Professor Roberta Stewart, known to a broad audience for work reading Homeric poems with veterans, has been awarded the 2017 SCS Outreach Prize. See the statement of the SCS below.
The SCS Outreach Prize Committee has awarded the 2017 Outreach Prize to Professor Roberta Stewart of Dartmouth College for her work in developing book discussion groups on the Homeric poems with military veterans. Professor Stewart’s long-running initiative is now a major collaborative project of Dartmouth College and New Hampshire Humanities, funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities.
Even in today’s busy, noisy, and self-absorbed world, the passionate, quiet, and selfless work of the individual does not remain unnoticed. We are proud to offer the 2017 SCS Outreach Prize to Roberta Stewart for her tireless pursuit of healing and social justice (in New Hampshire and Vermont) through engaging veterans in reading and discussing Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey. By teaching them how to appropriate the two epics as living texts, she has given veterans, as one of them put it, the controlling voice in processing their experiences and their Odyssean stories of homecoming in particular.
Since she has taken Homer out of the classroom and into the book group more than a decade ago, Roberta Stewart has demonstrated that anyone can read Homer and that the figured world of the Iliad and the Odyssey cannot be overestimated in our own days. Teaching empathy, it enables veterans to create a self-narrative that helps them to overcome trauma, and it enables the community to negotiate reintegration.
Driven by her own empathy, Roberta Stewart first proposed book groups to her local VA. In summer 2016, helped by a grant from the NEH, she trained three-person teams consisting of a veteran, a scholar, and a clinician to co-lead a 14-week discussion of Homer’s Odyssey with veterans and service members in four parts of New Hampshire.
Though Roberta Stewart insists that the real work of the Homer book groups comes not from her but from the veterans themselves, we want to express our respect and gratitude for her truly inspiring work in the field of outreach. We are, again, delighted to present Roberta Stewart with the SCS Outreach Prize. Thank you for your admirable work, Roberta!
SCS Outreach Prize Committee
Barbara Weinlich, Chair