Science Fiction and Fantasy in Fall Classes

Spiral galazy M81 (NASA)

Spiral galaxy M81, captured in ultraviolet, visible, and infrared light Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ESA/Harvard-Smithsonian CfA

Hello again from your Sci Fi Librarian, with some tips about expressing your love of sci fi  and/or fantasy -- reading *or* writing --  in classes being offered this Fall. (Read the full class description to see any restrictions.)

In Visual Reality (Art, AS.371.149), students are encouraged to create representations of “alternative realities, those realities or truths which exist only in daydreams or nightmares.”

Get some ideas for your tales about space exploration in Planets, Life, and the Universe (Earth and Planetary Science, AS.020.334): “planet formation, Earth's evolution, extrasolar planets, habitable zones, life in extreme environments, the search for life in the Universe, space missions, and planetary protection.”

Ethics of Climate Change (Philosophy, AS.150.408) – Here are some great story plots: “How much do present generations owe future generations? Who…should bear more of the burden of mitigating climate change--rich countries or individuals, those more historically responsible for greenhouse gas emissions, those who currently emit the most, or some other group?"

After the world’s environment has changed, you’ll need to know about Food Politics (Political Science, AS.190.405), and maybe even the Politics of Outer Space (AS.190.443). (You wouldn't *believe* how political outer space can be.)

Pretty much *anything* offered by Cognitive Science or Neuroscience will be helpful for your sci fi reading and writing. Try this one: The Making of a Cognitive Map: Insights from Brains, Behaviors and Robots (Neuroscience, AS.080.312). “Imagine you are in a random place in your neighborhood. You wouldn’t need a map (or your smartphone) to find your way home. You would just know the way because the map of your neighborhood is stored in your brain. But where in your brain? And how can your neurons conjure up a map?” (Speaking of robots, here are the REAL I, Robot stories. This one, too.)

Let’s take a break for some films in The Apocalypse in Literature and Film (Film and Media Studies, AS.216.444). “What is the…biblical apocalypse, dystopia and nostalgia, trauma and post trauma, war and the apocalypse,…the atomic bomb,…and the apocalypse in popular culture?” Find plenty more apocalypse (but hope, too) in the excellent Station Eleven.

When in unfriendly locations such as arena with fanged aliens, you will need to know about predatory behaviors and escape (trust me on this). Better try Sensing and Action in Predator/Prey Encounters (Behavioral Biology, AS.200.319).

Economics has some very juicy titles, which are, unfortunately, mostly wait-listed. But in the meantime, try some economic dystopias such as Margaret Atwood’s The Heart Goes Last, or Lionel Shriver's The Mandibles: a family, 2029-2047.

Expository Writing is offering Science Fiction, Gender, and Sexuality (AS 060.113). Left Hand of Darkness, Ursula LeGuin. Of course.

Or, learn how to design video games. Introduction to Video Game Design (Computer Science, EN 601.255) is a “survey course...covering artistic, technical, [and] sociological aspects of video games. Students will learn about the history of video games, archetypal game styles, computer graphics and programming,... character animation, basic game physics, plot and character development, as well as psychological and sociological impact of games." And please treat yourself to Ernest Cline's extremely fun Ready Player One.

Museums have been the settings in some of my favorite sci fi novels.  Introduction to the Museum (Museums and Society, AS.389.201) will help you appreciate Ira Levin's unforgettable This Perfect Day, and especially Mike Resnick’s stunning Ivory.

Make sure to tell your F&SF-loving friends about these classes, too!


Melania Trump’s Inaugural Gown: The Ugandan Perspective

Those of us who have the inclination (and courage) to follow U.S. and global news stories in the many American and European media outlets available to us, may feel that we have a pretty complete picture of the day’s events. But did you ever wonder whether Melania Trump’s ball gown, which will end up in the Smithsonian, was reviewed favorably in the Ugandan Press? Or why a South African newspaper op/ed piece describes President Trump as “Just like Jesus, only blond”? Or on the more serious side, wouldn’t you be interested to read The (Nigeria) Daily Trust’s eyewitness account of a Boko Haram attack on a village in the north of the country, seen from the eyes of the villagers themselves?

Access World News search screen with annotationsIf your inner voice answers “yes” to these questions, then there’s a treat in store for you. Just virtually crack open the library’s online subscription to Access World News Research Collection and let your imagination run away with you. Access World News is a vast collection of news items from a wide range of media outlets located across the globe. Try a search by keyword or key-phrase (in quotes), then narrow down your results by date range, continent, country, language (English, French, Spanish, Afrikaans, Zulu, etc.), and even specific news source.

pile of old newspapers

Now open an article and start reading. You will immediately feel yourself sinking down into a cultural milieu and point of view different than your own—an exhilarating and enriching experience. The effect is even greater when the news item involves something happening in your home country as seen by non-native eyes. And as an added benefit, the database also covers news from local and regional newspapers across the United States—a great way to keep in touch and soothe your homesickness.

So whether you want to explore the world for personal reasons or enhance your research of a topic with a global dimension, Access World News is a great way to tour your home planet.

My Solo Travels in Greece: A POC in Paradise, Part II

Part II: WOC in the World

This is the second part of my travelogue regarding my trip to Greece back in May 2017. The first installment is Part I: Microaggressions in Mykonos, and is written through an intersectional lens, particularly through the color of my skin. Continuing with the discussion of intersectionality, this latest installment focuses on gender, as a woman of color (WOC).

One of the main streets of Kalambaka, a small town at the foot of the famous Meteora rock formations. Like many Greek towns, the late dinner scene is a bustling way of life. Photograph by Annie Tang.

“We’ll walk you back to your hotel!” I am in the small, mountain town of Kalambaka and night has fallen. Myself and the young French-Canadian women whom I’ve befriended have just finished a lovely dinner at the taverna, joined by kind locals old and young, including young men. Aware that I am solo-traveling, the French-Canadians immediately offer to walk me back to my accommodations. (After all, lady travelers gotta look out for each other!) Upon this news, the men, quick to be gentlemen, tell us they want to walk us back. Without asking. We women glance apprehensively at each other for a quick moment, agree, and head on our way--fortunately uneventfully.

Sometimes adventure includes not knowing exactly where you are. This image was taken on a small bay (name unknown) across from the Old Fortress in Corfu Town, Corfu Island. Photograph by Annie Tang.

There are small ways, but many instances, in which women go through their lives with a thin layer of anxiety for our well-being in a public setting with male strangers. Should I immediately go home before dark? I really hope a friend walks me back. How friendly should we get with these guys we don’t know? I hope no one says anything inappropriate to me about my body. I wish those men would stop cat-calling me. These feelings are intensified while abroad. For me, this is compounded by the fact I look like a foreigner in the Western countries I visit. While I do possess the privilege of being a straight, lightskinned person of color (POC), I have had my share or have witnessed everyday sexism and street harassment at home and away.  

Overlooking one of the only surviving amphitheaters (still used today) in the ancient Acropolis archaeology site in urban Athens. Photography by Annie Tang.

From the non-Asian men who like to flirtatiously call out “ne hao!” (I don’t speak Mandarin) to the ones who make comments about my figure as I walk to work at Eisenhower Library, this is unfortunately everyday public behavior women have to put up with, but not necessarily tolerate. While enjoying a solitary bask in the sun on a locals-only beach near Corfu Town, a man decided to sit three feet away from me on the empty beach. My personal space felt invaded to say the least. I witnessed a similar interaction when on a city bus in Athens: after entering our bus, a large man with several bags sat next to what appeared to be another young woman traveler like myself--when there were plenty of empty seats! She was visibly uncomfortable that this stranger had invaded her space and actually awkwardly extricated herself from her window seat to escape to the other side of the vehicle.    

As iterated in the first installment of this blog post, implicit racism does not stop me--nor plenty of other young women--from solo traveling, and neither does soft sexism or public harassment. We are explorers of cultures and societies, including our own, and with those cultures and societies come the failures of how we humans treat each other. Rising above these inadequacies though, I am proud to see many young POC women travel bloggers, getting out there, voyaging, traversing, adventuring.

The world is out there, and my sisters are coming for it.


The following includes more resources on topics discussed in this post:

Privilege: A Reader, edited by Michael S. Kimmel and Abby L. Ferber

Everyday Sexism In the Third Millennium edited by Carol Rambo Ronai, Barbara A. Zsembik, Joe R. Feagin

Men's Intrusion, Women's Embodiment: A Critical Analysis of Street Harassment by Fiona Vera-Gray

History of the Island of Corfu? and of the Republic of the Ionian Islands (1852) by Henry Jervis-White Jervis

Athens by James H.S. McGregor

10 Travel Bloggers of Color You Should Follow by Bani Amor

Faculty: It’s Not Too Late to Submit Your Course Reserves (2017-2018)

Milton S. Eisenhower Library course reserves shelves

Fall 2017 course reserves shelves are filling up at MSEL!

FALL 2017 -- The sun may be sweltering now, but before you know it the temperature will be dropping, the autumn equinox will have come and gone, and the Fall Semester will be in full swing!

Why not help your students access course materials through MSEL’s Reserve Services? We can help you place physical books, electronic articles, ebooks, DVDs, and more on reserve! The recommended deadline was August 4th, but it’s not too late to submit your course reserves list to us. All you have to do is submit your syllabus now and we’ll get to work configuring access!

Do your students need access to an e-article on the chlorophyll catabolites in fall leaves? Should they be reading about traditional autumn holidays around the world, such as the history of Halloween, the medieval English Running of the Bulls in November, or the Irish feast of autumn? Maybe you want them to analyze a popular film that takes place in autumn? Will your assignments require reading about the economy in September of 2002? Whatever the media, whatever the title, we can help you track down your items and make them easily available to your students.

email-marketingCheck out the Reserve Services webpage for more information on how to submit requests for reserves and more.

Feel free to email us your syllabus and any other questions or concerns. We’re happy to help!





Latin Hats & Latin Libraries: My Freshman Fellows Experience

Reverse Engraving by Thomas Bisse, Galerus ille ipse …, 1715. The George Peabody Library, The Sheridan Libraries, Johns Hopkins University

Reverse Engraving by Thomas Bisse, Galerus ille ipse …, 1715. The George Peabody Library, The Sheridan Libraries, Johns Hopkins University

My name is Lucy Massey and over the course of my Freshman year, I’ve had the opportunity to engage with several artifacts which illuminate the role of post-classical Latin (or Neo-Latin) in different historical contexts. Working with my mentor on this project, Paul Espinosa, Curator of the George Peabody Library, we discovered that Latin is anything but a dead language, and remains a powerful tool for discovery across otherwise disparate fields and centuries. Two pieces that stand out to me as exemplary of my Freshman Fellows experience are a poem by Thomas Bisse and a collection of poetry by Theodore Beza.

The reverse engraving of a poem by Thomas Bisse (1675-1731) is a recent addition to the Peabody Library. The poem was originally engraved on a copper plate that is thought to have been attached to the hat of John Bradshaw now in the Ashmolean Museum at Oxford.

Bradshaw was the judge in the 1649 trial of King Charles I and, fearing assassination for his role as a regicide, lined this hat with iron plates. The hat has been in the museum since several years after Bradshaw’s death, and the poem is mentioned in a biography of Bradshaw from the 1820s as being on a copper plate with the hat. I reached out to the Ashmolean and was generously helped by Alice Howard, who informed me that the plate is no longer attached and provided this high-quality image of the hat.

Interestingly, one can see a label on the hat reading “Given by S. Bisse S.T.P. 1715. That is the year the poem is dated, but of course the author was T. Bisse, not S. The abbreviation S.T.P. refers to a theological doctorate which Thomas Bisse also held.  All to say, another small piece of the puzzle to figure out. One can read more about Bisse by entering his name under the wonderful resource, The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, to which the Hopkins Libraries subscribes.

AN1836 p.178.21 John Bradshaw's hat, 17th century. Image © Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford

AN1836 p.178.21 John Bradshaw's hat, 17th century. Image © Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford

The poem itself alludes to the hat residing in the Ashmolean, reading it is “fit to be placed with the lantern of Fawkes.” Guy Fawkes, Catholic architect of the failed Gunpowder Plot to destroy a Protestant Parliament in 1605, was caught with his unlit lantern in the cellars below Parliament. That same lantern was already in the Ashmolean by the time Bradshaw’s hat arrived there.   Bisse draws close parallels between Bradshaw and Fawkes, labelling the former a “regicide” and the latter a “fanatic;” but he also draws attention to the difference in their actions. Fawkes’ plan to kill the king “in tenebris machinata est,” was “plotted in the shadows”, whereas the trial of Charles I “sub dio perfecit,” was “carried to completion under the light of day.”  That ever so subtle difference in Bisse’s word choice (both in the ablative case) shows the way he viewed each of these figures: he reviled both, placing them in the same traitorous category, but judged them differently in terms of the boldness and cunning of their actions.  Bradshaw dared to condemn a King under the glaring light of day, and in full view of his maker (dio, day here is from the adjective dius,a,um meaning both ‘charged with the brightness of day’, and ‘divine, or supernatural radiance’).  Parsing out those details in Latin translation allows us to analyze how Thomas Bisse was reflecting on two major figures, already historical by his time, through the artifacts they left behind and the inflections of his Latin language skills. As you can see he was able to make some fundamental religious and historic comparisons and all in the space of thirteen lines on a hat!

Galerus ille ipse, quo tectus erat
Johannes Bradshaw, Archi-regicida,
Dum execrabili Regicidarum Conventui
Dignus, ut in eodem loco,
Quo Fauxi Laterna,
Illa Papisticae, Hic Fanaticae,
Nequitiae monumentum.
In hoc dispares:
scilicet id nefas,
Quod Illa in tenebris machinata est,
Hic sub dio perfecit.
Datum Anno Domini, 1715 * a Thomas Bisse
That is the very hat, by which John Bradshaw, the Arch-Regicide,
Was protected while he presided
Over the detestable Assembly of Regicides.
Fitting that is should be put together
And in the same place
As the Lantern of Guy Fawkes;
That one belonged to a Papist, this one to a Fanatic,
Both a monument of wickedness.
To be sure each was an offense against divine law,
In one thing only do they differ:
That Lantern plotted in the shadows,
This Hat carried out its task under the light of day.
Dated in the Year of our Lord, 1715 * by Thomas Bisse, S.T.P.

Latin Libraries

Theodore Beza, Poemata Iuvenalia, ca. 1549. The George Peabody Library, The Sheridan Libraries, Johns Hopkins University

Theodore Beza, Poemata Iuvenalia, ca. 1549. The George Peabody Library, The Sheridan Libraries, Johns Hopkins University

The juvenile poetry of Theodore Beza (1519-1605), French humanist and theologian, provides a unique window onto his early literary relationship with classical authors. As a precocious student in the house of the German scholar Melchior Wolmar, Beza was deeply interested in studying and emulating the great ancient authors. It wasn’t until after this collection of poetry was published that Beza’s Protestant leanings became pronounced: threatened with being burnt at the stake, he escaped to join John Calvin in Geneva. He became Calvin’s close adviser and immediate successor, as well as leading Greek education in the reformed community.

The poem Ad Bibliothecam, To My Library, from Beza’s collection, Poemata Iuvenalia, ca. 1549. The George Peabody Library, The Sheridan Libraries, Johns Hopkins University

The poem Ad Bibliothecam, To My Library, from Beza’s collection, Poemata Iuvenalia, ca. 1549. The George Peabody Library, The Sheridan Libraries, Johns Hopkins University

One poem in particular from Beza’s early collected works known as Juvenalia highlights Beza’s affection for the ancients.  In the poem Ad Bibliothecam (To My Library) he greets each of the authors upon his shelves by name, praising them and begging their forgiveness for his absence over the past few days. Significantly, the long list of authors is exclusively ancient. There is not a single contemporary, and despite his later prominent career in the theocracy of Geneva, no attention is paid here to theological works. The composition of this poem and others in the collection also shows the strong influence of Martial, and especially Catullus – Beza went so far as to invent a Lesbia-esque muse, which brought harsh criticism from his enemies in the church. Without understanding the intricacies of Latin expression, the familiar tone of Beza’s language in Ad Bibliotecham would have been lost on me.

The list of names itself hints at his classical influences, but it is the fluid and expressive poetry that reveals the depth of Beza’s scholarship and inspiration.  Here is Beza’s Latin text with my translation:


Salvete incolumes mei libelli,
Mea deliciae, meae salutes,
Salve mi Cicero, Catulle salve,
Salve mi Maro, Plinium que uterque,
Mi Cato, Columella, Varro, Livi,
Salve mi quoque Plaute, tu Terenti,
Et tu salve Ovidi, Fabi, Properti,
Vos salvete etiam disertiores
Graeci, ponere quos loco priore
Decebat, Sophocles, Isocratesque.
Et tu cui popularis aura nomen
Dedit: tu quoque, magne Homere, salve,
Salve Aristoteles, Plato, Timaee.
Et vos o reliqui, quibus negatum est
Includi numeris Phaleuciorum.
Cuncti denique vos mei libelli
Salvetetote, iterumque, teritumque,
Atque audite meam precationem:
Hoc ergo precor, o mei libelli,
Ut ne longa mihi mora illa (senis
Nam a vobis procul abfui diebus)
Obsit quominus undiquaque tali
Sitis in me animo et favore deinceps,
Quali, dum proficiscerer, fuistis,
Nimirum facilique candidoque.
Quod si istam mihi supplicationem
Vos concesseritis, mei libelli,
Id vobis quoque pollicebor ipse,
Non me unam hebdomadam procul, quid? immo
Non diem procul unicum abfuturum.
Quid diem? immo nec horulam, immo nullum
Punctum temporis, ut libet pusillum.


Greetings my little books, safe & sound,
My delights, my salvation,
Hello my Cicero, hello Catullus,
Hello my Vergil, & both younger & elder Pliny
My Cato, Columella, Varro, Livy,
Hello as well my Plautus, & you, Terence,
& hello to you Ovid, Fabius, Propertius,
Greetings also to you even more eloquent
Greeks, whom it is fitting to place in the first rank,
Sophocles, & Isocrates.
& you to whom popular favor bestows the name:
Great Homer, to you as well, I give greeting,
Hello Aristotle, Plato, Timaeus.
Oh & to all you remaining books, whom the meter
of these Phalaecean verses keep me from including.
Finally, all of you my little books gathered together,
I give greetings to all a second, & even a third time,
& hear my prayer:
This, therefore, I pray, oh my little books,
that this long delay (for I was far from you six days straight)
may not prejudice you against me to such an extent you
would no longer hold me in your best thoughts & favor,
as, undoubtedly, you were once just as pleasantly & happily
disposed toward me while I was setting out.
For if you will have granted this supplication
to me, my little books,
I myself will promise in turn this to you:
that I will not be far absent from you for one week,
What? No, indeed, not even a single day.
What, a day? Nay, not even an hour – indeed
not at any point in time, no matter how small!

When taking Latin in school, I never imagined that in my first year of college I would have had any sort of fellowship opportunity, let alone the chance to work with pieces such as these. Even once I arrived at Hopkins and applied for the program, I couldn’t have guessed the wealth of resources and materials in the Sheridan Libraries. If you are interested in seeing these pieces and a few more from my project, please stop by the Special Collections Reading Room (A-level, Brody Learning Commons) where the material is on display through August 2017. Latin is alive and well here!

Hard-boiled and Noir Fiction and Film

The Postman Always Rings Twice book coverTravelling through fetid alleyways in the pouring rain, through thronging cities like beating hearts, and darkened rooms echoing gunshots and last breaths, the fiction and film of the hard-boiled and noir genres bring readers and viewers along for vivid, engrossing, sensual experiences that earlier mysteries neglected in favor of purely intellectual exercises.

Often used interchangeably, the terms noir and hard-boiled actually refer to different kinds of works. While hard-boiled stories tend to deal with detectives confronting violence and The maltese falcon statute used in filmorganized crime, detectives who all the while comment on both the events transpiring as well as their own experiencing of those events (think Dashiell Hammet’s Maltese Falcon or Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep), noir tends to deal with more atmospheric adventures wherein the protagonist is more often a victim or a criminal (think James M. Cain’s Double Indemnity, or the works of David Goodis, upon whose stories the films The Fugitive and Tirez Sur le Pianiste (Shoot the Piano Player) are based). Although noir finds its origins variously in French and American sources, the heart of the hard-boiled story is purely American.

The heyday of American examples of the genres was undoubtedly the 30s, 40s and 50s; nevertheless, modern adaptations both in fiction and film abound. The films of the Coen brothers often draw heavily on the tradition of both noir and hard-boiled stories from America’s past. Perhaps one of the most interesting adaptations of the genres, however, comes not from the US, but rather from the north of Europe in the form of Scandinavian noir.

The girl with the dragon tattoo art workScandinavian noir owes much to the traditions discussed above. However, as prime examples of the genre show, there are subtle differences; the writing is often sparse, sharp, simple and realistic and the plots often carry heavy moralistic undertones. Progenitors of the genre include Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö, whose Martin Beck series of novels depict a tumultuous Sweden of the 1960s, bent on revolution and social upheaval. Perhaps more well known examples include Henning Mankell's Wallender series, and Stieg Larsson's internationally best-selling Millenium series, the first of which, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo has been adapted for the big screen twice in the course of just two years. Clearly the fascination with unsolved murder and illicit dealings is alive, well, and spreading around the globe!

Shakespeare and Hamlet Through the Lens of Language: Final Reflection by Caroline West

Going on a college campus tour is a bit like watching a live-action commercial; by the end, it is not hard to feel as though you are being offered a product with the capacity to significantly improve your life. Of course, some claims about the “product” arouse skepticism. Such was the case when I heard on a Hopkins campus tour that students here, even those in their first year, are provided ample opportunity to participate in research. And yet my suspicions have been proven wrong. In my freshman year at Hopkins, I have had the chance to pursue not one, but two research projects.

One of those projects has been my Freshman Fellowship in Special Collections. My research topic changed throughout this semester; in my last blog post, I wrote about comparing productions of Hamlet in West and East Germany. It became clear, however, that I would have more success pursuing a different course of study. I instead chose to research Hamlet through the lens of language, examining how revisions and annotations to the text tell us something about its accessibility and primary audience. My findings indicate that Shakespeare’s endurance as a cultural icon may in part be explained by the extent to which his work has been adapted to particular times in history. Extensive annotations and historical notes have been added to later editions of the play to make the language more accessible to the young scholar. Even in 1676, actors putting on the play were revising certain phrases to make them clearer for their audience. Charles and Mary Lamb, in their 1872 edition of Tales from Shakespeare for Young People, provide an interesting example of Shakespeare being used for a clearly-defined purpose: the cultivation of virtue.

It is easy to think of these discoveries in terms of how they impacted large groups of people, and there is value in such an approach. But I challenged myself throughout my research to think of individuals. I imagined the excitement of a young girl, previously denied access to her father’s library, reading Shakespeare for the first time. I reflected on the boldness of a 17th-cenutry actor choosing which portions of Hamlet to cross out. Of course, it is impossible to fully know and appreciate the reactions that various people have had to Shakespeare throughout time. But I do understand something of how people today view Shakespeare; in fact, I was given the chance to make my own observations when I presented my research at the Peabody Library on May 6th. I am grateful to have had that experience for so many reasons: the grandeur of the location itself, the excitement I felt at sharing my findings with an interested public, the chance to practice cogency in summarization. But I took the most joy in the conversations I had with attendees, from the mother who delightedly snapped a picture of the 1676 promptbook to send to her actor-in-training son to an older woman who recalled reading a later edition of Charles and Mary Lamb’s Tales from Shakespeare for Young People.

A selection from the 1676 edition of The Tragedy of Hamlet Prince of Denmark. Prompt book of John Ward (1704-1773)

A selection from the 1676 edition of The Tragedy of Hamlet Prince of Denmark. Prompt book of John Ward (1704-1773)

I noted in my application essay for the Freshman Fellowship program that “to read Shakespeare is to catch a glimpse of what it means to be human.” I stand by that observation, though it feels only right to expand it in light of the research I have done. Shakespeare is indeed a powerful conveyor of the human condition, but there is also significance in the ways that we ourselves interact with the text. The brilliance of Shakespeare’s works has not dimmed because people are constantly breathing new life into it: transforming its purpose, mining its text for hidden insights, bringing color and vibrancy to his stories with innovative adaptations. This reciprocal relationship between text and reader is what sustains Shakespeare’s relevance, and it’s a large part of what made this project so fascinating.

In closing, I offer my gratitude to all the wonderful people who facilitated this experience. It’s been a privilege and a pleasure to work with my mentor, Amy Kimball. All expectations I had at the beginning of this project have been exceeded, in large part because of her. I also extend my thanks to the other Freshman Fellows: Kiana Boroumand, Lucy Massey, and Faith Terry. They have taught me that research should be shared -- not to feed self-importance or arrogance but because there is enormous value in collaborative effort and the creativity it often sparks. I was thoroughly inspired by the freshness of thought they brought to their respective topics, and I await with eagerness their next great discoveries.

My Freshman Fellows Experience

Enjoy this post by Kiana Boroumand, one of our Freshman Fellows for the 2016-2017 academic year!

The last time I wrote a blog post, I had finished my first semester of college and finally narrowed down a research topic for my fellowship (dress reform!). Now, not only have I finished freshman year, I’ve also finished my time as a Freshman Fellow. And it was all so wonderful that I want to talk about it.

So, let’s start at the beginning: I first heard about the fellowship at the Special Collections Open House during orientation week. I was brand new to college, and everything felt different and exciting—but Special Collections, as different and exciting as it was, also felt familiar. I was attached to the place before I had any reason to be, but I couldn’t help it. Surrounded by all those amazing books, by the history contained in their boundless, beautiful pages, I knew immediately that I would apply for the fellowship. A short time later, I was notified of my acceptance, and the journey began.

Every Tuesday, I would meet with Heidi to discuss my findings, and somewhere along the process, what I was doing became about so much more than a research project: I was at Special Collections, bringing down the patriarchy! I was thinking about fashion and clothing in ways that I hadn’t before, and feeling empowered by the strength and bravery of the women whose works I was reading—women who, hundreds of years ago, were saying things that society, to this day, still isn’t comfortable with hearing. And the coolest part of it all was that I got to tell people about. Over the course of the spring semester, I spoke about my research at three major events—the last and most special of which was FlowerMart, one of the most popular festivals in the city. On a beautiful Saturday in the beginning of May, I had the privilege and pleasure of standing behind a podium in the George Peabody Library and discussing the work that I had done, sharing my perspective.  I gave my presentation – “The Gender Politics of Fashion: The Dress Reform Movement and First Wave Feminism” – in one of the most beautiful libraries in probably the entire world, and it was all thanks to my fellowship, to Heidi, and to everyone else at Special Collections who helped me along the way.

In fact, I had such a great time, that I’m back at Special Collections for the summer! This past semester, while I was completing my fellowship, I applied for and was awarded the Dean’s Undergraduate Research Award (DURA) to continue my research in fashion. This new project is focused on the twentieth century, and it’s even more anti-sexist, anti-patriarchal than the last one. I’d tell you more about it, but where’s the excitement in that?

I will say this, though: if you’re thinking of applying to the Freshman Fellowship or doing research in Special Collections, do it. Besides the obvious reasons (growing intellectually, developing better research skills, and more), it also allows you the opportunity to make a difference. To take what you have learned, what you want to learn and do something with it, something larger than yourself. And, yes, I know: This all sounds trite, grandiose, vague. But it’s true, and I’m testament to it. A lot of the research done in Special Collections tends to be about the same things: European history, old white men doing what old white men did in those days, etc. There’s nothing wrong with that (by all means, do the research that calls out to you!), but it’s also not all there is. I wanted to do research on fashion and dress reform and feminism; and, with the help of Heidi, Special Collections is now home to an abundance of new, fabulously feminist materials that weren’t there before. Materials that we’ve acquired because of my research. What’s cooler than that?

As my time in Special Collections continues, I can’t wait to see where my DURA research will take me.  But, thanks to a pretty phenomenal year, I’ve got high expectations.

Egypt: The Birthplace of Flip Flops?

king tutankhamun sandals

Courtesy of the American University in Cairo. Artistic interpretation of Tutankhamun's open shoes. The original can be seen at the Egyptian Museum, Cairo. Drawing by Mikko H. Kriek.

It's summer and flip-flops are in full bloom! Over the centuries, shoe designers have added heels, blinged them out, and crafted them from a variety of materials. The obsession for this ancient sandal has even sprouted its own national day (#nationalflipflopday). Today, the flip-flop industry generates billions in revenue sales (ref. Havaianas, 2017). So, who invented these wonderful shoes?


"Thong footwear" has been around for thousands of years and excavated from ancient sites on many continents. However, it appears that the general consensus is that they were made famous by the ancient Egyptians.  The term “flip-flop” was popularized in late 20th-century western culture, named for the sound the sandal makes when it slaps the bottom of the heel when walking.

king tutankhamun egyptian footwear british museum

Fiber sandal featuring a sewn-edge and plaited detailing. Photograph by A. 't Hooft. Courtesy of the British Museum (BM EA 4451), London.

It's possible the Egyptians called the shoe thebet, because of its use in the city of Thebes.1 (Pioneering Egyptologist Sir John Gardner Wilkinson's book,  Manners and Customs of the Ancient Egyptians, provides a nice copy of a hieroglyphic of sandal makers at Thebes.) The Egyptian sandal dates as far back as 4,000 years (Middle Kingdom, ca. 2050-1800 BCE), but it’s possible thong footwear emerged even earlier during the Unification Period (i.e. Early Dynastic Period ca. 3,100 BCE) when Upper and Lower Egypt merged.

Contrary to mainstream media (e.g. Katy Perry’s Dark Horse video) and Hollywood films  (Cleopatra), thong sandals were plain and not worn indoors. A typical sandal was constructed of Halfa grass (Desmostachya bipinnata), papyrus or palm leaves, and weaved similarly to coiled baskets. Sandals often identified a person's social status: the average Egyptian walked barefoot, including royal officials, but by the Middle Kingdom, sandals became associated with pharaohs and the wealthy.

king tutankhamun tomb sandal

Marquetry veneer sandal from the tomb of Tutankhamun. André J. Veldmeijer. Courtesy of the Ministry of Antiquities/Egyptian Museum Authorities.

An ah-mazing pair of flip-flops was discovered among King Tutankhamun's possessions; pictured here is a purplish, marquetry veneer sandal from the tomb of Tutankhamun.Egyptologist and American University in Cairo (AUC) Professor Salima Ikram says, “With some of Tutankhamun’s shoes, they used bits of gold, birch bark, bone and maybe even glass inlays to decorate and create luxurious and glamorous footwear.”2 Today, we’d see this kind of haute couture sandal in luxury department stores. However, the ancient craftsmanship is still unmatched today.

king tutankhamun tomb egyptian footwear

Sewn sandal from the tomb of Tutankhamun with linen cover. Photograph by André J. Veldmeijer. Courtesy of the Ministry of Antiquities/Egyptian Museum Authorities.

Historians and archaeologists have analyzed ancient flip-flops to learn about their relevance in the social lives of  wearers. For example, religious symbolism has been discovered on footwear denoting use in religious ceremonies. Or how one used a flip-flop might express deference to authority, that is, if it was removed in the presence of royalty or high-ranking officials.  Contrarily, flip-flops today are just flip-flops: fun sandals to wear to the beach, to the office, or even to a wedding. Aside from rubber and man-made materials, modern society hasn’t improved much on the ancient Egyptian craftman's work. Retailers are capitalizing more than ever on this ancient innovation, and we’re still enjoying them!

For more information about ancient Egyptian thong footwear:

1  Zaki, M. (2008). Legacy of Tutankhamun: Art and history. Giza, Egypt: Farid Atiya
Press, 130.
2  "King Tut's Sandals Featured at Ancient Egyptian Footwear Exhibition," News at
American University in Cairo, October 11, 2015.


House and Homewood, part II, by Faith Terry

Because I believe the issue of student apathy has been part of our history since the university’s founding, I didn’t think my final project would be complete without discussing the full evolution of student housing and its interaction with student life in general. For the project, I divided the school’s history into distinct time periods and investigated the most important changes that happened in each. For example, I think that the era of change from the late 60s to the 70s is one of the most important time periods to examine, not only for the events that happened during those years but the lasting effects these had on the future of housing. At the same time, some of the most captivating information I found during my research came in the form of images. Throughout the archives of Hopkins News-Letters and yearbooks are some incredible photographs, providing views of evolving student life, as well as the growing campus itself. For that reason, I knew I needed to include plenty of images in my final project.

In order to combine these crucial images with my wide view of campus history, I decided to create a poster series. For this series, I designed a poster for each of the time periods I considered to be most important to understanding how housing has impacted student life. For each time period, I provided a brief timeline of major changes to housing, like new buildings built or purchased, as well as changes in the students themselves. This included a variety of topics, from the preference for self-government that students exhibited in the 1950s and 60s, to the changes brought about by the transition to co-education in 1970.

As a finale to my fellowship experience, I had the opportunity to present my posters as well as speak at the Special Collections Freshman Fellows Panel, both chances for me to explain and share my research with others. Throughout the year, especially when researching particular time periods or topics, it could feel difficult to see the greater narrative that surrounds student housing. The creation and presentation of my final project, however, brought together all of these elements in way which helped me to gain a greater sense not only of my skills as a researcher, but also of my position as a Hopkins student in a complex and storied community.