College of Liberal Arts

How Language Reveals Relationships with the Natural World

Thu, May 24, 2018
Margaret Clark
Margaret Clark

Much like a Georgia peach can be defined as either a fruit or a sweet southern belle, the ancient Romans identities and culture, too, were tied to their interactions with landscapes, agriculture and food.

In studying descriptions of soil found in three centuries of ancient Roman texts on farming, Margaret Clark, a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Classics at The University of Texas at Austin, demonstrated how intellectual and cultural traditions informed Roman technical literature and ancient ideas about humans’ relationship to the natural world.

“I am interested in how people think about themselves, identify with groups and places, and frame their existence with reference to those around them and their natural environments,” said Clark. 

Her dissertation proposed the concept of a Roman agricultural imaginary, a shared conceptualization of farming and farmland that informed agricultural practices as well as cultural understandings of agriculture.

“Description of soil qualities in writing connects with the manipulation and exploitation of soil in the field, linking the Roman agricultural imaginary with the foundations of Roman imperial expansion,” said Clark, who recently received a 2018 Mellon/American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS) fellowship to complete her dissertation.

Supported through a grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the ACLS program provides a $30,000 stipend and up to $8,000 in research funds to advanced graduate students in their final year of dissertation writing, as well as includes a faculty-led academic job market seminar to further prepare fellows for postgraduate careers.
 
“One of the most exciting aspects of this program is that we get to support projects that will help shape the next generation of scholarship in the humanities and social sciences,” said ACLS program officer Rachel Bernard. “The fellows’ work represents a broad range of time periods, regions of the world, and disciplines—including philosophy, geography, literature, music, archaeology and history, among others—and yet many of their projects coalesce around particular themes. Themes that emerged this year include the study of indigenous peoples, transnational migrations of people and ideas, and connections between culture and the arts and political economy.”

For more information about the Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellows and their projects, click here.

 

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