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MemberSean Burrus

Currently the Bothmer Fellow in Greek and Roman Art at the Metropolitan Museum, my research explores the role that material and visual culture played in the Jewish experience of the late ancient Roman world. I received my B.A. in Ancient Mediterranean Religions from the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill (2008), and went on to study at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem before receiving an M.A. (2012) and Ph.D. (2017) in the History of Judaism from Duke University. I am an experienced instructor in Hebrew Bible and Jewish history from the Israelite period to Late Antiquity with an emphasis on the Greco-Roman World. I also have expertise in material and visual culture, archaeology and anthropology. I have archaeological field experience from important Roman period sites in Israel, and am a member of the publication team for the Duke excavations at Sepphoris. My dissertation research involved several enjoyable summers on site documenting and photographing in Rome and Beth She’arim. Having concluding my current research on Jewish sarcophagus patrons, I have begun work on a monograph more broadly exploring additional media of Jewish visual culture in Late Antiquity as evidence of cultural interaction and change. I am also developing a digital project that seeks to virtually reconstruct and reopen the destroyed Jewish catacombs of Monteverde.

MemberValerie Hannon Smitherman

Performing Relationships:  Choreia, Qasida, and Community — A Cross-Cultural Perspective   The communal culture of classical Greece was fundamentally musical.  This, as many have noted, harkens back to a pre-literate society, where song and oral formulae were aids to composition, memory, and cultural preservation.  Yet, even after the Greeks developed writing, musical expression retained pride of place. Thus the Athenian confidently asserts: οὐκοῦν ὁ μὲν ἀπαίδευτος ἀχόρευτος ἡμῖν ἔσται, τὸν δὲ πεπαιδευμένον ἱκανῶς κεχορευκότα θετέον; (Plat. Laws 654a-b).   This ‘culture of musical expression’ is far more than a source of entertainment, or a basis for education (as Plato would have it).  Indeed, they are fundamentally connected to the roots of the community itself, as Damon observes in the Republic: οὐδαμοῦ γὰρ κινοῦνται μουσικῆς τρόποι ἄνευ πολιτικῶν νόμων τῶν μεγίστων  (5.424c) Not only does the medium itself represent social cohesion — paradoxically, it is also frequently used to depict stasis and social isolation.  Indeed, the very act of performing a choral song expresses and confirms the network of reciprocal social relationships by and through which communities are formed, either directly or meta-poetically.  So we see Odysseus reduced to tears by Demodocus’ song, utterly isolated in his grief, even as he is an honored guest among the Phaeacians (Od. 8.521-31) and we also see Achilles sing the tales of heroes to Patroclus, although anger isolates him from the rest of his comrades (Il. 9.189-91).   The social significance of musical expression extends beyond the creation and performance of song to the political realm, as we see in Hesiod, where the wise king is one who, through the blessing of the Muses, is able to deploy language skillfully, soothing high spirits and maintaining social order (Thg. 80-92;93-103).  The successful king, then, must also be a successful performer.   When we turn our gaze to the Arabian desert, we find that Nabati poetry, the oral poetry of the Bedouin, has served a strikingly similar function within that culture.  Indeed, the Arabs themselves consider poetry to be the essence of their language and the poetry of the desert to express the fundamental social and political structures of their society: “The people of pre-modern Arabia were ruled by eloquent persuasion rather than by outright force; therefore, the gift of poetry constituted an essential qualification for effective leadership” (Sowayan 1985: 67).   And the fundamental quality of that poetry is that it is a musical performance: “When one hears a new poem one may ask ‘wiššū h-aṭ-targ’ (‘What is this rhythm?’) or ‘wišlōn šēlitah?’ (‘How is it sung?’)”  (Sowayan 1985:158).   Nabati poetry ranges in scope from brief, direct love-poems composed for the most intimate of audiences to accounts of tribal histories and versified negotiations between rival parties.  It is not epic poetry and, yet, the nature and function of its role in Arab society, particularly that of the Najd, certainly calls the Homeric poems to mind — these are also performances outside of historical time, marked by a unique dialect, memorializing communal bonds and individual losses, all in song.   My aim, without supposing that these works are genetically related in any sense, is to compare the nature and function of these traditions, and to consider the wider role of poetry, music, and expressions of community in East and West.  It is my earnest hope that such an endeavor will both better our understanding of the ancient world we study and an often misunderstood part of the modern world we share.   Sowayan, S. A., (1985), Nabati Poetry: The Oral Poetry of Arabia (Berkeley: University of California Press). ___________________________________________________________ About me:  Classicist, philologist, eternal student of Indo-European, endlessly entertained by etymologies. Things I like: strong tea, Oum Kalthoum, re-performances of ancient drama and music Things I dislike: Fitting into boxes, filling out boxes, checking off boxes, packing boxes. Random FAQs: Where are you?  I’m nomadic, so it depends. Where do you work?  See above. Do you speak Arabic?  Not as well as I should, but I’m working on it. How do you propose to do this work without a degree in Arabic?  Very carefully.  I think my philological training has prepared me fairly well for work like this, plus, I have the support of very kind, learned colleagues helping me learn Arabic and come to grips with that textual tradition. There isn’t a lot here, where can I find out more?  Follow me on Twitter @DrVHSmitherman. Cheers!  

MemberJill Marshall

I completed the PhD in New Testament in the Graduate Division of Religion at Emory University, with specializations in Paul’s letters and women’s activity in early Christianity and ancient Mediterranean religions. This academic year (2018–19), I have research fellowships at Humboldt University in Berlin and the Albright Institute of Archaeological Research in Jerusalem to work on a project on cities in early Christianity. My book, Women Praying and Prophesying in Corinth: Gender and Inspired Speech in First Corinthians, situates Paul’s arguments about prayer and prophecy within their ancient Mediterranean cultural context, using literary and archaeological evidence. This research emerges from exegetical observations about 1 Corinthians 11-14, a section of the letter about inspired speech that begins and ends with conflicting passages about whether women should speak in the assembly. I argue that gender dynamics influence this entire part of the letter and the religious speaking practices in Corinth that prompted it. I am interested in situating early Christian texts, traditions, and communities within their cultural milieu using archaeological data. For the Summer 2016, I won the Dever Fellowship for Biblical Scholars, awarded by the American Schools of Oriental Research (ASOR). The fellowship supported one month of excavation at Shikhin, a Roman-era Jewish settlement in the Galilee, and one month of research at the Albright Institute in Jerusalem. I have also conducted research at the ancient sites of Corinth and Ephesos and participated in archaeological fieldwork at Halmyris, a Roman frontier fort on the Danube Delta. I have taught courses on Jesus and the Gospels, Luke, Acts, First Corinthians, Women and the Bible, Gender and Religion in the Ancient Mediterranean World, Global Perspectives on the Bible, Biblical Greek, New Testament interpretation, and theological writing and argumentation.

MemberSonja Anderson

I’m an Assistant Professor of Religion at Carleton College, where I teach courses in late antiquity and modern Catholicism. My current project, “Idol Talk: The Discourse of False Worship in the Early Christian World,” explores how ancient Christians and Jews used idolatry polemic to claim a distinctive identity for themselves over against their pagan peers and how scholarly narratives have replicated this claim to uniqueness. Right now, I’m intrigued by the nexus of sincerity, materiality, and ritual in early Christian eucharistic and penitential practice, and by modern evangelical interest in patristic literature. Some of my courses:  “Patristic Greek,” “Angels, Demons, and Evil,” “Illness, Medicine, and Magic,” “Making Meaning of the Hebrew Bible,” “Martyrdom, Suffering, and the Body,” “Jesus, Paul, and Christian Origins,” and “Gender and Power in the Catholic Church.”

MemberChristopher Hays

Christopher Hays is the D. Wilson Moore Associate Professor of Ancient Near Eastern Studies at Fuller Theological Seminary. He has previously held teaching and research positions at Emory University, Princeton Theological Seminary, and the University of Notre Dame Tantur Ecumenical Institute in Jerusalem. He has participated in archaeological research in Israel and conducts study trips there. In 2017-18, Hays is serving as president of the Society of Biblical Literature’s Pacific Coast region. Hays is the author of Hidden Riches: A Textbook for the Comparative Study of the Old Testament and the Ancient Near East (Westminster John Knox, 2014) and Death in the Iron Age II and in First Isaiah (Forschungen zum Alten Testament 79; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2011). He is working on the Isaiah commentary for the Old Testament Library series, having translated the book for the Common English Bible and written the entry on Isaiah for the Oxford Encyclopedia of the Books of the Bible. In 2013, he was one of ten scholars around the world to receive the Manfred Lautenschlaeger Award for Theological Promise. Hays has published articles on diverse topics in journals such as the Journal of Near Eastern Studies, the Journal of Biblical Literature, Vetus Testamentum, Biblica, Zeitschrift für die Alttestamentliche Wissenschaft, Ugarit-Forschungen, Journal of Ancient Egyptian Interconnections, and the Journal of Theological Interpretation. He has also contributed essays to various edited volumes. Hays teaches courses in Old Testament and directs the master’s program in Ancient Near Eastern Studies in the School of Theology. His languages include Hebrew, Akkadian, Ugaritic, Aramaic, Greek, and Latin. Hays is ordained in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).

Deposit“The Land of Matters Unforgot”: North and South, Past and Present in William Morris’s “The Earthly Paradise”

Nineteenth century British writers and artists looked back to, and in some cases attempted to claim a cultural heritage not their own. Rather than appealing to the indigenous Germanic and Celtic mythos, the literature, art, and culture of Ancient Greece provided a palliative to contemporary anxieties regarding social order, cultural achievement, and identity. This perceived superiority of Southern European antiquity, though seen by writers such as Gladstone as a precursor to medieval Christendom, is curious given the vigorous Northern European (particularly Norse) tradition. William Morris drew upon the Northern myths as well as the medieval Arthurian Romance tales in his writings, and in the epic collection “The Earthly Paradise”, describes cross-cultural exchange between wandering “Northmen” and the inhabitants of an undiscovered island community of Ancient Greeks. This frame story, along with Morris’s own commentary, around the tales from the Nordic and Hellenistic traditions provides an example of a possible intertwining of the two cultures in the context of the nineteenth century British engagement with antiquity. Morris’s poetry is illustrative not only of perceptions of Germanic and Mediterranean European culture, but also the relation of our present to a multitude of pasts.

MemberAlison Traweek

I am a sixth generation Texan, though I have now officially lived half of my life outside of Texas. Pennsylvania seems to have accepted me, though, and I at least think it’s going reasonably well. Teaching and writing were all I ever wanted to do for a living, and, fortunately, I have found a few people willing to pay me for the former and a few people willing to give me some white space for the latter. For six years I combined my interests by teaching writing at the University of Pennsylvania, which was both stimulating and fun. In that program I designed and taught classes on everything from ancient magic to race in antiquity to the politics of belonging to fairy tales, and learned a great deal about pedagogy. After a surprising and exciting semester teaching Shakespeare in film at Temple University, I have recently returned firmly to the field of classical studies, and am teaching Greek, Latin, and classics courses at the University of Pennsylvania and at Temple. My research explores poetry and poetics in archaic and classical Greece, mythology, and reception. I am currently (and probably foolishly) working on two book projects: one is on the development and significance of the figure of the Gorgon in Greco-Roman literature and art, and the other is an annotated translation of the Iliad for readers new to the poem and unfamiliar with the tradition. I have also published and/or presented on Medusa, dreams in ancient literature, Homer, Greek tragedy, teaching classics through writing, and – stretching my expertise, but responsibly – women’s suffrage in America, for the Biographical Database of Militant Woman Suffragists. When I’m not working, I enjoy spending time with my husband, admiring my cats, and dancing – I began studying Middle Eastern dance in 2005, picked up ballet in 2012, and went up on pointe in 2015. Other hobbies include sewing, quilting, studying Russian, playing classical piano, traveling, and creative writing.

MemberSimone Bregni, Ph.D.

I am an associate professor of Italian language, literature and culture with twenty-four years of teaching & leadership experience at the university level. My areas of specialization are Medieval & Renaissance Italian literature and foreign (F/L2) language acquisition. Currently, my focus is on the applications of technology and digital media to language acquisition, in particular video game-based learning (VGBL). In fall 2016, as a recipient of the Saint Louis University (SLU) Reinert Center for Innovative Teaching, I developed Intensive Italian for Gamers. The course was successfully taught in the SLU state-of-the-art Learning Studio in spring 2017. I have presented my research and results in workshops and presentations, at conferences and in publications (in print and forthcoming). I have an extensive and eclectic background in Classics (Greek and Latin, Philology, Literature), Ancient and Medieval History, Theology, Philosophy; but also in Cinema Studies, International Studies, Communications and Journalism. I definitely enjoyed the variety of my studies. I am a firm believer in multidisciplinary approaches to both learning and teaching.