Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Margins of Writing

The margins seem like a fine place to begin. In fact, I believe that's where everyone begins, historically speaking.

If writing is the sine qua non of history, this conference is about how people gained the tools to make history. It focuses on the ancient Near East, from Israel to Babylon to Anatolia, but chews on some very broad questions, including ones posed by India and China (thanks to the University of Chicago's John Kelly and Sheldon Pollock, who will be our resident comparativists).

It's hosted by Chicago's venerable (for the US, anyway) and quasi-legendary Oriental Institute, and will feature some of my friends and neighbors from the third floor, such as the Hittitologist Theo van den Hout and the Sumerologist Chris Woods.

The conference is my main academic task this year (other than writing a book on the language of the Hebrew Bible and the politics of ancient Israel--which I'll describe later--and finding something good to do for next year) . Non-academic tasks include getting 8 hours a week of exercise (running, rock-climbing, swimming, biking, ice-climbing...I'm taking suggestions!) , taking good care of the dog, and enjoying the company and wisdom of those around me.