York hosts international symposium on Greek studies

York is hosting the 2003 international symposium of the Modern Greek Studies Association (MGSA) beginning today in Toronto. It is the first time the biennial conference – which brings together over 75 of the world’s leading specialists in Hellenic Studies – has ever been held outside the United States.

MGSA, founded in 1968, represents about 400 scholars dedicated to the promotion of modern Greek studies in the United States and Canada. The association’s current president is Thomas W. Gallant, a history professor and holder of the Hellenic Heritage Foundation Chair of Modern Hellenic Studies at York.

“The MGSA, whose mandate and membership encompass both Canada and the USA, felt that it now was an apt moment for the symposium to be held outside of the USA,” said Gallant. “York is hosting the symposium as part of its effort to develop an internationally renowned program in modern Greek history and Hellenic studies. The recently established Hellenic Heritage Foundation Chair in Hellenic Studies signified York’s intention to develop such a program. The fact that the first holder of the Chair is also the current president of the Modern Greek Studies Association made this an appropriate moment for York to host the symposium.”

Gallant, who is welcoming participants this evening, will also be presented with the association’s Best Book Prize for 2003 for Experiencing Dominion: Culture, Identity, and Power in the British Mediterranean, published by University of Notre Dame Press. The prize goes to an academic book dealing with modern Greece or with a Hellenic theme published originally in English. The prize committee cited Gallant’s book for its “very high quality of research, truly interdisciplinary breadth and scope, as well as the fluidity of writing style.”

Lorna R. Marsden, York University president and vice-chancellor, and Robert Drummond, dean of York’s Faculty of Arts, will welcome attendees at a formal dinner Friday at Sutton Place Hotel, where the conference is taking place.

Featured at the three-day symposium – which is open to the public – are keynote addresses by noted historian Sir Michael Llewellyn-Smith on the 1896 Olympics and eminent constitutional lawyer and writer Nicos Alivizatos on Greek identity in contemporary Europe. At a banquet capping off the conference, Leonidas T. Chrysanthopoulos, ambassador of the Hellenic Republic to Canada, will discuss Armenian nation-building and diplomacy.

From Thursday to Saturday, academics on 15 panels will discuss topics ranging from Greek identity and cultural heritage to the Greek diaspora and adjusting to the new Europe, from the Greek military junta to American influence, from revisiting ancient texts to studying contemporary Greek letters.

Michail Vitopoulos, who teaches in the Department of Languages, Literatures & Linguistics in York’s Faculty of Arts, will speak about modern Greek as an endangered language, as featured speaker at the Canadian Hellenic Historical Society Luncheon on Saturday.

The conference takes place primarily at the Sutton Place Hotel, with special evening events at the Design Exchange and the Royal Ontario Museum.

The symposium is open to the general public subject to registration. For the full program and registration forms visit the MGSA Web site.

The Hellenic Heritage Foundation Chair in Hellenic Studies at York was endowed last year for $2 million by the Hellenic Heritage Foundation of Toronto, with a $500,000 contribution from York. It is Toronto’s first permanent Chair and program in modern Hellenic Studies, and is focused on modern Greek history. The new program will enable students, including more than 1,000 students of Greek heritage enrolling each year at York, to study Greek history, language and culture.