeles), and Jody Valentine (Pomona College).

The field of Classics (based upon study of the literatures and cultures of Greek and Roman antiquity) is perhaps the most traditional discipline taught on American college campuses. While its detractors often claim that Classics is no longer relevant, its strongest critics—often professional Classicists themselves—highlight its heritage as an "imperial" discipline that has been implicated in colonialist practices and discourses. Contestations of Classics on the internet and in popular media demonstrate that this heritage has strong contemporary resonances. This panel asks: What is the role of Classics outside of the academy? What are the implications of limiting Classics to academic spaces? Who "does" Classics, anyway?

Afternoon Panel: What Good Are the Humanities in Prison?

DML 241 | 4:30–6:00pm

Panelists: Stephanie Bower (University of Southern California), Susan Castagnetto (Scripps College), Romarilyn Ralston (Cal State Fullerton)

What good are the humanities in prison? Indeed, are the humanities actually useful in carceral contexts—and if so, how? How might prison education programs organize themselves more effectively to maximize the good of the humanities? And what does it even mean to talk about the "good" done by the humanities in prison spaces, as opposed to elsewhere? How might these questions provoke us to reflect differently on education in the humanities, and who and what it is good for?


DML 240 | 6:00–7:00pm

Evening Performance: The Medea Project: Theatre for Incarcerated Women

Followed by Q&A with Rhodessa Jones and Company

DML 240 | 7:00–9:00pm

Since its creation by Rhodessa Jones in the late 1980s, the simple yet profound aim of the Medea Project has been to enable incarcerated women to articulate and perform their experiences of trauma. Even as it has evolved over the decades and expanded into other countries, at its core the process has operated under Jones’ conviction that, in order to approach lasting wellness, women must find a way to tell their stories. Drawing on an array of fictional women’s stories from ancient Greco-Roman and contemporary African and American mythologies, Jones requires the Medea Project participants to develop their own voices in connection to the mythological ones, and then to share those voices in performance.

Nearly 2,500 years ago, the ancient Greek playwright Euripides dramatized the infamous tale of Medea, a woman who murdered her own children to punish their father for betraying her. She radically claimed, “Of all beings that breathe and feel, we women are the most unfortunate,” and so fittingly lends her name to Jones’ powerful and provocative work that sits at the intersections of art, gender, and social justice. Excerpted from "Not Your Mother’s Theater: Rhodessa Jones and the Medea Project" by Alexandra Pappas and Rhodessa Jones.

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