2018 Message from Dr. Annette Giesecke
This year the Polyglot turns twenty-five, a fitting juncture at which to celebrate our Minor programs – fourteen and growing—in languages, literatures, and cultures. Why minor in a language? Can one really become proficient with a relatively small investment in credits? These are typical questions addressed to DLLC faculty. As the following pages amply demonstrate, language minors are an apposite complement to any number of majors, whether in the sciences, social sciences, or the humanities. Students minoring in languages and their cultures will have obtained a critical foundation on which easily to build greater aptitude and fluency; they are ultimately more employable; and most importantly, they will have gained a deeper appreciation of the profound beauty of humanity's diversity, which is coupled with an innate commonality.
I continue to be enthralled by the very significant interactions between cultures over time across the world. I dedicated this past year to completing a six-volume Cultural History of Plants (Bloomsbury Publishing: London, forthcoming 2019) spanning antiquity to the modern era. It was a life-altering experience for me to travel to Iran recently in conjunction with this project and to follow in the footsteps of the Persian King Cyrus the Great, founder of the first world empire (sixth century BCE). Cyrus is said to have deeply valued the diverse cultural traditions of the many nations that formed part of his empire and to have been responsible for the first human rights "charter," which was immortalized on a clay cylinder now in the British Museum. A portion of the cylinder's inscription reads: "I announce that I will respect the traditions, customs, and religions of the nations of my empire ... While I am the King of Persia, Babylon, and the nations of the four directions, I will never let anyone oppress any others, and if it occurs I will ... penalize the oppressor. I will never let anyone take possession of movable and landed properties of the others by force ...". A replica of the so-called Cyrus Cylinder is kept at the United Nations Headquarters in New York City.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank Dr. Jorge Cubillos, Acting Chair of the Department in my absence, and Dr. Meghan McInnis-Dominguez for spearheading this issue of the Polyglot. A special thanks, too, to all of the Department's faculty, graduates, and supporters.
--Dr. Annette Giesecke