Once each year, the students get a chance to do the grading.
And the results are in: Alan Cameron, Anthon Professor of Latin Language and Literature, and Andreas Huyssen, Villard Professor of German and Comparative Literature, are the 2005 honorees of the Columbia College Academic Awards Committee. The recipients of these awards are determined in a process completely controlled by the CC students on the committee, making them unique opportunities for undergraduates to recognize faculty.
“I think it’s the only prize on campus that’s truly student-driven,” said Zac Frank, CC ’05 and co-chair of the 13-person committee that painstakingly attends classes and reads professors’ books to determine the winners. The two awards—one given for a newly-published book and the other for outstanding teaching—have been awarded together since the late 1980s.
Professor Alan Cameron won the Lionel Trilling Book Award for an outstanding book by a faculty member for his work Greek Mythography in the Roman World. According to committee co-chair Lauren Gerber, CC ’05, Cameron’s book was selected from an original pool of about 35.
The book was selected “for its originality as well as its meticulous research and textual readings,” Gerber said in an e-mail.
According to Cameron, his book is a specialized exploration of how Ancient Romans learned the myths that pervaded their culture’s art. The work traces the beginnings of different versions of myths—including those fabricated in ancient times, “something modern scholars haven’t appreciated,” Cameron commented wryly.
“I’m obviously delighted that he’s won,” Classics Chair Gareth Williams said. Cameron is “an extraordinarily imminent Latinist, and he’s written many books that have made a major impact on the field.”
History professor William Harris, who has known Cameron since both were in the same class at Oxford University, called Greek Mythography in the Roman World “a very imaginative piece of work.”
“What Alan Cameron does is to follow his own curiosity,” Harris added, instead of “worrying about what other people are working on.” Harris said that this is not the norm in the academic realm.
Though Frank admitted that the work was difficult to get into, he cited its innovative argument and potential impact on the classics discipline as key in the committee’s decision.
“I’ve spent nearly 30 years of my life teaching Columbia undergraduates, so I’m much flattered by the recognition,” Cameron said.