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A portrait of Julie Hruby, a professor of classics.
A portrait of Julie Hruby, a professor of classics.

In this week's edition, we speak with Julie Hruby, Assistant Professor of Classical Studies.  Hruby is an archaeologist, specializing in cooking and cooking implements, and her latest research involves incorporating advanced forensic techniques and computational methods in the study of fingerprints on clay vessels and other artifacts.

What is your book about?

This volume explores what their cooking pots say about prehistoric Greeks, including how their cuisine interacted with others' and how food constructed socioeconomic class.

Where did you get your ideas for this book?

I had been writing about prehistoric cuisine for more than a decade when a colleague suggested that we put together a panel on the topic of Late Bronze Age Aegean cooking pots for an annual meeting of the Archaeological Institute of America. We both knew that this field had huge gaps in it. One of the session attendees was a reporter for LiveScience who wrote an article about my paper; a student and I had made replicas of Mycenaean cooking pots and tested a few hypotheses about how they had been used. The topic was picked up by a wide range of international media, including NPR's "The Splendid Table." That, in combination with the fact that the papers in the session formed a varied but coherent set of truly novel approaches, suggested that publication would be useful.

What does research look like for you? What element of research could you not live without?

Most of my research takes place in Greece, because I work exclusively on excavated archaeological material. I have worked on excavations, field surveys, in the work rooms in museums, and in labs. Measuring things seems to be a constant, although which tools I use are dictated by the questions I ask; they range from very simple (rulers, calipers, diameter charts) to fairly elaborate (a high-resolution 3D scanner). The other tool I use constantly is a camera.

What do you think the library of the future will look like?

I hope that the library of the future will include both analog and digital resources, with materials in whatever format makes the most sense for the type of publication. For example, excavation publications are rarely read from start to finish; they are more often searched for material relevant to topic-oriented studies, and the searchable nature of digital publications makes digital formats preferable. However, topically oriented studies within archaeology and many other fields are more often read, and there is excellent evidence that things read in hard copy are remembered better than things read digitally. As a result, while article length studies can be digitized and printed when needed, anything that is book-length should probably be maintained in hard copy.

What advice would you give to an aspiring scholar or writer?

The only way to think and write well is to know how to identify an interesting question to think and write about. The challenge is that what "interesting" means varies from year to year, from person to person, and from culture to culture. Ideally, you want to do one of two things: find a question that many other people have asked but have not managed to answer, then find a newer approach to answering it, or find a question that other people have not yet asked but that has some bearing on larger questions that they have asked. Also, read, constantly, and leave yourself a little time every day to mull new ideas or new approaches to old ones (in the shower and before falling asleep work well for me).

And finally, what do you read for fun?

Science fiction has been my favorite genre since I was a reading-obsessed child who tripped over her father's extensive collection of books by Isaac Asimov. More recently, I have enjoyed Lois McMaster Bujold's work, especially the Vorkosigan saga, and Ann Leckie's novels.

cover of bookHolding Court is an interview series that features the authors of the new books on display in the King Arthur Flour café in Baker-Berry Library.

In this week's edition, we talk with four of the student authors of Bartolomeo Platina: Lives of the Popes, Paul II (Faenum Publishing, 2017).  During the Spring 2016 term, Professor Thomas Hendrickson created an experiential learning opportunity by assigning Latin 28 students the task of producing an edition of a Renaissance Latin text. The manuscript was completed during the ten-week term, and was published last fall.  The edition has 11 co-authors, including current students and alumni/ae, proving that Dartmouth undergraduates are no strangers to high quality research and scholarship.  The Classics department is sponsoring a launch party for the book on Friday, April 13 from 4:30-6 PM in Bartlett 201.  Students, alumni, faculty and friends are welcome to attend.

What is your book about?

Graham Rigby (GR): The text concerns Pope Paul II's imprisonment and torture of humanists during the early part of the renaissance in Rome.  Daniel Gridley (DG): The winners write the history books, so Bartolomeo Platina took the liberty of writing the book on his arch nemesis, Pope Paul II.  Gaby Sommer (GS): We put together the first student edition of Platina’s Paul II, including grammatical, lexical, philological and historical commentary.

Where do you get your ideas?

GS: I've always been interested in finding ways to get young people excited about Latin -- to make it fun. Professor Hendrickson pitched this project as an opportunity to do just that. Learning Latin in high school, particularly with the AP curriculum, it was easy to get bogged down in grammar and "Gaul is divided into three parts" and forget the significance of the literature you’re reading. Sometimes you need a breath of fresh air. Lives of the Popes is a ready-made soap opera. It’s the Renaissance Game of Thrones. Our job was just to make it accessible.

What does research look like for you? What element of research could you not live without?

Kent Ueno (KU): I have the image of papers strewn everywhere. After all, research is a collaborative process and one needs to constantly be in conversation with the community. I wouldn't be able to live without different colored pens.  DG: Collaboration--the ability to bounce ideas and drafts off of colleagues.  GR: Research is being curled up with a book. Cozy chairs are a necessity.  GS: KAF!

What do you think the library of the future will look like?

GS: I hope we never outgrow traditional libraries, but I expect more Kindle-types, more digitization – maybe a library cloud?  KU: I think it's rather sadly becoming more digital. I like physical books though, and hope it can stay that way. I imagine it will be largely digital with sections off in the corner for the oldies who like books.  GR: Hopefully much the same as the library of today.

What advice would you give to an aspiring scholar or writer?

KU: Find something you're actually interested in. You'll put out your best work when you really care.  DG: Write! The more you write, the more you write. Like anything, it takes practice to find your own voice.  GS: I’m still in college, so I'm speaking from limited experience, but I think a combination of good mentorship, patience, and choosing work you genuinely enjoy at the end of the day goes a long way.  GR: Don't worry about deadlines.

And finally, what do you read for fun?

DG: I'm currently reading Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch, and next on my docket is Italo Calvino's The Nonexistent Knight.  KU: I'll read anything from the Lord of the Rings to the Hannibal Lecter series. I'd like to get more into books by authors like Brian Greene who explain complex physics ideas so clearly to general audiences. It's an extremely difficult skill I want to master.  GS: I read a lot of fiction – I really love John Irving, and he’s written so much that you can read him for a while. I’m also a big fan of essays when I’m short on time – Charles D’Ambrosio, Amy Schumer, Joan Didion and David Foster Wallace are my go-tos.  GR: These days I read a lot of ancient history - I'm currently (slowly) reading a book about the collapse of Eastern Mediterranean societies at the end of the late bronze age. If I had more time, I'd be reading Duff McKagan's It's So Easy: and Other Lies, a harrowing tale of his time as a member of Guns N' Roses and his long battle with drug and alcohol addiction.