IAS Notes: Emma Dench

For me, being a Member of the School of Historical Studies in 2002–03 was the best sort of retreat. I had been working on my second book, Romulus’ Asylum: Roman Identities from the Age of Alexander to the Age of Hadrian, for five or six years when I came to the Institute, writing bits of drafts in between everything else one does in a demanding academic position. I finished my book at IAS, and spent many hours reading and writing in an armchair in the lower floor of the library, looking out onto the small lake. I remember it as mostly frozen and snow-covered: it was a hard winter. I loved being amongst people who were completely dedicated to whatever it was they were working on, but who didn’t take themselves too seriously: I think that this modesty is one of the features of the IAS community that I most prize. I also really appreciated that one could choose to share one’s ideas, or indeed not share them (sometimes, one just needs to go into a zone to start having ideas), in many different formats: over lunch, in more or less formal workshops (such as our wonderful “Empires” workshop), or at one of the weekly colloquia. I loved my position at Birkbeck College, University of London, but it was very hard to go back to reality, and ultimately the IAS year left me eager for new challenges and new experiences: in January 2007, I moved to Harvard. I’m so grateful for all the opportunities that my year at IAS gave me, and not least for the wonderful friends I made in that time. —Emma Dench, Professor of the Classics and of History, Harvard University; Member, School of Historical Studies, 2002–03