October 17, 2012 - 11:21pm
BY CARLY FROMM
What did you study when you were a student?
I studied classics, so I spent most of my undergraduate years learning Latin and Greek. I came into college with the idea that I was interested in history and I thought, “Well, let’s start with the Greeks. That sounds like a good starting point and I’ll gradually move forward through time.” But I got hooked on the Greeks.
Which classes do you teach here?
I teach a whole range of classes. At the undergraduate level I teach language classes. I’m teaching a course on Herodotus — the so-called father of history — the one who founded the whole genre of historical writings.
Can you tell me about your book “Exile, Ostracism and Democracy: The Politics of Expulsion in Ancient Greece”?
My first book was on ostracism. That goes back to a legal practice of the Athenians where they had a formal vote on whether they wanted to exile anybody from the city for 10 years. People were puzzled about that. My book is trying to explain that it was actually fairly democratic — it was a popular vote. It was actually a very moderate means of exiling because it was for 10 years and you kept your property intact and it was a way for the Athenians to deal with political faction.
What are some of your research techniques?
One of my favorite techniques with these texts is to read between the lines — to pick out the episodes that aren’t the major wars or major figures. But what are the incidental episodes along the way and what do they reveal about the culture? It’s reading against the grain. When I read Herodotus, I’m not interested in the great battles, I’m interested in the story he tells about a relationship between a man and a wife in a town, a case of adultery, the story of a slave or an ordinary citizen. I’m not interested so much in the great main narrative but the sub-narratives.
What do you enjoy doing outside of your profession?
I am a mother. I have two young children so I spend a lot of my time coaching soccer and taking my daughter to piano class. I am a runner in my spare time — I like to run around the (Nichols) Arboretum. I also really enjoy the outdoors, so we do a lot of camping. This summer we went to Yellowstone National Park and did backcountry camping, where it’s bear country and you have to put all of your things up on a bear pole. We didn’t encounter any bears but we had the excitement of being in bear country. I like cooking. I like spending time with good friends and having good conversations and dinner parties.