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Gonda Van Steen

Greek Studies
2010-2011 Library Enhancement Grant

When Professor Gonda Van Steen joined the faculty of the Department of Classics at the University of Florida in 2009, she found the modern Greek holdings in the Library to be in need of significant expansion. Dr. Van Steen immediately recognized a need to build more comprehensive holdings in this area and set about trying to increase the library’s collection. With the assistance of a Library Enhancement Grant provided by the Center for the Humanities and the Public Sphere, she was able to bring important new books related to modern Greece to the University of Florida Library.

While classicists study ancient Greek literature in the classroom, many of them also take the opportunity as undergraduates or as graduates to travel to Greece to further their studies. “The expanded modern Greek holdings will enhance the graduate experience of our MA and PhD students in Classics, who, at different stages of their graduate career, may choose to spend research time in Greece and who need to be prepared for this kind of real exposure to the modern country and its challenges,” notes Van Steen. She also stresses that it is important for undergraduates who may take part in trips to Greece in study abroad programs to understand Greece in its contemporary context, realize that the country has changed over the course of thousands of years, and also be aware of its rich modern history. For example, she purchased Rodanthi Tzanelli’s Nation-Building and Identity in Europe, which describes the construction of modern nationalism through the relationship between Greece and Britain at the end of the nineteenth century.

“These books were not generally meant for professors to use in their research,” Van Steen said, “instead I wanted to get the most recent books that Greeks are reading.” For example, purchases include the new edition of the authoritative work on Greek poetry. At the same time, however, Van Steen sees prose literature as recently overtaking poetry in popularity in Greece, and her purchases include a number of popular prose books. “Many of these books will be useful to members of our community who use the library and are taking a trip to Greece and want to know what to read,” she said. Such acquisitions include works that tie Greek literature to other literatures of the world. For example, she has brought to the library books about the reception of the Greek classics in African and Caribbean literature. Van Steen hopes this work and other acquisitions she made for the library will be a starting point for discussions about the modern Greek Diaspora. Van Steen said that she believes all the new material she has brought to the library will “begin to build a bridge backward, linking modern Greece with its ancient past.”