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Classics Professor Receives Humanities Award

by Web on October 20, 2016

Dr. David Yates, associate professor of classical studies at Millsaps College, is the 2016 Millsaps College recipient of the Humanities Teacher Award given by the Mississippi Humanities Council. The council annually honors outstanding scholars who have made contributions to the humanities in Mississippi.

As recipient of the award, Yates will give a lecture titled “’Our Victory over Persia’: War, Memory, and Identity in Ancient Greece and Beyond” on Oct. 25 at 4:15 p.m. in the Gertrude C. Ford Academic Complex, room 215. The lecture is free and open to the public.

During his lecture, Yates will discuss how the Greeks remembered and commemorated the Persian invasion of Greece. Despite the manifest importance of this event, the Greeks never told the same story about it. Rather, each city-state developed its own version, which was usually in conflict with versions developed elsewhere. The result was a cacophony of dissonant memories that did much to undo later attempts to unify Greece under Alexander the Great. It was, ironically, only after Greek unity ceased to be important that a more coherent Persian-War story emerged and then came to influence the Western tradition of that war, from the Middle Ages all the way down to the movie 300.

Yates has earned a reputation on campus as a pedagogical innovator and is often found in the Bowl with his students marching around carrying pikes in ancient military formations or writing their Greek conjugations on the windows of the Student Center. He continues to refine a group project in his mythology classes, where students run a campaign to have a particular mythological god or goddess elected as an unofficial college mascot.

Dr. Keith Dunn, senior vice president and dean of the College, said Yates embodies the ideal of the teacher-scholar model of outstanding faculty work.

“The excellence of his language classes is reflected in the students’ comments, which run heavily along the lines of ‘This class is always a joy to be in because Dr. Yates teaches it. I’ve learned so much Greek in so little time,’ and ‘He is always fair and enthusiastic. He makes learning enjoyable,’” he said.

In 2015–2016, Yates shepherded the Heritage—Power team during the inaugural year of the Compass Curriculum. Dunn said Yates’ Heritage students especially appreciated his enthusiasm for the class and his care for them as they adapted to college-level academic expectations. “One representative comment was that ‘He’s challenging, but in a way that encourages you to improve,’” he said.

Yates joined the Millsaps faculty in 2010 after earning his Ph.D. from Brown University. He received an M.A. from the University of Colorado, Boulder, and a B.A. from the University of Virginia. His research interests include ancient warfare, politics, and memory.

He teaches introductory, intermediate, and advanced classes in Greek and Latin as well as literature-in-translation classics courses in Greek Civilization, War and Society in the Ancient World, and Greek and Roman History.

His scholarship has been published in the journals Historia, Klio, and Classical World, and he has a book under contract with Oxford University Press on the Persian War and memory.