Q&A with Alice Mandell

Language Institute: Tell us a little bit about yourself. Why did you decide to come to the University of Wisconsin-Madison?

Alice Mandell: I was excited to be a part of the newly merged department of Classical and Ancient Near Eastern Studies (CANES). With our combined forces, we teach Akkadian, Hebrew, Canaanite dialects, Ugaritic (a Late Bronze Age language), Aramaic, Greek and Latin. I was interested in working on preserving these ancient languages and I was lucky to find a department that was interested in developing classes in these subjects. Since moving to UW-Madison, I’ve taught Ugaritic, which is written in an alphabetic cuneiform (i.e., a wedge-shaped script) and a course on ancient Canaanite inscriptions (Phoenician, Moabite, Edomite, Ammonite, and Classical Hebrew). This fall and spring we are reintroducing Akkadian to UW-Madison, which is the ancient language of Mesopotamia (i.e., Babylonia and Assyria). We also offer classes on broader topics such as the literatures and history of the near east.  Last year I taught a course on ancient Israelite religion and writing systems in the ancient world. Next spring I am teaching a course on ancient Egypt.

LI: What are you most looking forward to this semester and why?

AM: I am excited about my Akkadian course and the graduate seminar that I’m teaching on the rise of the Assyrian empire. In the Akkadian class, we are learning Old Babylonian grammar. We will begin reading Codex Hammurabi by the spring. This class will teach my students everything they need to be able to read later Assyrian texts that are important for the study of ancient Israel and Judah. They will be able to sit down and read Hezekiah’s story of Judah’s confrontation with Sennacherib of Assyria; they can then flip to the royal texts of Assyria and read the Assyrian side of this story. There are very few occasions in ancient Near Eastern history where we get to look at events from both sides.

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