Faculty Q&A Spotlight: Greg Anderson
What is your favorite class to teach? Why?
I have always enjoyed teaching and like different classes for different reasons. Happily, my surveys of Greek history (3210, 3211) consistently seem to draw large numbers of extremely bright and motivated students. I truly enjoy introducing them to a different world of experience, while also encouraging them to reflect on our own modern world, seeing it, as it were, through the eyes of the ancient Greeks and other non-modern peoples. Also very enjoyable to teach is 7900, our graduate-level introduction to historiography and social/critical theory, which I have taught regularly for over a decade. It is especially stimulating to discuss with students a range of different theoretical ideas which have shaped thought and practice over the years in history and many other disciplines.
Tell us about your current research.
For many years now, I have been exploring the proposition that humans have experienced life in a “pluriverse” of many different worlds, not in a universe of just one. The book I am currently writing considers how this proposition would profoundly change the way we think about life on Earth in the past, present, and future.
How did you first get started in the field of history? What inspired you?
I was not a very serious student in high school or college back in Britain, being at the time far more interested in things like sports, playing in a punk band, and in what we might euphemistically call “partying.” As an undergrad, I chose to major in Classics, mainly because I had already studied Latin for six years and thought it would be the easiest option. Several years later after some further adventures, when I got the crazy idea of pursuing a PhD in Classics in the US and somehow got admitted to a graduate program, I quickly found that I did not share the all-consuming passion for language and literature that stirred most classicists. I was much more drawn to bigger historical questions, particularly about the everyday beliefs, norms, values, assumptions, etc. on which ancient ways of life were founded. Almost from the beginning, I felt that the modern terms that historians typically use to describe past ways of life made ancient Greeks and others seem much more “familiar,” more “like us,” than they really were. And ever since, I have been on something of a crusade to try and persuade people to study past peoples on their own terms, not on ours.
What’s a fun fact about you that we might not know?
My healthy irreverence for authority used to get me into a lot of trouble in high school. I would guess that I probably spent more hours in detention than all the rest of my history department colleagues combined! I am slightly more proud of the fact that I played competitive sports (cricket and field hockey!) at the intercollegiate level back in England, though we never had quite the massive crowds watching us that one sees in the ‘Shoe.
What do you do for entertainment in your “down time” (during COVID or non-COVID)?
Aside from the usual fun family things with my wife, two daughters, and basset hound, my main extra-curricular activities are music-related. After playing the electric bass for years in various rock bands, I decided at the beginning of the lockdown that it was finally time to confront the “big dog” and start teaching myself to play the double bass. It will be a while before any jazz cats are beating down my door to get me to play with them, but it is a challenge and a pleasure to get to know this majestic instrument finally.