Author Archives: Catherine Mardikes, Bibliographer for Classics the Ancient Neat East, and General Humanities

One Man’s Trash . . . Discovering New Ancient Greek Texts

Exhibit Location: The Joseph Regenstein Library, Fourth Floor
Exhibit Dates: February 19 – June 15, 2015

Greek Vase Painting, Muse reading scroll

Muse reading a scroll.
Attic red-figure lekythos, ca. 435-425 BCE

Imagine trying to sort out and assemble thousands of scattered pieces of jigsaw puzzles; imagine that they are as fragile and misshapen as cornflakes and that many pieces are missing. The task is only beginning to resemble the monumental efforts of today’s papyrologists, who continue to work on the Greek papyrus fragments uncovered in the late 19th century from the sands of ancient trash heaps located outside of the city of Oxyrhynchus (modern el-Bahnasa), Egypt.  It has been said that over 70 percent of surviving literary papyri come from Oxyrhynchus, among which are a new poem by Simonides, extensive remains of the Hypsipyle of Euripides, and a large part of the Ichneutae of Sophocles.

This one-case exhibit explores the various ways new works have come to light since the Renaissance, when so many manuscripts were rediscovered in monastic libraries.   Two new poems by Sappho, for example, were discovered  just this year in an Egyptian cartonnage.  In the Ptolemaic period ancients used recycled papyrus (much as we use recycled newspapers in papier-mâché) to construct cartonnages i.e. mummy masks and panels.  Modern science has opened the door for more discoveries.  Multispectral lighting helps us read palimpsests, which are manuscripts on which the original writing has been washed and/or scraped off in order that the parchment be reused for another text.  In France a team of scientists has used a particle accelerator to bombard an unopened, charred papyrus scroll from the Villa of Papyri in Herculaneum with X-rays.  The X-rays were so sensitive that they could detect changes in thickness where carbon-based ink had been used to write letters. The team could make out the Greek letters inside the tightly wound scroll.

Charred Papyrus Scroll

Charred Papyrus Scroll from the Villa of Papyri

The Archimedes Palimpsest under multispectral lighting

The Archimedes Palimpsest under multispectral lighting

Bestiaries: Representations of animals in 20th century Romance languages and literatures

The Joseph Regenstein Library, Third Floor
April 10 – June 13, 2015

A.	A.	Woodcut image of a dolphin originally accompanying a poem by Guillaume Apollinaire in his work ““Le Bestiaire ou Cortège d’Orphée” (1911).

Woodcut by Raoul Dufy from Guillaume Apollinaire’s “Le Bestiaire ou Cortège d’Orphée” (1911)

Books representing animals metamorphose and mutate; they might creep, crawl, or leap onto your shelf, surprise you, pique your interest, and make you reconsider your conception of ‘animal’ and human altogether.  This exhibition dives into the 3rd floor stacks to seek out the most interesting textual and visual representations of contemporary bestiaries written in the Romance languages.  The final selection of books found in this exhibition illustrates the expanding definition of the bestiary and its portrayal of all things beastly in the 20th century.

B. Woodcut image of an ox originally accompanying a poem by Guillaume Apollinaire in his work “Le Bestiaire ou Cortège d’Orphée” (1911).

Woodcut by Raoul Dufy from Guillaume Apollinaire’s “Le Bestiaire ou Cortège d’Orphée” (1911)





Meaning Found in Comparison: An Exhibit in memory of Martin Riesebrodt (1948-2014)

Exhibit Location: The Joseph Regenstein Library, Fourth Floor
Exhibit Dates: March 16 – May 31, 2015

Martin Riesebrodt

Martin Riesebrodt in his office in Swift Hall

“What’s interesting in the uniqueness of everything? Uniqueness has to be related to something that is shared in order to become really interesting.” Martin Riesebrodt defended both the possibility of a universal definition of religion and the ability and importance of critical comparisons across religions. This at a time when the fields of Religion and Sociology were questioning comparative approaches. Trained in anthropology and sociology, he began his career as an associate director of the Max Weber Archives and one of the editors of a German critical edition of Weber’s work, Max Weber-Gesamtausgabe

Martin Riesebrodt

Martin Riesebrodt in 2011

He joined the faculty at the Divinity School in 1990, with a joint appointment in the Department of Sociology. Riesebrodt is credited with reintroducing the relevance of the Weberian approach in Sociology. He is probably best known for his work on his theory of fundamentalism as a reassertion of patriarchal power structures in Pious Passion: The Emergence of Modern Fundamentalism in the United States and Iran (University of California Press, 1993; German original 1990). In his retirement, he taught at the Graduate Institute in Geneva as the Yves Oltramare Chair for Religion and Politics. Dr. Riesebrodt died December 6, 2014, of cancer in Berlin. He was 66.

Chinese New Year paintings held in the Shanghai Library

Exhibit Location:  The Joseph Regenstein Library, Fifth Floor
Exhibit Dates: October 31, 2014 – February 28, 2015 

The children of a wealthy family are playing drums and suona to celebrate the New Year. In the background the grandfather scold a naughty child.

The children of a wealthy family are playing drums and suona to celebrate the New Year. In the background the grandfather attends to his grandchild.

Chinese New Year painting is a unique and fascinating  genre of Chinese painting.   Customarily, these paintings are often posted by Chinese people in their homes to celebrate the New Year, offering hopes and blessings for an auspicious and happy New Year.

A family is celebrating the Lantern Festival.

A family reunion during the Lantern Festival. The peonies and plum blossoms in the vase indicate the season and create a festive atmosphere.

Over the years, the Shanghai Library has collected over 4,000 New Year paintings produced from the end of the Qing Dynasty to the early years of the Republican Period. This exhibition displays 10 replicas of New Year paintings selected by the Shanghai Library from their collection, which focus on local products and cover eight topics including, for example, “Good Fortune,” “Happy Family,” “Auspicious New Year”, “Celebrating the Lantern Festival,” and “Children at Play.”

The three gods, Fu, Lu and Shou (good fortune, prosperity,and longevity) are pictured.

Good fortune, prosperity, longevity and happiness (fu lu shou xi) are words commonly used in traditional Chinese customs for good wishes. The three gods, Fu, Lu and Shou, are pictured.

From Gnostics to U-Boats: The Work of Robert McQueen Grant (1917-2014)

Exhibit Location: The Joseph Regenstein Library, Fourth Floor.

Exhibit Dates: October 20, 2014 – December 13, 2014

Grant in his retirement

Grant in his retirement

Grant as a young man

Grant as a young man in his office in Swift Hall.


Robert McQueen Grant was the most prolific and influential American historian of ancient Christianity of his generation. His research helped establish New Testament Studies as an historical endeavor that must take into account the full context of the Hellenistic world. His research interests were broad. He published multiple books on Gnosticism, an introduction to the New Testament that was later translated into French and an encyclopedia of the use of animals in early Christian literature. At the same time, he was an international authority on U-Boats in World War I. Robert McQueen Gant began teaching at the Divinity School in 1953. He passed away at his home in Hyde Park on June 10, 2014 at the age of 96. This exhibit displays paradigmatic works from his career, showcasing Grant’s breadth and depth as a scholar.

August 1914: The Eastern Front

Exhibition Location: Regenstein Library, Second Floor Reading Room
Dates: August 1 – December 31, 2014

Map of Europe in 1914In August 1914, most of the countries that we now think of as Eastern Europe (or Central Europe or Southeastern Europe or East Central Europe (nothing about this area of the world is less than complex and multi-faceted!) were either part of one or another of the region’s multinational, multilingual, and multi-religious empires—the Russian Empire, the German Empire, the Austro-Hungarian Empire or the Ottoman Empire—or had just recently struggled free from decades or centuries of imperial rule. On this centennial of the beginning of The Great War, this two-case exhibit attempts to place these countries “on the map” as they were in August 1914. It is an almost impossible task, as the complexity of the borders, alliances, relationships and aspirations of these crumbling empires and emerging nations were to clash mightily and disastrously as they positioned themselves on the Eastern Front.

Super Metroid: A 20th Anniversary exhibit extended to March 22

Original Japanese Super Metroid Box

Original Japanese Super Metroid Box

Exhibit Title: Super Metroid: A 20th Anniversary
Dates: January 28 – March 22, 2014
Location: Regenstein Library, Third Floor and

One of the greatest games of all time, Super Metroid was released on March 19, 1994. It is praised for visual style and graphics, atmospheric sound design and music, and detailed environments, as well as refined controls and gameplay.

Recognizing the 20th anniversary of the game’s release, this exhibit celebrates the art of the videogame as seen in one of its early classics.  Additionally, the exhibit explores the creative activity that lies beyond the game itself, from concept art and promotional materials to the fan art the game still inspires twenty years later. The great diversity of these ancillary pieces, the variety of styles and media used to promote and interpret the game, its characters and world, remains one of the most fascinating parts of its history. The one-case exhibit on the third floor complements the online portion of the exhibit (and vice versa).

 Update, 2/27/14: The closing date of the exhibit has been extended to March 22.

O Homer, Where Art Thou? Adaptations of the Iliad and Odyssey: Ancient and Modern

Exhibit Location: The Joseph Regenstein Library, Fourth Floor
Exhibit Dates: January 5 – February 28, 2014

DVD box of the film O Brother, Where Art ThouWhat do The Penelopiad of Margaret Atwood, the Coen brothers’ O Brother, Where Art Thou, and James Joyce’s Ulysses have in common? They were all inspired by the Odyssey of Homer.

The Iliad and the Odyssey have fascinated us for nearly 3,000 years, inspiring authors of all ages to produce a variety of creative and distinctive adaptations. Some writers have simply retold the stories in abridged form, maybe for a younger audience or simply to emphasize the most dramatic segments.  Others have retold the tales, but set them in a different time period, sometimes far into the future or in a different setting miles from the Mediterranean.  Retelling the events of the Iliad and Odyssey from another’s point of view has been a favorite vehicle for adaptation.  These narratives, either viewed through the eyes of one of the main characters or through completely made up figures, often purport to correct the Homeric account.  Sometimes an elaborate hoax serves as a narrative frame.  And, of course, parodies are an amusing nod to Homer and always delight.

Cover of Odyssey comic book published inHeavy Metal

Navarro, Francisco and José Sauri, The Odyssey (Rockville Centre, NY: Heavy Metal, 2007).

Stories from the Iliad and Odyssey have also been favorites with illustrators, both ancient and modern.  In the exhibit comic books and graphic novels are displayed alongside photographs of ancient marble panels with captioned scenes of the Homeric epics carved in low relief and a series of Roman wall paintings depicting the colorful events  of Odysseus’s voyage.

While the epics may have begun with the voice of a singing bard, they have found their way into a wide array of new media: on a stage as a play, musical, or opera, over the air waves in radio programs and television shows, and onto the silver screen from silent film to Hollywood blockbuster.

This two-case exhibit was designed as a companion exhibit to “Homer in Print: The Transmission and Reception of Homer’s Works,” running from January 13 – March 15, 2014 in the Special Collections Research Center Exhibition Gallery in the Joseph Regenstein Library, First Floor.

The Stalin Digital Archive (SDA)

StalinDigitalArchiveThe Library patrons now have access to the Stalin Digital Archive (SDA), a collaborative effort between the Russian State Archive of Social and Political History (RGASPI) and Yale University Press (YUP) to create an electronic database of finding aids, to digitize documents and images, and to publish in different forms and media materials from the recently declassified Stalin archive in the holdings of RGASPI.

J. Arch Getty at UCLA in his introduction to the database writes:

Joseph Stalin’s life (1878–1953) coincided with the most momentous events of the twentieth century: two world wars, several revolutions in Russia and China, the Cold War, and the dawn of the nuclear age. Stalin was influential in the Chinese revolutions and communist victory, the Korean conflict, and the occupation of Eastern Europe. In terms of modern Russian history he played key roles in the revolutionary movement, the Bolshevik revolution of 1917, Soviet industrialization, the terror of the 1930s, World War II, and the Cold War.

It is therefore difficult to imagine a more important primary source for these events than Stalin’s personal archive, major portions of which are now declassified and available for study. Although specialists have known and used these documents for some time in the Russian State Archive of Social and Political History (RGASPI) in Moscow, the Stalin Digital Archive (SDA) will now make them available electronically, eliminating the need to travel to Moscow and rendering the documents searchable and printable, actions that are difficult even in the Moscow archive.

Moreover, the SDA will for the first time make these documents accessible to students and specialists in other fields for both research and teaching. The SDA will provide translations of hundreds of selected key documents from Russian into English. These translated documents will be accompanied by scholarly annotations.

The importance of Stalin’s archive might be seen in two ways, external and internal.Stalin Externally, Stalin’s papers provide us with unparalleled information on the development of key historical events from the point of view of a participant. Obviously, because he was a dictator, everything of importance came across his desk. For example, these materials fully document Soviet industrialization and agricultural collectivization from the late 1920s. There is practically a full series of economic reports to and orders from Stalin over many years. Foreign relations, both with Germans and potential allies in the 1930s and with Cold War opponents in the 1940s, received his close attention. It will be possible to rewrite and restudy the histories of such important events of a violent century.

One of the differences between the Nazi and Soviet regimes is the level of sensitive documentation. Although the Nazis were meticulous in keeping some kinds of records, at the top we have practically nothing in writing about many kinds of decisions. We have almost no “smoking gun” documents about the decision to exterminate Jews and others, and not much about the inner politics of Hitler’s court and the bureaucratic empires of his courtiers. In short, Hitler did not write much down, nor was he interested in documenting his decisions.

The Stalinists, on the other hand, were not ashamed of or worried about recording their most sensitive (and evil) decisions. During the Stalinist terror of the 1930s, we have Stalin’s correspondence with his secret police chiefs N. I. Ezhov and L. P. Beria in which he ordered the arrest, torture, and execution of various people. When in 1940 Stalin and the Politburo decided to shoot more than 20,000 captured Polish officers at Katyn, they recorded their decisions in memos and resolutions, complete with justifications. Compared with that of the Nazis, the documentation on Soviet repression is full and rich, and some of the most important elements of it came from Stalin’s desk and trademark blue pencil.

In addition to enhancing our ability to study major events of the twentieth century with new materials, Stalin’s archive also has a fascinating internal, personal component. It shows us the nature and evolution of Stalin’s own thought, opinions, and decision-making process.

Consider, for example, the more than 300 books in his personal library. Stalin once told his lieutenants that if they weren’t reading several hundred pages a week, they were illiterate. The record shows that Stalin was a voracious reader of a wide variety of subjects who made detailed notations in the margins of what he read. His opinions about political, literary, and philosophical works are fascinating and revealing about how he thought.

Similarly, the archive contains hundreds of manuscripts sent to Stalin by others for his corrections and comments. He often answered them in written letters, but just as often he made detailed marginalia that show his reactions. Both types of reactions are preserved in his archives. Similarly, although most of his articles and speeches have been published, the drafts and rewrites of them are in his archive and show the evolution of his thinking as well as his consideration of word choice and discursive strategy.

The archive contains a wealth of Stalin’s correspondence with his lieutenants on important and secret subjects. These letters and telegrams show Stalin’s opinions of Lenin, other Bolshevik leaders, and world figures as well as his reflections on policy choices. When writing to his closest Politburo assistants, he was informal and often quite unguarded.

We have nothing like this level of documentation for Hitler or other twentieth-century dictators, and the scope of SDA documents is comparable with the archival source bases we have for world leaders in more-open societies. It is probably not an exaggeration to say that study of these documents will enrich, if not revolutionize, our understanding of the Soviet Union.


Benjamin Britten’s Literary Connections

A photo of Benjamin Britten and his friend W.H. Auden

Benjamin Britten and W.H. Auden

The 3rd Floor of Regenstein Library is playing host to a single case exhibit on Benjamin Britten (1913-1976) as part of a larger campus celebration of the centennial of Britten’s birth.  This exhibit focuses on Britten’s literary connections, highlighting the links between music and literature seen in his work.  Over his career Britten set many poetic works to music including work by Edith Sitwell, T.S. Eliot, Wilfred Owen and Britten’s personal friend W.H. Auden.  This exhibit displays excerpts from many of Britten’s work alongside the original texts from which they are adapted.  Also included are several works adapted from folk poems and short stories, including work by Guy de Maupassant.  The exhibit runs from November 1 through December 18, 2013.