Wednesday, March 02, 2005


A few of us have started meeting over at my advisor's house one afternoon each week to read medieval Arabic texts. It occurred to me the other day that this is the first time at UW where I've done academic work outside the setting of the sterile classrooms and lecture halls in the Humanities Building and Van Hise Hall. When one reads essays by great scholars of the past on their studies, there always seems to be some experience which calls to mind the aesthetics of scholarship, and it's really pleasant to be able to sit around a sip coffee surrounded by the aura of our trade, discussing the problems in an old text about Ibn Sina and some colleagues sitting around discussing the problems in old texts.

Last Sunday our Persian professor did something in a related vein, inviting the first and second year classes over for Iranian cooking. This sort of thing is attended by undergraduates more than graduate students, and for them there's probably nothing like spending some time in the home of a language's native speaker where so much of the culture is present. For me, of course, making a Shirazi salad is a practical life skill I look forward to doing again when I'm in the mood.

Of course, one never gets to know all the professors from whom one might benefit. One of the most distinguished of our history faculty is the renowned Ottomanist Dr. Kemal Karpat. He is now around 80, and retired just before last year, though he remains active, with a reputation such that visiting members of the Turkish Parliament have behaved deferentially toward him. While waiting for a meeting last week he stopped in the Middle East Studies office, ready with stories of when we didn't have an office. While I listened, it occurred to me I've never actually talked to Dr. Karpat, aside from one chat about a paper and once when a student in my lecture course wanted to write a paper on an Ottoman topic and I wanted to make sure my guidance was sound. This is, I think something to rectify before I leave.


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