Junior Greek major Emily Barnum is one of three undergraduates selected in February to present a paper at Eta Sigma Phi’s annual conference, held March 24 – 26 in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
With her nomination, Barnum continues a streak for Hillsdale’s success in securing a paper presentation slot at the classical studies honorary’s national convention. On March 25, she will read her essay to her peers and a set of judges who will choose a winner.
Barnum wrote her paper in the fall for Greek Civilization and edited her work over winter break, before submitting it in late January. She said her essay traces the effect of language on cultural formation and identity in Herodotus’ “Histories.”
“I appreciate the way that Herodotus recognizes cultural differences, and I think studying the work in this life can be helpful in understanding and reacting to those differences, even if it’s not an exact blueprint,” Barnum said. “It helps the dialogue.”
Assistant Professor of Classics Laury Ward and classics lecturer Gill Renberg helped refine her paper.
“What I really value in Emily as a student is not just her faculty for language but how that is complimented by her ability to ask good questions about the material,” Ward said. “Only a knowledge of the language complimented by a keen investigative sense will generate this kind of work.”
While the paper explores the larger theme of language’s place in cultural identity, it also delves into the specifics of Herodotus’ work. For example, Barnum delegates one section of her work to the analysis of a single word from the “Histories” — “barbaras,” meaning barbarian.
Ward said the national conference is a valuable experience for all students of Eta Sigma Phi. It gives a select few, like Barnum, the experience of writing, reworking, presenting, and receiving critiques on an essay. The conference also highlights what other Eta Sigma Phi chapters do on their campuses.
Senior Anne Begin, president of Hillsdale’s 87-member Eta Sigma Phi chapter, said classics students broaden their knowledge through the conferences’ research panels, museum visits, and paper presentations.
“This is a big event where we see the fruit of what we have done all year,” Begin said.
But Begin said the conference attendees also have fun. Last year, the Hillsdale delegation won Certamen, an ancient trivia competition, and dined at a banquet in Ancient Roman style, sans utensils — no forks or knives allowed.
Begin said she is proud to see how much Barnum has grown in her understanding and appreciation of the classics.
“In a way,” she said, “I’ve watched all the members of the honorary grow up from anxious freshmen to full-fledged scholars getting their ideas out there.”