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Goldman prize winner to create open content library of Greek and Latin texts


Evan Hayes, winner of the Joanna Jackson Goldman Memorial Prize.
Miami University senior Evan Hayes, recipient of the $31,000 Joanna Jackson Goldman Memorial Prize, will spend a year after graduation using his background in Latin, Greek and computer languages to create a series of twelve "reader" textbooks for students of Greek and Latin. The books will be made available both freely online in PDF format and through's print-on-demand (POD) subsidiary for a minimal charge.

The Goldman prize annually allows a Miami senior to realize a dream. It gives students with exceptional promise the gift of time to pursue ideas and activities that will enrich their later work and careers. The prize is believed to be among the largest undergraduate awards in the country.

Hayes, a classics and philosophy double major and medieval studies minor, has been exploring his interests in classical and digital languages for much of his time at Miami with faculty mentor Stephen Nimis, professor and chair of classics.

“The proposed project comes out of research and work in which I have been engaged at Miami for several years and is, in a way, its culmination. I have been fortunate in that I have had the opportunity to do a great deal of research during my time here, both collaboratively and independently,” Hayes said.

“As technology advances, we need to rethink the traditional model of the individual scholar (someone locked up in a library for years working on a single book) as the norm and look to more sustainable, interdisciplinary, and collaborative projects,” Hayes said. “I think this is particularly true in the humanities, and that’s what motivated a lot of this project.”

Nimis explained, “Although I am not always sure what Evan is talking about, I know enough to see that he is part of a real revolution in the application of digital technology to producing resources for humanists that will make possible completely new ways of doing our work.”

Hayes first began to think about the possibilities of digital treatment and presentation of classical texts while designing a website comparing the Greek, Arabic, and Latin versions of Aristotle’s Poetics, through his involvement with the Averroes Project. Because of his knowledge of Greek and Latin as well as his interest in medieval philosophy, Hayes was invited in 2008 to join the Averroes Project, an interdisciplinary group of faculty and students “interested in the transmission of ancient thought from Greek to Arabic to Latin and vernacular languages between Classical Greece and the Early Modern era in Europe.”

During the summer of 2009, Hayes was an Undergraduate Summer Scholar (USS) at Miami, and conducted independently designed research into the digital treatment of classical languages and literature, with Nimis as his faculty mentor.

During the summer of 2010 Hayes participated in the highly selective Summer Research Opportunity Program (SROP) at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Working on medieval translations of Aristotle’s philosophy “gave me an opportunity to use the knowledge gained and programs created during my USS project in a practical way,” Hayes said.

His work as an undergraduate will culminate in his series of reader’s texts. Each reader will consist of a Greek or Latin text; a series of page-by-page definitions for rare words occurring in that section of text, or “glosses;” a detailed page-by-page commentary on the text; and a complete dictionary of words occurring in the text at the end.

Hayes will design computer programs to minimize much of the time consuming and tedious work of writing the glosses and creating the dictionary, allowing him to focus more on the creative aspects of the process — the commentary and physical design of the text.

“I will write some of these commentaries myself, and others will be collaborative works with professors in the department of classics who have expressed an interest in creating readers for their intermediate language courses,” Hayes said.

The open source programs and process used in the project will be made available for use by faculty and students of the classics department after its completion, Hayes said.

“This will serve as an example not only of current technology in the field of language study, but also of the possibilities that nontraditional media and open content hold for the modern classroom.”

Although the creation of the readers in the series that I am proposing is made a great deal simpler by the introduction of automated analysis and formatting, it nevertheless requires a serious time commitment. The time to work is, I feel, the greatest asset the Goldman prize can offer to a project like mine.”

Hayes and Nimis have already completed and published one reader, based on the 1913 edition of Lucian’s True History, a Greek satire from the 2nd century CE. A sample can be viewed in a PDF file.


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