Harvard University Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations

Newsletter • Spring 2004
NELC at AOS
A Harvard Odyssey
Faculty News
Student News
Commencement 2004 Photos

NELC Participation at the 214th Annual Meeting of the American Oriental Society (reported by Paul-Alain Beaulieu).

The 214th Annual Meeting of the American Oriental Society was held at the Doubletree Hotel San Diego/Mission Valley, 12-15 March 2004, in San Diego, California. Four graduate students of our department gave presentations. These included Charles Häberl (Semitic Philology), on "The Neo-Mandaic Dialect of Shushtar;" Rebecca Hasselbach (Semitic Philology), on "The Affiliation of Sargonic Akkadian with Babylonian and Assyrian: New Insights Concerning the Internal Sub-Grouping of Akkadian;" Benjamin Studevent-Hickman (Assyriology), on "The Witnesses of Emar;" and Avi Winitzer (Assyriology), who gave a talk entitled "More on Inanna's Symbol as Sign and the Interpretation of the 'Divine Presence' in Early Mesopotamian Divination."

Three recent graduates of our department also gave presentations. Tonia Sharlach (Assyriology), who has just been nominated Assistant Professor of Ancient History in Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, Oklahoma, gave a paper entitled "The Nippur Homicide Trial: A Reevaluation."She will be at the Harvard Divinity School on a Fellowship next year before she assumes her new position in Oklahoma. Kathryn Slanski (Assyriology), currently Kohut Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, Yale University, spoke on "New Light on Chronicle P from an Unexpected Source: YBC 2242." Christopher Woods (Assyriology), Assistant Professor of Sumerology, The Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago, read a paper entitled "Of the Euphrates, Shamash, and Sippar: The Orthographical, Topographical, and Mythological Background of the Spelling UD.KIB.NUN."

Finally among NELC Faculty, Paul-Alain Beaulieu (Assyriology) talked about "Building the North Palace of Nebuchadnezzar in Babylon." We hope for an even larger NELC participation at the 2005 Annual Meeting of the Society which will be held in Philadelphia between March 18 and 21 at the Sheraton Society Hill, One Dock Street Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19106.


A Harvard Odyssey
by Yaakov Elman


On reflecting on my experiences at NELC over the past year, a number of the usual adjectives describing a positive academic experience come to mind: stimulating, informative, etc. But in my case I would choose a somewhat unusual word: in this context: joyous. I refer to the joy of discovery in the academic sense, of course, but also in the sense of discovering coworkers, helpers and collaborators in an effort that is not only well worth making for its own sake, but also in a larger sense as well.

When Prof. James Kugel suggested that I come to Cambridge as a Starr Fellow dealing with the intersection of nineteenth and twentieth century Jewish biblical commentators in their encounter with modernity, I readily agreed, but added that, while not stinting onmy duties as a fellow, I would spend all my free time with the Iranian studies department. My studies as a talmudist, or perhaps better, as a student of late antique Babylonian Jewish intellectual and religious history had over the previous several yearsconvinced me of the extreme importance of Middle Persian literature for understanding not only the background of the Babylonian Talmud (hereafter: the Bavli), but of the text itself. In a sense, therefore, the year's Starr topic had a wider, more ancient precedent: In part the Bavli was a product of the encounter of Babylonian rabbis with the rich, multivalent pluralistic culture of the Sasanian Empire, and the marks of that encounter could be observed in the theological, legal, and ritual parts of the Bavli. Up until my arrival at Harvard, I had more or less had to "go it alone." Now I could fill in some of the "chinks" in my auto-didactic study of Middle Persian language and literature. I found, to my surprise, delight and intellectual profit, that I was to find much more. I found that the possibility that I had only dimly envisioned might be possible: the two fields, hitherto disconnected in the personal and academic sense, might work together on elucidating their shared intellectual and religioushistory. In a sense, as Rachel Rockenmacher has remarked to me, my odyssey at NELC recapitulates the experience of some of these rabbis and mobeds of the Sasanian period.

I was also continuing to discover a world new to me that bore remarkable resemblances to that of the rabbis of the Bavli, a world with which I have been intimately familiar since childhood. In many of its social attitudes, its legal and theological development, in its cogitations on the rules governing ritual, chiefly in the realm of purities, these seemingly disparate and even inimical worlds had many points of similarity.

So much for my intellectual odyssey. Personally, my stay has been equally rewarding, for I have learned much and been continually stimulated by teachers, coworkers and colleagues. To Profs. James Kugel, Jay M. Harris and Oktor Skjaervo I owe profound thanks for making my stay possible, and to also Rachel Rockenmaker, who has helped in so many ways. But quite apart from the formal acknowledgement, each of them, along with other colleagues who must be mentioned-James R. Russell, Charles Donahue, Jr., Hanina Ben-Menahem, Mahmoud Jaafari-Dehgani, Yuhan Vevaina-has contributed to my intellectual journey and each, in his own way, served as an intellectual stimulus, but also a source of encouragement, a factor which often means the difference between progress and stagnation.

Most of all, though, I must pay tribute to Oktor Skjaervo, who has given unstintingly of his time and huge store of knowledge, methodological acuity and intellectual sophistication. He has in a very real sense taken on an additional, and not less troublesome (in the sense of taking his valuable time), graduate student. Our weekly study sessions have been an intellectual joy and voyage of discovery into the back roads of my own intellectual and religious background in ways that neither of us could have anticipated. At the risk of using a word that is neither Semitic nor Iranian, he has shown himself a mensch in every sense of that word. Higher praise Icannot give.
He, and NELC with him, have gone still further, for he has welcomed a "foreign" graduate student, my student Shai Secunda, and taken the time and trouble to introduce him to the study of Middle Persian, and that at a time when his duties as chair of NELC demand much of his time. The time and trouble he has taken with us-and the friendship that he has bestowed on us, cannot be repaid but only acknowledged, and I am happy to have been given this opportunity to do so.

But, once again, though Oktor has borne the greater part of the burden, my stay in Cambridge has been immeasurably enriched by the personal and intellectual contribution of all the people I have mentioned, and yet others, who I forbear to mention only because this is not the proper forum for a complete "List of Acknowledgments."

One more comment. No one interested in the cultures and legal systems of Late Antiquity can afford to ignore the huge mass of data provided by the various collections of Roman Law-the works of Gaius, Theodosian and Justianian, and others, less-known. And in this respect, Prof. Charles Donahue of Harvard's Law School has been of great help. The confluence of these erudite scholars who are willing to give of their time and knowledge, and of the various Harvard libraries, which in the aggregate contain nearly every book necessary for such an interdisciplinary project, make Harvard an ideal place to carry on such work.


Faculty News

Paul-Alain BeaulieuPaul-Alain Beaulieu, Associate Professor of Assyriology

Recent publications and activities (since Summer 2003).

Book

The Pantheon of Uruk During the Neo-Babylonian Period (Cuneiform Monographs 23; Brill - Styx, Leiden and Boston, 2003). This book is about the pantheon of the Babylonian city of Uruk (modern site of Warka in southern Iraq) between the 9th and 5th centuries BC. It is based on a detailed analysis of the archive of the Eanna temple in Uruk, the sanctuary of the goddess Ishtar, containing well over 8,000 cuneiform tablets in the Akkadian language. The tablets date in their majority to the Neo-Babylonian and early Achaemenid periods (626-520 B.C.), and they shed light on the hierarchy of the local pantheon, providing a wealth of data concerning the cult of each deity, such as identity and theology, ornaments and clothing of the divine image, offerings ceremonies, temples, and cultic personnel.

Articles:

"Nabopolassar and the Antiquity of Babylon," in Hayim and Miriam Tadmor Volume (Eretz-Israel, volume 27, 2003) 1-9.

"Ea-dayan, Governor of the Sealand, and Other Dignitaries of the Neo-Babylonian Empire." Journal of Cuneiform Studies 54 (2002) 99-123.

"W.F. Albright and Assyriology," Near Eastern Archaeology 65 (2002) 234-239.

Lectures:

"From Nineveh to Uruk: the Afterlife of Assyrian Scholarship in Hellenistic Babylonia," at the 49th Rencontre Assyriologique Internationale, London, 7-11 July 2003.

"The Origins of the Zodiacal Sign Pisces and the Legends of Semiramis and Atargatis," Harvard-NELC Workshop on the Religion of Ancient Mesopotamia and Adjacent Areas, December 5, 2003.

"The Last Flourishing of Cuneiform Writing: From Imperial Assyria to Parthian Babylon," for the Program in Ancient Studies, Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island, December 9, 2003.

"Mesopotamian Mythology," for the Harvard Asia Center research project on comparative Pan-Asian mythology, organized by M. Puett and M. Witzel, December 15, 2003.

"Autour de la question de l'aniconisme: bétyles et autres créatures lithiques dans le Proche-Orient ancien," for the colloquium in honor of Jean Bottéro: un demi-siècle de recherches sur le Proche-Orient ancien. Université de Montréal, Montreal, Canada, January 8, 2004.


William GrahamWilliam A. Graham writes: The second volume of the Encyclopaedia of the Qur'an, of which I am an associate editor, has just come out this fall (with E.J. Brill), and I have one article in it: "Fatihah".

I gave a keynote address for the Japanese Association of Religious Studies in Tenri, Japan, September 3, 2003: "Reflections on the Comparative Study of Religion".


Wolfhart P. Heinrichs, attended the annual meeting of MESA, Nov. 7-9, at Anchorage, AK, with a paper on "Najm al-Din al-Tufi on incorrect readings of the
Fatiha".


Jo Ann HackettJo AJohn Huehnergardnn Hackett and John Huehnergard have agreed to direct a Harvard center of the Semantics of Ancient Hebrew Database project, an international effort to create a computer database of the lexicon of ancient Hebrew (Biblical, inscriptional, etc.) that is to be organized by semantic fields. Other centers of the project are in Leiden, Edinburgh, Cambridge, Oxford, Rome, Florence, Paris, Leuven, and Sydney. Each of the centers is responsible for one or more semantic fields; the Harvard center has chosen to work on the field of Hebrew terms involving writing. Professors Hackett and Huehnergard will be assisted by NELC doctoral student Gene McGarry. http://www.sahd.uklinux.net/.


Jon Levenson Jon D. Levenson, Albert A. List Professor of Jewish Studies

Article:

"Did God Forgive Adam? An Exercise in Comparative Midrash," in Jews and Christians: People of God (ed. Carl E. Braaten and Robert Jenson; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2003): 148-70.

Contribution to New Edition of Hebrew Bible:

Introduction to and annotations of "Genesis" in the Oxford Jewish Study Bible (ed. Adele Berlin and Marc Z. Brettler; New York: Oxford University Press, 2003): 8-101.

Lectures:

"The Original Meanings of Biblical Monotheism," dinner lecture and discussion sponsored by the Jewish Community Day School, held in Newton, MA, November 1, 2003

"The Conversion of Abraham to Judaism, Christianity, and Islam," Congregational Church of Topsfield, MA, November 2, 2003

Peter MachinistPeter Machinist, submits the following activities:

1) "The Emergence of Epic in the Middle Assyrian Period," invited lecture in the symposium to honor Prof. Hayim Tadmor on his 80th birthday, Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities, Jerusalem, Israel, November 20, 2003.

2) " Assyriology and the Bible: Benno Landsberger's Eigenbegrifflichkeit Revisited," invited lecture in the Assyriology and the Bible Consulation, Annual Meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature, Atlanta, Georgia, November 23, 2003.


Roy MottahedehRoy Mottahedeh writes: This summer a book entitled "Lessons in Jurisprudence" was published which is half a translation from Arabic by me and half an analysis of Islamic jurisprudence. In the summer, I also published a popular article on Iraq for Religion in the News entitled "Keeping the Shi'ites Straight", available online. In the fall, Kristen Stilt and I published an article about the medieval market inspector entitled "Public and Private as Viewed through the Works of the Muhtsib", which appeared in Social Research, 70:3. A revised form of an older essay appeared the Columbia UP collection The New Crusades, edited by Michael Sells, etc.

In September I delivered the Khazeni Memorial Lecture at the University of Utah, and in October I delivered the Mirhady Lecture at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. Also in October, I spoke at the Istanbul Book Fair in conjunction of the publication of the Turkish translation of one of my books.


James RussellJames Russell, Mashtots Professor of Armenian Studies, organized and chaired an international conference on October 10 - 11 to mark the millennium since the death of the Armenian mystical poet and theologian, St. Gregory of Narek. The symposium was realized through the sponsorship of the Prelacy of the Armenian Church, NELC, and the fund of the Mashtots Chair. After the invocation by Archbishop Oshagan Choloyan, Prof. P. O. Book of FlowersSkjaervo welcomed the participants. Papers included: Prof. Theo Van Lint (Oxford University), on the prayers of Grigor Tgha; Prof. Abraham Terian (St. Nersess Seminary), on Narekats'i's hymn to St. Gregory the Illuminator; Prof. Christina Maranci (Univ. of Wisconsin, Milwaukee), on Armenian church architecture of thetenth century; and Prof. Sergio La Porta (Hebrew University, Jerusalem) on mystical love and union. The Proceedings will be published in the Haak Armenological Yearbook of the Catholicossate of the Great House of Cilicia, Antelias, Lebanon.

Prof. Russell has published a translation and study, with the Armenian text, of "The Book of Flowers", a modern short story by Derenik Demirjian about pantheistic vision, poetic recital, and the transmission of culture in Mediaeval Armenia. The book was made possible by a grant form Dolores Zohrab Liebmann Fund and appears in the Armenian Heritage Press series: it is available from the National Association for Armenian Studies and Research in Belmont, MA.


P. Oktor SkjaervoP. Oktor Skjærvø, writes: My book of translations into Norwegian[!] of select passages from the Avesta and other Zoroastrian texts appeared in the Norwegian Book [of the month] Clubs the first thing in the new year. The book is one in a series of translations of ancient religious texts that has been published at the rate of one every two months since its inception in 2000. Translating these texts into Norwegian, rather than English, was a great learning experience. It made me think twice and three times if not more about the meaning of the words of languages we only partly understand and, especially, how to convey this meaning in a modern culture almost completely unacquainted with the 3-4000 year-old Iranian culture (translating into English one Zarathustras Sangeroften does not worry about how other people may understand the translation).

My Khotanese Catalogue came out in a second printing with corrections and additions, and we are already working on a second edition!

Among academic activities outside of Harvard, I participated in a series of lectures featuring mostly Harvard faculty and students (present and past, among them Calvert Watkins and Stephanie Jamison, now safely ensconced in the balmy climate of California) arranged by the Interdepartmental Program in Linguistics, Louisiana State University, October 23, with a presentation on ""Zarathustra as Epic Hero" and an improvised lecture for undergraduates on Old Iranian studies.

I presented the new, exciting, Bactrian documents "From the Caves of Afghanistan: New Material for 500 Years of Social and Political History in Bactria," at the luncheon talk series of the Committee on Inner Asia and Altaic Studies, Harvard, October 29, to the largest crowd I have seen at any of my presentations here.

I also participated in a Round-table Discussion on dialogues between Islamic Iran and other, non-Muslim, religions in that country, arranged by the ILEX foundation in New York, December 3.

Finally, I gave a presentation in honor of my great predecessor in the Aga Khan Chair in NELC at the Iranian Studies In honor of Professor Richard Nelson Frye, New York, December 19-20, sponsored by ISIC and AIIrS and arranged by the Iranian Mission to the UN.

Upcoming is an invitation from the Iranian-American Cultural Association, Washington, DC, to talk about ancient Iranian culture, end of February.

What else do I do, besides teaching and chairing? Not much, although a recent one-week trip to St Croix was re-invigorating; this is an island in the former Danish-Norwegian Virgin Islands (the US bought them). Some trivia: the D-NVI were the first in the Caribbean to free and give complete civil rights to slaves. Also, the young soldiers at the harbor fortress (protecting against Dutch and British pirates: Bluebeards, Blackbeards, etc.) had to wear their home woolen uniforms, because, "the Caribbean nights could get cool"! Well, I didn't wear my woolens.

Student News

Ahmed AhmedAhmad Ahmad, The responsibilities of principal instructor for two advanced Arabic courses coupled with my decision to take a German class to brush up my German have made this past fall semester less of a "dissertation season" for me. I enjoyed both teaching and getting back to German, though. In my German class, I got to read an interesting play by a modern Swiss writer (Friedrich Dürrenmatt) entitled Der Besuch der alten Dame (The Visit of the Old Lady), which addresses questions related to revenge and justice.

During the Fall, I also had a chance to participate in the 2nd International Conference on "Rights and Law in Jewish, Christian, and Islamic Traditions," which was organized by the Evangelische Akademie Arnoldshain, Frankfurt, Germany in October 2003. It was my first opportunity to participate in intensive discussions on the questions of "Euro-Islam" as many people refer to a host of issues dealing with European Muslim minorities.

But the dissertation was not abandoned completely. In light of comments by Professors Heinrichs and Graham, I expanded my notes as well as "text"-as I refer to what I feel will be integrated into the dissertation after minor revisions are made. It is hard at this point to make any prediction about when I will be able to finish, but I am assuming I might need to stay in Cambridge for another year.

Eric Beverley, In early October of 2003, I left my happy home in Hyderabad, India, sadly parting from my dear friends there, the fascinating (if disorganized and disintegrating) contents of the Andhra Pradesh State Archives, my motorbike, and the abundant and inexpensive vast portions of biryani, kebabs, and South Indian snacks and meals to which I had become accustomed. After a few days in Bombay celebrating Kali Puja with displaced yet jolly secular Bengalis and tying up loose ends at the Maharashtra State Archives, I flew to London, which was to be my home for the next month. In the erstwhile metropole, I spent long hours poring over documents in the India Office section of the British Library, ate moldy cheeses with Anglican clergy, and explored the cultural, culinary and pub life of the east and south of the city. I have been back in the States for more than two months now and since then have had happy reunions with family and friends in several places, settled into a lovely apartment in Jamaica Plain, and started work on my dissertation. In the coming semester I am looking forward to doing more writing, getting back to teaching and presenting a paper at a conference on Regions and Regional Consciousness in India at Arizona State University in the heart of the American desert.


Recep Goktas, Having just taken my general exams, I am now busy with preparing my prospectus. My dissertation will be focusing on Hadith. Another interest of mine is Central Asian intellectual history, primarily after the Timurid Period. I have recently presented a paper on "The Question of Decline in Central Asian Madrasas in 16-19th centuries" at the 4th Annual Conference of Central Eurasian Studies Society held at Harvard University. In my paper, I discussed some of the problems of the treatment of the Central Asian madrasa education in modern literature. Contrary to the common opinion, I argued that the decline in madrasas is neither self-evident nor proven and the negative opinion about the madrasas is mostly based on false assumptions, misconceptions and irrelevant criteria, and not on a close examination of the madrasas in their cultural and intellectual context. I would like to pursue my interest in this much neglected field by analyzing some of the problems I touched upon in this paper in a detailed manner. Another project I am working on is an intellectual biography of an early twentieth-century scholar from Central Asia. I am also currently preparing a conference paper on some changes in the rijâl criticism in hadith over the centuries.


Charles HaberlCharles Häberl, When looking for the roots of today's conflicts in the Middle East, one really need look no further than the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, whose speedy dissolution at the end of the First World War was accomplished largely by drawing leagues of meaningless lines in the sand, thereby providing grist for the mills of generations of Middle Eastern irredentists. Indeed, the late Ottoman state, with its extensive archives, continues to provide historians of the region with ample fodder for their research. Even though the Ottomans are gone and their language has ceased to be spoken, its mastery is the object of scholars the world around.

In the last fifty years, the Turkish government has done much to re-organize the Ottoman archives according to the needs of modern archives, and abolish bureaucratic obstacles. Nonetheless, comparatively little of the material in the archives has been translated or published, and therefore historians wishing to do research in the archives must first master Ottoman. Even though Ottoman is the ancestor of Modern Turkish, fluency in it requires much more than knowledge of Turkish. As the language of an Islamic empire, whose diplomatic and literary traditions are most indebted to Iran, Ottoman pressed words, phrases, and entire utterances from Arabic and Persian into service. A serious scholar of the language must master these two languages in addition to Turkish, before he can hope to read Ottoman with any degree of fluency.

As it happens, the world's one and only Ottoman Summer School - in Turkish, Osmanlica Yaz Okulu - is directed by the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilization's own Sinasi Tekin. This is not a widely-known fact, but it is not likely to surprise. The eminent Turkologist is the founding editor and publisher of the Journal of Turkish Studies, one of the most important western journals in the field of Turkish studies. He has been a member of the Harvard community since 1965, and the Osmanlica Yaz Okulu is his brainchild and his legacy. He and his wife Gönül Alpay Tekin have organized the program under the auspices of Koç University in Istanbul, in addition to those of Harvard.

Wheeler ThackstonThe program is unique in many ways. Prospective Ottoman scholars can look forward to studyingon a paradisiacal Aegean island in the neighborhood of Lesbos, rather than Cambridge or Istanbul. The island appears on all maps as Alibey Adasi, "Mr. Ali's Island," but its inhabitants call it Cunda, after the old Venetian name for the island. Cunda is unlike any other part of Turkey; many of its native sons speak Turkish in the streets and Greek behind closed doors. In 1923, according to the terms of the Treaty of Lausanne, the ancestors of the inhabitants of the island were uprooted from their homes in Crete and transferred to Cunda. When several Kurdish families were settled there later that decade, they assimilated to the local population and acquired Giritçe, the Cretan dialect of their neighbors.

Students will be hard-pressed to find anyone who speaks English. The program offers an opportunity to become completely immersed in a Turkish environment. Despite their Cretan roots, the islanders are patriotic to a degree not seen in the United States or even elsewhere in Turkey. Every Monday morning to start the week, and every Friday evening to close it, life on Cunda comes to a halt, and all islanders stand to attention as the strains of the Istiklal Marsi, Turkey's national anthem, flow from loudspeakers strategically placed throughout the island. Even the Istanbullu Turks found this display of patriotism surprising. "It's like something out of a movie," says Niyazioglu. Turkish flags and the face of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founding father of modern Turkey, are prominently displayed in all quarters. His dicta appear on numerous billboards along the highways leading into Cunda and Ayvalik, its sister city on the mainland, not unlike the Burma Shave ads of yesteryear.

The irony of the program's location, situated as it is between its Greek past and its Kemalist present, is not lost on its instructors. "We thought that it was entirely appropriate," says Prof. Wheeler M. Thackston, a member of the brain trust that comprises the school's faculty. Thackston teaches Palaeography, Arabic, and Persian at the school. He himself wrote the text books for all three subjects. Last year, the task of instructing the school's sixteen students was divided between Thackston, Prof. Selim S. Kuru of the University of Washington (Harvard '00), Asli Niyazioglu (Harvard '03), and Hande Solakoglu (Ph.D. Candidate, University of Washington). Students who register in the program are divided into two groups, depending upon their interests. Scholars of the 19th and early 20th century read printed materials in Ottoman (with the aid of Solakoglu), and scholars of earlier periods are taught to read manuscripts (under the instruction of Kuru and Thackston). Additionally, Niyazioglu prepares both groups of students for their Cunda Catscareerswith a course in academic Turkish.

In addition to the classrooms and the offices of the director, the school's campus houses the clinicof a German animal welfare organization, Pro Animale für Tiere in Not e. V. Of all of Cunda's many charms, the most memorable are the cats, who are the unchallenged masters of its animal kingdom; nary a dog (or a mouse, for that matter) is to be found. However, the feline population has reached catastrophic numbers, and Pro Animale has undertaken the important work of innoculating and sterilizing the island's prolific cats, nipping the problem in the bud, so to speak. "These are Byzantine cats," says program director Sinasi Tekin, "but we have Turkicized them!"


Jeremy HuttonJeremy Hutton
, currently in his 6th year of graduate studies, is working on his dissertation dealing with the significance of the Transjordan as a place of exile and refuge during the period of the Israelite monarchies. His project involves copious reading in anthropology, sociology and philosophy, three subjects he thought he was finished with after college. Jeremy will be publishing two articles in the next year or so: " 'Abdi-Ashirta, the Slave, the Dog': Self-Abasement and Invective in the Amarna Letters, the Lachish Letters and 2 Sam 3:8," Zeitschrift fur Althebraistik [forthcoming]; and "An Areal Trend in Ugaritic and Phoenician and a New Translation of KTU 1.15 I 3," Ugarit-Forschungen 35 (2003).


Yehuda Kurtzer, I'm currently at the Catholic University of America in Washington, DC where I am spending the year as a visiting student in the Semitics Department. I am working mostly at developing my Greek and Syriac; for the latter, we are using Professor Coakley's textbook, which only exacerbates my nostalgia for NELC -- and conveniently, in a variety of verbal forms. I'm also taking advantage of the unique opportunities available at CUA, and studying a bit of canon law and some patristics. I'm looking forward to being back around the department next year.


Aaron RubinAaron Rubin, After reading several books by the Israeli archeologist Yigael Yadin, I became interested in the man himself. At Prof. Stager's recommendation, I read Neil Silberman's biography of Yadin, entitled "A Prophet From Amongst You" (Addison-Wesley, 1993). I enjoy reading biographies, especially when the subject is in an academic. The book is indeed quite interesting; after all, Yadin was the Israeli chief of staff during the first years of Israel's independence, discoverer of the letters of Bar-Kokhba, excavator of the legendary site of Masada, and at one point a deputy prime minister. His connection to major political, military, and scholarly events (including work on the Dead Sea Scrolls) made for a fascinating life. Silberman does a good job of capturing the excitement of Yadin's life, a task which is not too difficult. What he fails to do is remove his own personal views, often scathing in regards to important Israeli figures and policies. Silberman's indirect criticisms of Ben Gurion's controlling nature and one-sided accusations of Israeli actions are quite out of place and disruptive to the story.

Roughly half of the book deals with the period up to and including the Israeli War of Independence. This half can almost be considered a history of Israel rather than a biography of one man. Perhaps the author can be forgiven this, as it is essentially impossible to separate Yadin's life from the political and military events with which he was so closely involved. Yet there are chapters where one learns very little about
Yadin, except for his role these events. Thus the author often treats his subject somewhat superficially, leaving the reader on his or her own to analyze Yadin in a more profound way.

The book paints a clear picture of Yadin as a brilliant storyteller, which, from what I read and hear elsewhere, seems to be the most lasting impression he gave those who knew him. The book remains enjoyable, for Yadin was a fascinating personality. It is also quite educational with regards to Israeli history, despite the author's particular point of view. However, more enjoyable is Yadin's own books on the Bar-Kokhba discoveries and Masada excavations. There one can appreciate firsthand the importance of Yadin's work, as well as his gift of storytelling.


Jonathan SmolinJonathan Smolin is continuing his research on contemporary North African fiction. In December 2003, he gave a paper entitled "Illegal Crossings and the Poetics of the Transnational Imagination: Representing France and Spain in Moroccan Clandestine Emigration Literature" at the Cross-Culture Poetics and Rhetoric Seminar, the Humanities Institute, Harvard University. In January 2004, he discussed his on-going translation of a Moroccan Arabic detective novel at the UCLA International Conference for Literary Translation. This spring, he will present his research on the Arabic detective novel in a paper entitled "The Killer, the Inspector and the Crime: Investigating Moroccan Detective Fiction" at the Arabic Literature Seminar, the American Comparative Literature Association, University of Michigan at Ann Arbor. His review essay entitled "Armed Identities: Yasmina Khadra and the Writing of Terrorist Violence in Contemporary Algeria" will appear in the upcoming issue of The Arab Studies Journal. Jonathan is also serving as the NELC representative at the Graduate Student Council for the 2003-2004 academic year. Please contact him at smolin@fas.harvard.edu if you have any issues or concerns that you would like him to raise at their monthly meetings.

Commencement 2004

John Huehnergard, Rebecca Hasselbach, P. Oktor Skjaervo
John Huehnergard, Rebecca Hasselbach, P. Oktor Skjaervo
Aaron Rubin, Kim De Wall, Peter De Wall, Kathleen Cloutier
Aaron Rubin, Kim De Wall, Peter De Wall, Kathleen Cloutier

The Museum Tent
The Museum Tent
Jeremy Hutton, Charles Haberl, Jennifer Petrallia
Jeremy Hutton, Charles Haberl, Jennifer Petrallia
Richard Thompson
Richard Thompson
Miriam and David Lambert
Miriam and David Lambert
Mr. Lambert
Mr. Lambert
Aaron Rubin and Kim De Wall
Aaron Rubin and Kim De Wall
P. Oktor Skjaervo
P. Oktor Skjaervo
Rebecca Hasselbach and Jo Ann Hackett
Rebecca Hasselbach and Jo Ann Hackett
Rebecca Hasselbach and Aaron Rubin
Rebecca Hasselbach and Aaron Rubin
Charles Haberl
Charles Haberl

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