On struggling to learn Arabic

When you’re learning a new language, you must associate everything in your world of experience, knowledge, and imagination–every object, every historical event, every fantastic creature–with unfamiliar sounds and visual signs. When you learn a new language with a close historical connection to your native tongue(s), most of the new sounds and signs are at leastContinue reading “On struggling to learn Arabic”

On failing at marriage

As I finalize the paperwork for my second divorce (only 7 months after I started it–how time flies when you procrastinate!), I think about something my therapist in New York City told me last summer as we discussed this possibility: “A relationship isn’t a failure just because it ends.” I’ve thought about that a lotContinue reading “On failing at marriage”

On reading ancient Quests ecocritically

The Quest is one of the most common plot forms through which storytelling imagines relationships between human and nonhuman beings. Nonhumans most often appear in storytelling generally as an ‘environment’ surrounding and subordinate to the more important human characters, a nonhuman background to the human foreground. Yet in the Quest nonhumans enter the foreground inContinue reading “On reading ancient Quests ecocritically”

On queer Martians (by Ruby Trujillo)

Recently a former student sent me an email with the subject line “Hello… and some thoughts about Martians“. Last year she took my course on “Antiquity in Science Fiction”; we also did an independent study course on “Queer Ecology and Petronius’ Satyricon” in which we read Lee Edelman’s No Future. Her thoughts about Martians combinedContinue reading “On queer Martians (by Ruby Trujillo)”

On voices from the past

Recently I attended a wonderful online event associated with the exhibition A Slightly Curving Space at the Haus Der Kulturen Der Welt in Berlin, curated by Nida Ghouse and inspired by the work of acoustic archaeologist Umashankar Manthravadi. I was unfamiliar with the concept of acoustic archaeology before attending this event, but not, it turnsContinue reading “On voices from the past”

On catastrophe, the Arabic alphabet, and gratitude

Recently I flew from Alabama to Egypt to begin my job as Assistant Professor in the Department of English and Comparative Literature at the American University in Cairo. This was my first time on a plane since March, when I flew to Egypt to interview for the job. At that time the world was justContinue reading “On catastrophe, the Arabic alphabet, and gratitude”

Was Homer a naturalist?

No, I’m not asking whether Homer was a systematic observer of nature, or whether they believed in supernatural beings. I’m asking a more fundamental question: was “nature” part of Homer’s way of looking at the world? (By “Homer” I mean, of course, the collection of persons who created the epic poems the Iliad and theContinue reading “Was Homer a naturalist?”

On my parents’ marriage

Today my parents, Michael and Beth, celebrate their 41st wedding anniversary. In honor of the occasion, I’d like to say something about them and their marriage, from my perspective. Here is a photo of them from before they were married: The joy you see here proved enduring. You can see it a decade later, afterContinue reading “On my parents’ marriage”

On my grandfather, the ancient Greeks, and Nature

I have been thinking and writing for the past year about how memory shapes our experience of environments. I’ve been focusing mainly on cultural memory, in particular the modern, mainly Euro-American memory of ancient Greece as the site of a uniquely beautiful relationship between humans and the more-than-human world of birds, grapevines, Nemean lions, forests,Continue reading “On my grandfather, the ancient Greeks, and Nature”