John Duffy

Oral History Interview with John Duffy, undertaken by Anne Steptoe and Elizabeth Gettinger on July 21, 2009, in John Duffy’s office at Harvard University. At Dumbarton Oaks, John Duffy was a Junior Fellow in Byzantine Studies (1971–1973) and a member since 1991 of the Board of Senior Fellows in Byzantine Studies, for which he has served as Chair several times (1993–1997, 2002–2004, and 2013–2014).

AS: We are Anne Steptoe and Elizabeth Gettinger, the date is July 21, 2009, and today we have the pleasure of interviewing Professor John Duffy in his office at Harvard University about his fruitful relationship with Dumbarton Oaks over many years.

EG: Just to begin, our records show that you were a Junior Fellow starting in about 1971, is that right?

JD: 1971, yeah.

EG: Can you tell us how you came to be associated with Dumbarton Oaks, and what your initial impressions of the place were?

JD: Well, I was a graduate student in Buffalo, NY, in the Classics department, and I was working with a gentleman, a Dutch scholar who had been there a number of years, L.G. Westerink, who was both a Byzantine literature scholar and also a Neoplatonic philosophy person. He actually had been at Dumbarton Oaks the year before I came there, so he was there in 1970 as a Visiting Scholar and presumably that gave him the idea to suggest to me that I apply for a fellowship in order to – I would have been completing my four years of study on a fellowship at Buffalo, and I still hadn't completed the dissertation, so I needed support and that was the normal thing in those days. So, I applied to Dumbarton Oaks for the 1971–72 year and was very fortunate to be accepted. I think we had three or four Junior Fellows incoming that year, and there were two from the previous year, because in those years you could get your fellowship renewed for a second year. So, when we arrived there, there probably had been maybe more than two the previous year, but two of them were kept on. One of those was John Nesbitt, who's still at Dumbarton Oaks, and the other one was Marie Spiro, who has had her career teaching at University of Maryland, College Park, so she stayed around very much in the area. But I got a Junior Fellowship and arrived in Washington D.C., supposedly in September, through this wonderful institution with the beautiful gardens and the fine buildings and met a lot of interesting people, none of whom I had met before, and was particularly close to my Junior Fellows, and lived in housing on Wisconsin Avenue. Dumbarton Oaks had a group of apartments in a large apartment building that they would rent on presumably a multi-year contract. I had a studio apartment there; it was quite adequate. Lunches were given every day at Dumbarton Oaks; we felt very privileged. The lunches were confined to I believe the Fellows, both the juniors and the visiting fellows, and visiting scholars and the permanent staff, and in those days we had luminaries there. The oldest was Father Dvornik, who was a very distinguished scholar from Eastern Europe, Czechoslovakia, who was probably in his late seventies at that stage, and lived in a cottage right beside the Fellows Building. The other two resident scholars were Ihor Ševčenko and Cyril Mango, who were two of the leading lights of Byzantine studies of the twentieth century in the English-speaking world. So, this is where somebody arrived, a greenhorn from Buffalo, who was really not entirely in the Byzantine field at that stage. I had been a classicist who, because of my dissertation, was sort of converting myself to a Byzantinist. In fact I ended up more or less making myself a Byzantinist at Dumbarton Oaks over the succeeding years. So, that was my introduction to Dumbarton Oaks; it was very exciting, a little bit intimidating, particularly when you had these luminaries at the table at lunchtime, and you felt you needed to be careful about what you said for a while, but it turned out that they were very friendly and it worked out fine.

AS: Did you find that there was active mentorship from that older generation?

JD: It wasn't the type of mentorship that you would think of as common nowadays, let's say in universities, with graduate students and senior scholars, but it was supportive. Some of these people lived in a different world, in a sense, and they could be rather intimidating, but for the most part they were friendly, but they left you to your own devices. Of course, if you went to them looking for help they were certainly more than willing to supply it. The other thing I should say is that one had to be, from their point of view, a little bit careful, because your mentor was in fact the person at the university from which you were getting your degree. It was delicate. They would probably be reluctant to give a lot of guidance to people who were being guided already by their Doktorvater or Doktormutter as the case may be in their universities. But I would say that it worked very well, and I think we learned a lot from conversation with them. We learned an awful lot, of course, from conversation with the visiting senior scholars, and also from the fellow Junior Fellows. It was a rather good learning environment, but most of the time you were pretty much on your own, working in the library, working on your own project. You were very fixated on your own project, trying to get a dissertation completed. And there was no guarantee you would be kept for a second year, but I certainly was, and I think of the four of us who came as Junior Fellows, three of us continued for a second year.

EG: Was there sort of a sense of community among the Junior Fellows?

JD: Oh, absolutely. You had to. These were the people that were your peers. The others were not really your peers. They were obviously supportive and friendly, but your own group were your fellow Junior Fellows. Especially in those years, I don't remember a huge amount of interaction with the fellows in Pre-Columbian or – Landscape probably didn't have Junior Fellows in those years; they have had one or two Visiting Scholars and there may have been one or two in Pre-Columbian, because as you will have learned in the course of your interviews, Dumbarton Oaks changed quite a bit over the years. Now it's almost like it's a very large democratic institution; in those days, I came at a period in which it was coming out of the early phase, in which it was a very elite place. This was the institution in which there were certain people there at the time who intimately knew the Blisses and particularly Mrs. Bliss, and that was a very small guarded community that didn't have too much contact with the outside world. Scholars lived in this really private environment, were not bothered, were not actively involved in universities, in teaching, anything like that. It was quite a different place from how it is now. It's a much more open place; there are many more people coming, in all of the centers. For a long time the Byzantine center was the largest and knew it was the largest, but in the last fifteen to twenty years the other centers have come a little bit more into their own and have expanded.

EG: If we could return for a second to the idea of community among the Byzantine Junior Fellows at the time, could you expand a little bit on the social side of life at Dumbarton Oaks at that time? Because it tends to fluctuate with the years, and also with the groups of individuals there.

JD: There were teas for everyone in the afternoon, and that was a tradition that went back to the time of Mrs. Bliss, and as you will have heard she presided over them very formally. She was no longer there when I came; she may even have been dead at that stage. So, there was a tea and it was an occasion for us to get together. You were not expected to go there; many people did and just had a cup of tea and chatted. Then there were occasionally parties in the Fellows Building, mostly organized by the visiting and Junior Fellows. They didn't occur very often. There were also occasions on which a visiting fellow, that is, the more senior person, might invite people to their apartments, because they might have had their family with them, a spouse, sometimes even children, and they would invite some or all of the Fellows to come and have a drink. And I do remember an institution in which Professor Ševčenko and his wife, I think it was every Friday, would have an open house on a Friday afternoon, would invite anyone from the Fellows and staff to go to their house, which was on the property. At that time they were living in one of the cottages just in front of the new library. There are two cottages there; they lived in one of those. There are also, as you know, two cottages at the Fellows Building, one on either side of the old Fellows Building. So, you're very interested in social life and what people did. There wasn't a huge amount of it, and I would imagine that nowadays, since there are more people and there's more interaction between the various centers, there may be a little bit more of that. We did have some, but people were very focused on what they were doing, so there wasn't a tremendous amount of organized socializing activity. It comes to my mind that when Giles Constable became director, I do remember on occasion playing croquet on the North Vista on the lawn. Professor Ševčenko was very athletic as a young man; he was involved. A group of us, staff and fellows, started playing volleyball in the park, Dumbarton Oaks Park, next to Dumbarton Oaks. So, that took place over one or two summers. Some of the participants were quite good, they were quite athletic, and some of them – particularly I remember Professor Bryer from Birmingham, England, who was a rather rotund gentleman, and probably never did any exercise in his life, tried to participate. He spent a lot of time flailing in the air, missing the ball, but he was a wonderful sport. This was in later years, not when I was a Junior Fellow, but when he came visiting he was very, very active socially and he would love to have parties and invite people to his apartment and so on.

AS: And of course there was the pool.

JD: There was the pool, very good, I'm glad you reminded me of that. I was not a big swimmer myself but I often went to the pool. But again, that was nothing but swimming, and I'm not sure what the regulations were; maybe in later years people were allowed to bring food and drink there. I've just heard recently that they now have to have a lifeguard at the pool, which was never the case in our time. I should really stick to my early years there. The pool was delightful; it was a very nice way to do something refreshing in the afternoon, particularly in the cool of the early evening. And it wasn't overcrowded. At most there might be a half a dozen people there, normally, so it's not something that everyone participated in, but it was a wonderful facility to have. And it was part of the garden, it was part of the setting, and just to sit by the pool itself with the lovely trees around it was very, very nice.

EG: It sounds like the bulk of your time would have been spent in the Main House and in the library.

JD: Yes, the bulk of the time was spent in the old building, in the Main House, and as Junior Fellows we had to share office space, whereas the – we didn't call them Senior Fellows; I think they were called visiting fellows, because the Senior Fellows are something totally different at Dumbarton Oaks; it's the Board of Senior Fellows, which meets two or three times a year – so the visiting fellows, the older people, the post-docs and people further into their careers, they got offices mostly on their own, and sometimes they were on the second floor and they were in an area above the museum called New Studies, I think, whereas Junior Fellows were scattered around and were sharing offices.

AS: Were there other resources that you found useful during your time as a Junior Fellow? For example, did you use the collections at all or the archives?

JD: You mean like the art collections? In my case I didn't have to. For my own work I was working on editing a Greek text and doing a translation, so I often went to the museum and looked at the objects for inspiration and so on, but they were not in any sense directly connected to my work. The same thing with the archives. They didn't have a collection of manuscripts I could have used there. I had to get copies of my own manuscripts from various European libraries and so on. So, the archives didn't directly help me. After I finished my Junior Fellowship I ended up working on a Dumbarton Oaks in-house project and to some extent that involved scholarly archives, but not the typical, you know, the photographic collection, and the art archives. I do recall – and this is germane, I think, to the discussion and it’s something that died out – there was an institution at Dumbarton Oaks whereby a person from the library staff would go to the Library of Congress and would borrow books and bring them back to Dumbarton Oaks. I don't know when that finished; it certainly was still going on for a number of years when Irene Vaslef was librarian.

AS: This is the retired librarian?

JD: Yeah, this was – oh, you mean Irene Vaslef? Oh, the person who went to – I'm not sure he was a librarian. He struck me as being one of those almost like ex-military types. I think his name was Mr. Dixon – a very nice gentleman, very polite and Old World-ly. He would go to the Library of Congress and pick up the books. I think it worked very well. But I don't know why the arrangement ended, whether it was ended by Dumbarton Oaks or by the Library of Congress. It's conceivable that a new administration in the Library of Congress decided not to let the books out. It was a wonderful privilege to have books coming out of the national library.

EG: Did you have a great deal of interaction with the library staff? Of course you were writing.

JD: Yeah, when I went there the librarian was Merlin Packard, and he was a former student of Professor Ševčenko’s at Columbia University. I'm not sure – he probably had not finished a Ph.D., but was a graduate student and presumably for some reason decided not to continue. He was a very good person; he had the training requisite for the Byzantine library. I interacted more probably with people working under him, catalogers, people ordering books, and it was a rather small staff in those days, maybe two or three people apart from Merlin Packard. But yeah, we depended a lot [on them]; when books were not available they would accept orders from us and were very good at obtaining books; we would get bibliographical advice from the librarians. They worked very well and I would say that the staff itself was very keyed to being helpful, to being conducive to a scholarly atmosphere. And their main task was to be there to keep the books in good order and to provide all the help necessary for the Fellows.

EG: So, after your Junior Fellowship then you became a research assistant?

JD: I became a research assistant because at Dumbarton Oaks, they often had – I suppose you could call them skeletons in the closet. These were projects in various areas, archaeology for sure, but they even had one or two what I would call text projects. There was one that was started under Father Dvornik. One of his great contributions to Byzantine studies was his research into the career and legends about the Patriarch Photios in the ninth century. He wrote this very important, classic volume on the Patriarch Photios, but in the course of preparing for that he had become very interested in the history of church consuls and also Byzantine documents describing later Byzantine interactions with that type of literature, so at some stage he became very interested in a particular history of church consuls, and he had asked a former Fellow at Dumbarton Oaks – he may have even asked him while he was there – a man called John Parker, if he would be willing to prepare an edition of this particular text. It turned out to be a rather complicated project, and Parker sort of left – he was from England, and presumably left after his stint at Dumbarton Oaks – but hadn't finished the project, so it was left among the papers at Dumbarton Oaks. He was keen to have it done, and I think it was Professor Ševčenko and maybe Professor Mango who approached me to see if I would be willing to do that and stay on at Dumbarton Oaks. It might have been originally an appointment for two years; in any case, it turned out to take much longer. I had no idea when I got into it. And sometimes projects that are already half-started by somebody else, you find it's not simply a matter of completing, you actually have to go back to the beginning because you have to get yourself into it, and then you discover certain things, styles of doing work that might be different from the previous scholar’s and so on, or you may even find extra materials, and all of this took place with this particular text, but eventually it was completed when I already had moved into another category. I became a Research Fellow and that lasted for three years, and then I became an Assistant Professor of Greek Language and Literature, but I think at that stage I already had completed the so-called Synodicon Vetus, which was published by Dumbarton Oaks in the text series, jointly published or edited and translated by John Parker and myself.

AS: You were a research associate and then Research Fellow, but that was a different title but a continuation of the same project?

JD: Good question.

AS: Or if it helps, our records have 1973-74 as the research assistant.

JD: Right.

AS: And then '74-'75 as the Fellow –

JD: – was a Research Fellow, and then '75-'78 was an Assistant Professor.

AS: Yes.

JD: Well, what was happening of course in this period was I was still trying to finish my dissertation, and that was turning out to be a very long project, too. It was a textual project and some of these text editions are fairly complicated, depending on the number of manuscripts and various other factors. And I was also doing a little bit of teaching, because sometimes Fellows would come, Junior Fellows, let's say art historians, and their Greek would not be very strong and I was giving some Greek lessons to them. I was also expected to contribute to the ordering of books, reading through bibliographies. So, there were various smaller things that were being done while I was working on those two main projects. I was allowed to finish my own dissertation; I was expected to be working a large part of the time on the history of church consuls. I just don't remember – I would say that probably the Synodicon Vetus was finished maybe around 1977. Then it took two years to get it into print because once you entered the process of submitting it, having it read by outside readers, getting into line with the publications department, and so on, so I think it came out in 1979.

EG: Before we get into the professorship and these years, these first years were all under the Tyler administration, and I wonder if you might speak a little bit about your interactions with Bill Tyler.

JD: That's going back to something I said earlier on. When I first came to Dumbarton Oaks we were living in the old days, so to say, living with the ancien régime in a sense, and Bill Tyler was certainly part of that. He, as you probably have learned, was somehow related to the Blisses, had been in the diplomatic service; he was a very, very nice gentleman. He was sort of a scholar-gentleman; he had scholarly interests but nothing directly related certainly to the Byzantine center. So, he was a gentleman-director who did not involve himself very much in the running of Dumbarton Oaks, in the sense that the Directors of Studies in each of the centers were the main people in charge of how things were run. So, presumably he would be in charge of the budget, and he would indicate to each director their budget-line and so on. Of course, he would be involved to a point, but he was not involved in for instance the choosing of the Fellows at all. So, my recollection of the Byzantine center was that the Director of Studies at that stage was Bill Loerke, who was an art historian, and he was in complete charge with the senior faculty – and that's another thing that changed. That changed almost from year to year, but when I was there it was Cyril Mango, Ihor Ševčenko, Ernst Kitzinger was still there, the art historian, and I'm not sure if even Father Dvornik was there, but I'm not sure he was involved in choosing the Fellows. But certainly the others were, along with the Director of Studies, Bill Loerke. Getting back to Mr. Tyler, we didn't see him very often, but when we did he was very pleasant. But he did his own thing, and we were dealing mainly with the resident faculty and with the Director of Studies. That changed radically when Giles Constable came, because for the first time you had a scholar who was coming in to take over the directorship, and while Giles Constable was not a Byzantinist, obviously he was certainly a medievalist, a very distinguished medievalist, and he knew quite a bit about Byzantium and learned quite a bit, of course, in the years he was at Dumbarton Oaks. So, that's why I say that you really had two different worlds there; you had the world of the old days, which came to an end literally with the departure of William Tyler, and then with the arrival of Giles Constable all sorts of changes took place.

EG: I wonder if you might talk a little bit about Bill Loerke as Director of Studies, since he really, from what you're saying, was in charge of the Byzantine Department.

JD: Bill Loerke, I believe, had come from the University of Pittsburgh. I don't know the whole story, because throughout my career, including Harvard, I've not interested myself very often in the details of controversies and scandals and so on, but I do recall that Bill Loerke was brought in because Dumbarton Oaks – anyone who reads the account by Giles Constable – he wrote a description, gave a lecture at the Byzantine studies conference in 1978 and he addressed a little bit the previous history of Dumbarton Oaks, but he alluded to certain problems of small institutions, like Dumbarton Oaks was, and disputes, and there definitely had been some disputes. I don't remember who exactly was involved and for what reason, but I do recall that Bill Loerke, maybe at the instigation of fellow art historian Ernst Kitzinger, [who] had been influential in seeing that Bill Loerke was appointed Director of Studies, Bill Loerke had apparently been a chairman of the art history department of Pittsburgh, so he came with certain credentials. I suspect – my sense is, looking back, that he came with certain ideas. Probably he had been given or decided that he would come with an agenda to sort of, as anyone does in a sense when there's trouble, to clean things up. So, I think he had an uneasy relationship specifically with Cyril Mango and Ihor Ševčenko, and shortly after his arrival Cyril Mango left, and he took up a position probably first in London and then went to Oxford after that. Ihor Ševčenko stayed on for some time. So, the atmosphere wasn't very good at the upper level at that stage within the Byzantine center. It didn't detract from our work but you just got the feeling that Bill Loerke was trying to change things and it wasn't making for the happiest of situations. I would say he was not the most effective Director of Studies, but certainly meant very well. He was a very sociable person; he and his wife saw to it that visiting scholars were entertained and they used opportunities at their own house, when they were entertaining visiting senior scholars, that they would invite certain members of the Junior Fellows and other Fellows to take part in those occasions. At the end of the day I would say he accomplished some things but probably fell short of his ideas, his own plans for getting things done.

AS: He left fairly shortly after this time that we're talking about, I think. At a certain point, and we're a little fuzzy on our years here, there was a vacuum, if you will, for the Director of Studies position, and what other people have called the triumvirate of individuals, including yourself, acting as partial directors.

JD: I recall that in 1977 I ended up, probably with Henry Maguire and Irina Andreescu, or certainly with Henry, sharing the duties of Director of Studies. I think we were asked to do that by Giles Constable because he presumably was going to be coming but hadn't quite arrived. So, there was one term after his official appointment, let's say the spring term, and he would be arriving just after that. I don't recall the circumstances of Bill Loerke's leaving. He didn't go to another job; I think he simply took retirement, and presumably if there were any pushing there it would have been done on the part of Harvard. I don't recall the details of why, or perhaps he got frustrated and decided he no longer wanted to do the job. So, in fact after that the Director of Studies was – there was a period in which John Meyendorff, who was a very distinguished priest of the Russian Orthodox Church, a very distinguished Byzantine theologian, I think, came for a while. There was a period in which they were sort of using advisors. I know Peter Topping from the University of Cincinnati came, but he may have come more in the capacity as advisor for the library, rather than for the Byzantine Studies. There's a fog for me also for that period; it's very fuzzy between the leaving, or the retirement, of Bill Loerke and let's say the arrival – and I'm not even sure if Alice-Mary Talbot came originally in some sort of capacity as Director of Byzantine Studies. Well, I can't expect you to know that if I don't know it.

AS: But during that time you were in charge of the fellowship program, is that right?

JD: I think that Giles Constable included the three of us in the discussions with the Senior Fellows. We were not members of the Senior Fellows Board, but we were brought in, presumably, and at that stage of course we would have been the assistant professors, because that's one of the things that Loerke did; Bill Loerke decided to create – perhaps as a result of some pressure from one of the Junior Fellows, and not myself, but suddenly we heard one day that there was going to be this new category, that there would be assistant professors at Dumbarton Oaks. We were assistant professors of the Harvard system, but as I said before I did a certain amount of teaching. It wasn't always very organized, in the sense that it was certainly advertised in the local universities and at least on one occasion I had people from several of the surrounding universities who took a course in Byzantine civilization with me at Dumbarton Oaks. But I think it was in our capacity as assistant professors that we were included in the discussions for the Senior Fellows – but it was just for the fellowship program, because Senior Fellows discussed other business related to Dumbarton Oaks and the Byzantine center. So, I think it was just as experts in our own individual fields that we were involved in that.

EG: So, it wasn't you individually, there wasn't a clear division between say field work and publications and – ?

JD: Well, there are two things. I mentioned that it was just for one term that I certainly was appointed or asked to be an acting Director of Studies. That was just for that one term, and I think it was in the spring term, so it would not have involved the picking of Fellows; that would have been done before the beginning of that term. But probably in the course of those three years in which I held this assistant professorship we would have been involved in the meeting at which the Fellows were picked.

EG: What were some of your other responsibilities as the assistant professor, aside from the fellowship program?

JD: Not very much. Nothing different – it was simply a change in title at that stage. As I said, I sort of was presented with this almost fait accompli without knowing exactly where it was coming from, but you don't look a gift horse in the mouth as they say, so I certainly accepted the position. But it didn't come with any specific set of new responsibilities. It was just a change in title as far as I was concerned. And that's kind of interesting, because when Giles Constable came, within a short period he decided – and maybe even had been thinking about it for a while, but he certainly did not like this idea of junior people being tied long-term to Dumbarton Oaks. I'm not sure if he specifically objected to the title of assistant professor, but he certainly didn't like the idea of younger scholars like the three of us, who were Henry Maguire, art historian, Irina Andreescu, art historian, and myself, language and literature person, and that sort of probably was tied in with this very novel idea that he had to establish relationships with nearby universities, and led to the proposal to establish joint appointments. I had possibly the very first one, but certainly was one of the first two joint appointments. There's some, again, lack of clarity. I think the other person might have been Mike McCormick at Johns Hopkins, but I think I literally may have been the first joint appointment with the classics department at the University of Maryland, and that was negotiated – at that time, the classics department at Maryland happened to have a very outgoing, unusual chair, in the sense that he was actually from the philosophy department, and he was brought in to chair the classics department at Maryland because they were having a transition. He was one of these people, very good administrator, who had lots of ideas and presumably had been approached by Giles Constable and responded very positively and convinced the people at Maryland, including the dean, that this would be something worth exploring, and so I was appointed to the classics department. And in those days the joint appointment, the idea, if it wasn't discussed up-front between the university and Dumbarton Oaks, it really was intended ultimately to lead to a tenure-track appointment at the university. So, in my case it was arranged that I would teach one term at Maryland and then do research the other term at Dumbarton Oaks; rather than dividing it up, spending a whole year teaching and at the same time doing research at Dumbarton Oaks, it was done semester by semester. Do you want me to continue on that line, of the joint appointment? In my own case, and I can talk about the later history, which is rather complex – in any case, it worked extremely well. I went there with the prospect of teaching at Maryland, and I was teaching purely classical courses because it didn't matter to Dumbarton Oaks and presumably they didn't expect, at least straight away, in a classics department that there would be the opportunity to teach Byzantine courses, so I was teaching everything from beginning Latin to Greek and Roman medical terminology to Euripides. I think Dumbarton Oaks was quite happy, because at least they had a Byzantinist who was actually out in connection, working in conjunction with a university, doing some teaching that might possibly lead to a full-time position at a university. But the idea was that that would go for three years and there was a possibility of renewal for three years, and at the end of that stage presumably one would be considered for tenure or not at the university, in my case at Maryland. But actually after three years the department did have an opening for a full-time classicist, so I decided to enter that competition. It was very competitive; I remember there were about fifty applications, and of course I had the inside track and they seemed to like me and I seemed to be doing a good job at teaching, and ultimately I got that job. So, I left the joint appointment track in a sense after three years and didn't complete it, so that didn't go to the test of whether it would lead to tenure or not. And I think the same thing happened to Mike McCormick, that he got a full-time appointment at Hopkins. There were some other joint appointments that didn't work out; initially they were in the immediate area so there was one at Georgetown that finally didn't work out, didn't lead to a tenure track, and at that point then we may spill into the Angeliki Laiou era. Giles Constable certainly was responsible for setting up the joint appointments and they continue, but I think Angeliki Laiou decided that there would have to be an agreement upfront with any university going into a joint appointment deal with Dumbarton Oaks that they would guarantee that there would at least be consideration of tenure at the end of it. But even that didn't work out, because I remember in the case of a joint appointment at Columbia, the appointment was made but at some stage the person who received the joint appointment was expected to explore funding for a further position at Columbia, so that also came to an end unsuccessfully. There were one or two others; eventually Catholic University was involved, but the first one and the one that ended up happily for Dumbarton Oaks in the sense that they did achieve the goal of getting a Byzantinist into a position at a university in line with Giles Constable's idea that they really shouldn't have these junior people long-term in a research center, that they should be out in the world of teaching and research rather than just sitting in a research center.

EG: As far as the chronology of this, you had the three-year appointment as a Dumbarton Oaks assistant professor and then this came after that?

JD: Then I think '78-'81 was this joint appointment, and then '81, presumably that's when I started my new appointment at Maryland. I left Dumbarton Oaks and Harvard and took up an assistant professorship at Maryland, completely separate from Dumbarton Oaks.

EG: Before we hit too far into the '80s, I wonder – a lot of people have talked to us about this being a really tough time in scholarship in general, and especially for younger people who were just coming out of graduate school and finding very few positions, and how this trickled down even to a place that is seemingly as isolated as Dumbarton Oaks.

JD: There are two things here. When I first was here as a graduate student and towards the end of that, I was a graduate student '67 to '71 at Buffalo, and I have some experience of how things were going there in the classics department. So, in the last two years while I was there, I remember vividly people getting their Ph.Ds in a place like Buffalo and having a choice of jobs, so each one would get maybe two or three offers of jobs. And suddenly around 1971 all of that stopped. It was only in later years that I realized that what I had experienced was not so much the end of a wonderful era and now we came into hard times, but it was rather that the period preceding 1971 for a certain number of years was actually a bubble, so what we had come back to after 1971 was really a normal situation, particularly in the humanities and classics. There were years in which things were better and worse, but it was always difficult after that. I realized that this was the normal sort of thing, particularly for the humanities. So, when you come to look at Dumbarton Oaks, particular in those, what I would call the normal, lean years, when you're in something as specialized as Byzantine studies, whether it be in art history or history or particularly in literature, it's even more difficult to get placement, because let's say a historian is very often not going to get a purely Byzantine history job; he's going to get a job in a history department and will be expected of course to teach surveys and to teach a certain amount of Western, if not a lot of Western, and then be lucky to get teaching some courses in Byzantine – same thing in art history. There were people in some of the universities with a longer tradition that might get jobs purely as Byzantine art historians, but many of them, if they got jobs, would actually have to do a lot of survey courses and teach more widely than Byzantine. Over the years, starting from '71 when I came to Dumbarton Oaks, there were, practically each year, people some of whom never got jobs. I remember some people who sort of left the profession; there were others who had to spend several years on one-year jobs and eventually got into positions, some of which turned out to be not great positions, you know, with the result that they struggled for most of their career, and then there were a few exceptions, as a result of luck, as a result of their own backgrounds, their capabilities, they were lucky to land – but it was a very difficult time, and Dumbarton Oaks happened to be part of that complex of humanities, having people who were even more specialized than many other fields, so it was particularly difficult for even good – and it was normally very, very good people that got into Dumbarton Oaks. It was very competitive, so these were excellent young scholars but it wasn't easy to get positions; it was always a challenge. People like Giles Constable and later Angeliki Laiou did their best to sow the seeds of Byzantium; they sent out missionaries, as I would call them, very distinguished scholars like Robert Browning and Speros Vryonis and people like that, to universities around the country and stimulate interest in things like Byzantine history, Byzantine culture. But in a case like mine, I don't think anyone ever expected positions to open up in Byzantine literature; the normal expectation, as it still is, if you're a Byzantine philologist, literature specialist, the best you can hope is to get a job in a classics department and spend your career there, because there are very few positions. This one at Harvard is one of very few specifically named for Byzantine literature; in fact it may be the only one. That's a normal thing for people in my field. For history and art history, there's a little more flexibility and leeway, but still, the people coming out of Dumbarton Oaks as Junior Fellows, finishing their degrees, always found that it was never easy to get positions, and that's still the case.

AS: It must have also increased anxiety that I guess it was in these same years that there was talk of Dumbarton Oaks being moved back to Harvard.

JD: That coincided exclusively with the arrival of Giles Constable. It was actually a very controversial time, in a way, and you'll have heard different sides to it. Again, it has never been a tremendous interest of mine; it may be a shortcoming of mine to not be particularly interested in those sorts of things. But I do remember that, rightly or wrongly, Giles Constable was seen, in the worst-case scenario, as somebody sent down by Harvard to see about moving parts of Dumbarton Oaks, for instance the library, up to Cambridge. It was so serious in a sense that – and this is the most obvious example of the reaction to it and the best example of how seriously it was taken by some people – Ernst Kitzinger actually resigned his position at Dumbarton Oaks in reaction to this story, or rumor, or whatever you might want to call it. So, there definitely was something. Whether it was caused by some people at Harvard other than Giles Constable, or he in fact had been asked to look into whether Dumbarton Oaks should be kept as it is, or could some argument be made for changing certain things or moving part of it, still to this day nobody knows. I don't know if Giles Constable ever has officially gone on record and clarified from his point of view what caused this upheaval. In fact, it was an upheaval that, if I remember correctly, involved some of the members of the community in Georgetown. They may not have known very much about what went on in the individual centers, but they certainly knew about the gardens and about the music program, because these were the people who would come, and some of them would have known Mrs. Bliss. You can read on the stone outside, the dedication and so on. This was meant to be a place where people would come; it was never in a sense something that could be shifted to someplace else. It was their gift to Harvard, but for Georgetown area to be at Dumbarton Oaks. But that died down, at a certain point; I'm not sure when. Presumably before Giles Constable left and presumably he did enough to convince people. When Alexander Kazhdan was brought in – I think that solidified things to some extent. Here was somebody, a very distinguished scholar who needed all of the library resources for the several projects that he undertook there, and the Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium would be the most outstanding example. I think things became even more solidified under Angeliki Laiou, because she was the first Byzantinist who was appointed the director of Dumbarton Oaks, not just the Byzantine center, but the director of Dumbarton Oaks. She had a lot of backbone, a lot of courage, and she probably would have reacted very, very strongly to any suggestion – but I think that by the time that she came that whole issue had resolved itself; it was no longer being raised. I'm just saying that she was the type of person, if it ever raised its head, that she would have been – and it depends on your point of view. I would have been one of those people; I would have been very upset if Harvard had used any part of Dumbarton Oaks to bring up here, because I see this as a sacred trust that the Blisses had given this, and with certain conditions attached. It was meant to be in Washington D.C. Things might change if all the money disappeared and Harvard became suddenly responsible for it, but that is certainly not the case, and I'm not sure it was ever even a threat. Dumbarton Oaks is self-supporting and it should remain that in memory of the Blisses and what they meant it for.

EG: There was no one at Dumbarton Oaks who was really in favor of this move, was there?

JD: No, but the mystery person in a sense is Giles Constable – but he ended up doing a tremendous amount, and I'm not saying that he's guilty in any sense. I'm just saying that this is all associated with his name, and perhaps unfairly, but that's the recollection, and why, I think, maybe sometime he will go on record. But the fact that Ernst Kitzinger resigned, who had been at Dumbarton Oaks and knew the Blisses, and he was one of the top Byzantine art historians of the twentieth century along with Kurt Weitzmann and Hugo Buchthal, I mean, these were the giants, and Otto Demus, who was also at Dumbarton Oaks on numerous occasions. He had spent many years at Dumbarton Oaks and in fact was probably the director of the Byzantine center at some stage, so that that was his reaction: he resigned his position, I think shortly after that he went to Oxford and retired, so it must have meant something in his mind, that there was some reality somewhere, whether it was associated with Giles Constable or with some part of the Harvard administration. There was a little bit of – I don't know what you call it, smoke or fire, but there was one or the other there.

AS: This is jumping far out of chronological order, but you alluded to the Dumbarton Oaks professorship that you hold now. I wondered if you might talk about that, because it fits a little bit in line with our discussion of the Constable years, but it's a surprising thing to have a Dumbarton Oaks professorship that's based here in Cambridge. I wonder what you saw as the role of the Dumbarton Oaks professors, because there are three – ?

JD: There are more than three. There may be five; there's certainly four, because you have the three original ones, which were Byzantine history, Byzantine art history, and Byzantine – call it literature. Actually Professor Ševčenko, when he had it, was called the Dumbarton Oaks Professor of Byzantine History and Literature. I'm called the Dumbarton Oaks Professor of Byzantine Philology and Literature. That was my choice, because I'm not a historian in the sense that Professor Ševčenko was, but Angeliki Laiou is Byzantine history and Ioli Kalavrezou is Byzantine art history. Now Tom Cummins in history of art and architecture is a Dumbarton Oaks professor of – well, you know that. But there's also I think maybe somebody in the anthropology department, but I'm not certain. There is definitely another one whom I've never met, and I don't even remember the name of the person. In any case, again, like most things, it's partly because of my mind but also because of Dumbarton Oaks; there's a certain amount of cloud and gray areas, but my take on the Dumbarton Oaks professorship is it's something that Giles Constable did. I suspect that Giles Constable did it in this sense that he was doing it for the good of the Byzantine field, that he came to the administration – this is how I would interpret it, it may not be the correct interpretation – that he came to the administration and said, well, Dumbarton Oaks would be willing to fund half a professorship if various departments or the dean is willing to fund the other half. His idea would have been just like he was trying to get junior people out of Dumbarton Oaks and into positions; maybe he wanted to get rid of Ihor Ševčenko, for instance, and get him out of Dumbarton Oaks, that alone or that in combination with, "oh, well, let's do also history and establish these three chairs with the administration at Harvard," and I don't know how it worked in the other departments but my recollection is that when I got my joint appointment, my Dumbarton Oaks chair, that it was actually funded half by Dumbarton Oaks and half by the Dean. That would have been Jeremy Knowles at the time. Now, again, this is where the fuzziness comes in on two counts. First of all, I'm not sure that the history department, for instance, always paid their half or the dean paid their half, and I don't know at all about art history, but I know that since Jan Ziolkowski has become the director it looks like Dumbarton Oaks is paying for everything now. And this I see as – this is a move of course by Harvard, the administration, because Harvard wants, they've always wanted, they will want to use any money that's available within the Harvard world. So Dumbarton Oaks has been very successful in keeping the operation going, in building this wonderful new library – and that was done under Ned Keenan; that was his major contribution. But I think the administration here, particularly the financial side, was always wondering how we can get our hands on these funds that are in various parts of the Harvard universe. I think that's what's happened now, as far as I can tell, that Dumbarton Oaks now pays for all of that. In other words, particularly now when we're speaking at the second half of the academic year of 2009, money is becoming more and more scarce and the dean of FAS is having tremendous problems in funding certain parts of the operation, so it doesn't surprise me that that's the move at the moment. But I think originally Giles Constable's idea was to again support Byzantine studies, but there might have been a slight element in the case of Professor Ševčenko that it would be nice to have him outside of Dumbarton Oaks, in a sense.

AS: Is this position sort of a gift to the university from Dumbarton Oaks in the sense of giving Byzantinists to the university? Or is there any sort of return, or are you beholden to Dumbarton Oaks in any way?

JD: Not beholden, but our main obligation in a sense is to be members of the Board of Senior Fellows and be on the editorial board and various other things. We've been active on things like the various projects, the Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium, certainly on the hagiography projects, the translations and so on. You're more or less expected to be an active participant in any of the committees and projects for which you could be usefully asked to participate, but the member of the Board of Senior Fellows is the main thing, I would say. For the rest, your job is to do your teaching and research, so it's not that Dumbarton Oaks asks you specifically to do anything up here other than represent the Byzantine field, in my case Byzantine literature. I would say it's a gift to the university, just like any endowed chair. But I think again it's hard to know. Giles was a very good administrator and a very practical sort of person, so maybe he thought that this would be the best way to do it, to have it a combination, half and half. I really don't know. Have you interviewed him already?

AS: The interview was done by James Carder.

JD: God knows, maybe he's been asked these questions, and he has a wonderful memory, as far as I know, somewhat like Philip Grierson, who had a tremendous memory and wrote that memoir, whatever he called it, about Dumbarton Oaks, and wrote it in his 90s. I'm not gifted in that sense. Mnemosyne has not been kind to me.

EG: Shall we move into the Senior Fellows period?

AS: Could you tell us a little about your role and responsibility on the Senior Fellows Board? And I think you were also chair of the Board for a while?

JD: I was chair on two occasions. I was chair for three years before I became a Dumbarton Oaks Professor, in other words before I joined the faculty here, and that was 1993 to '96, and then I was chair 2003 to 2006. We meet three times a year – well, it varies; when I first started we met three times a year, and at some point, I think Ned Keenan, during his directorship, decided to cut out one of the meetings, I think the October-November meeting, so then it became twice a year. Originally it was three times. It was October let's say, a one-day meeting to just discuss general business about Dumbarton Oaks' various – oh, we discussed many, many things, anything to do with the Byzantine center, all the way from the Fellows to the publications program, anything, so that's the whole gamut of the issues concerning the center. Then the main meeting is always in January-February, and that varies a little bit depending on calendar and people's schedule, but that's the most important meeting because that's the one in which we pick all the Fellows for the following year and discuss major issues like lectureships and visiting lecturers. But the main thing is the fellowship program. We meet at the time of the symposium and that is a regular business meeting, but I would say an important part of that in recent years – and perhaps had always been – we discuss all of the papers just delivered in the course of the two and a half day symposium and then we decide, for instance, which speakers should be invited to submit a revised version for consideration for possible publication, and we decide whether there's a possibility that the symposium would be published in book form as a separate book or some papers should be invited to be included in the Dumbarton Oaks Papers, so that's an important discussion that we have. So, those are the main – and now under Jan Ziolkowski we've gone back, starting this coming year, to three meetings a year. And all of the fields are represented; the larger fields might have two representatives. In other words, maybe in history you might have two historians, you might have two art historians, usually you'd only have one person in literature, rarely some other field like theology, archaeology, but the whole idea is to get people who are well-known scholars, either from this country or abroad, who generally will be picked to replace someone just leaving the Board, because that's the obvious field that needs to be represented in a sense. So, if a historian goes off then you like to try and get somebody who's mainly a historian and so on. So, it's a mixture of the three Dumbarton Oaks Professors plus two or three outside scholars, and then the director of the Byzantine center, Director of Studies, is ex officio a member of the Senior Fellows, and depending on the director they take a more or less active part in the meetings. Obviously Angeliki Laiou as being to date the only exclusively Byzantine scholar, she was tremendously active as you might expect in everything. Some of the others, Ned Keenan, he was a Slavic scholar so he knew quite a bit about Byzantium, but not specialist knowledge, so he would take part in some of the discussion, particularly let's say when we're interviewing the Junior Fellows, the candidates for junior fellowships, then he would ask questions, but some of the others would tend not to become involved in positions. And sometimes in picking the visiting scholars, which is based exclusively on their dossier submitted and their application, we don't interview them, sometimes the Director, depending on their field, will take part more or less in the discussion. If they think they can add something useful they certainly say that, and otherwise they will stay quiet, but they will normally attend the meeting of choosing the Fellows.

EG: Would you mind expanding a little bit on the Fellows' selection process? Because I think you may be one of the longest serving Senior Fellows, and you probably have the widest perspective, of the individuals we're talking to, about just the general process of selecting, especially Junior Fellows.

JD: I have the feeling, and I'll start off with the junior fellowship and it might even apply to some extent to the other category as well, the visiting fellow, that going back to the old world, the old days, and Giles Constable refers to this, again in that very fine piece that he wrote, which was given as a lecture in the BSC and then published by Dumbarton Oaks, given in 1978, published in '79, that in the old set-up it was a much smaller world; it was very elitist and it was very clubby. So, I suspect that the people making the choices in those days tended to go much more for people that they knew, students of their colleagues and so on. If you didn't belong somehow, if you weren't having connections with that club, it was very difficult to get in, to break into it. I think possibly already starting with Bill Loerke and certainly in the time of Giles Constable, there was a little more democracy creeping in. The Board expanded, because in the old days I think it was mainly because you had more resident scholars at Dumbarton Oaks, so they took care of the business; it was their business in a sense. After that, when the senior scholars were no longer there, and were not being appointed any more, resident senior scholars like the Ihor Ševčenkos and the Cyril Mangos and the Francis Dvorniks and so on, which was the old tradition, that came to an end, then you obviously had to expand the Board, bring people in. Under Giles Constable we already were bringing in outside experts so it became more democratic. The process itself hadn't changed an awful lot. In other words, if you were a candidate for a junior fellowship and became a finalist, then you would be invited for an interview – let me correct myself. I believe in my day, when I was a candidate for a Junior Fellow, people were not brought for interview; you just found out if you were appointed or not. I can't remember exactly when it changed, probably under Giles; certainly interviews were conducted under Giles, because I remember a very famous case in which a Harvard graduate student who came to be interviewed and was actually a student of one of the senior Byzantinists came and was interviewed, and seemed to indicate that he wasn't very enthusiastic about the particular project he was working on and seemed very blasé and so on, and he was peremptorily told that he had no business trying to get into Dumbarton Oaks and was turned down. In any case, at a certain point, and I believe under Giles Constable, the finalists for the junior fellowship slot – and that would vary of course; you might have five or six people brought in, or you might have two or three depending on the quality of the applicants – were brought in and were interviewed, let's say for half an hour, by the Board of Senior Fellows. That's still the policy in place. It's a very grueling process, a sort of a survival test, because these are people without much experience; they're more or less getting into a particular field. Some of them are better prepared than others and some of them are coming from universities where they really don't have Byzantinists, but they've managed to sort of get into close to the field, if not entirely inside it. Success can depend on the ability of the individual to present themselves in a fairly strong manner as being people who are going to make a good go of writing a good dissertation. A lot of it has to do with defending the proposal that you have for writing your dissertation. In my experience, in certain years, depending on the makeup of the board, some individuals on the Board of Senior Fellows were rather – I wouldn't say cruel, but they were very, very tough on the prospective Junior Fellows, on these young people coming in. As I say, in some cases, if you survived that, you really had gone through an ordeal and come out having achieved something. On the whole, I would say that the whole selection process for Fellows nowadays has been, in the new era, very democratic, because it's all done by voting. This is how it works: in the junior category the finalists come in, each of them is interviewed for half an hour, they're discussed afterwards as a group, then people give their sense of how they would vote on them and at the end of that process (this is the end of the first day, on the Friday), I think we leave the final voting until the following day, because sometimes it depends on how many people you're going to choose from the following category, from the visiting Fellows. So, what you end up with is a ranked list, but you don't decide how many people are going to be accepted. So, we all vote, the six or seven members of the Senior Fellows, by ranking and we agree on a slate of people ranked in order. On the second day, for the other categories, we have visiting Fellows, we have summer Fellows, and we have projects, archaeological, art historical project grounds, and the most difficult one is the visiting Fellows. That's all based on the dossier of materials that people have submitted, and we have seen all the materials ahead of time weeks in advance. We actually are expected to do our own reading on our own and submit our own ranking before the meeting. So, by the time the meeting starts, we already have these large tabulations done to see, on the basis of each individual Senior Board member's ranking, how the picture looks. In other words, when all the scores are totted up we do have people ranked from one to fifty. Then the discussion begins, and we may all decide, when you look at the scores, if someone in the number one rank, everyone ranked them number one, then there's not much need for discussion, this person is a shoo-in, and you might do that with two or three people. Then you go to the bottom of the pile and you just say, "Well, is there even one person here who gave a ranking of maybe five or six or four to this person? Would you like to defend since everyone else is putting them at number forty or number fifty?" Then you're able to eliminate. Then the real hard work begins at that stage, because then you still have maybe forty people still left in the pool, and it becomes – this is one of the things you learn very quickly in occasions like this, that votes can be all over the place. For instance, my number one choice may be somebody else's number thirty or thirty-five, so that's where you begin to have a full discussion and look at the dossiers again if necessary, and eventually you get it down by a process of discussion to an opportunity to eliminate some more, add in a few more at the top, and then you have a group of maybe twenty, twenty-five people and the only thing you can do then is to vote again and see where the rankings come. Usually at that stage, given you have three or four people who have already been chosen and you maybe have six or seven that will come out of the second voting, then you have a core of people, and at that stage the Director will indicate, "Well, we probably should be able to award so many fellowships," and at that stage you decide, "Well, do these Junior Fellows look even better as potential scholars than some of the people on this other list," and you sort of negotiate. Well, say there are four, but you can't let go of four of these Junior Fellows, these are really outstanding people, so if you pick four of those then the Director may say, "Well, you can have six of the other category." Then you would have to decide on, say, ten people chosen, and you have six that will be offered and four will be alternates. The same thing with the junior, if you decide you're going to have alternates; if there's anyone beyond those four stellar people that you think would be worth it and if one of those four turns it down would somebody else be worth offering them a fellowship. And that takes all day Saturday, so it's a full day's work; it's a tremendous amount of discussion. And we're very careful. If you have your own student who's an applicant, you can write a letter for that student to be part of the dossier, but you cannot be part of – let's say for a Junior Fellow applicant, because that's the only case in which you would apply; you're not going to have a student – you might have a former student; that doesn't matter. But your current student, you cannot be a part of the interview. There's another restriction. Any member of the Board of Senior Fellows cannot be a letter writer for any applicant. In other words, if somebody – it doesn't matter where this person is from, if it's a Harvard person, anywhere – if they ask me, "Will you write for me to the Dumbarton Oaks fellowship program?" I say, "I cannot do it, I'm a member of the Senior Fellows." We're very careful about that. I think that probably came in in the time of Giles Constable, because that, as I say, was a complete break with the old system. The old system was sort of an in-house thing; it only involved people who were all the time at Dumbarton Oaks, and it was still reflecting the “old buddy, old boy” network. I'm not condemning it; I'm just saying that – that's why I regard it as something of a miracle that I ever got into Dumbarton Oaks in the first place, but once I got in I refused to leave.

EG: That was very helpful, because I don't think we've had anyone talk about that. And this is a sort of unfairly large question but I'll ask it. You've been on the Senior Fellows Board I guess for fifteen years –

JD: I've been there since I believe 1991.

EG: In that time do you recall any particularly memorable projects or discussions or matters of concern that occupied the Senior Fellows Board?

JD: Yes, I mean, plus and minus. I remember an extraordinary and egregious case of an archaeological project that probably went from before, certainly from before Giles Constable's time, let's say from the time of Bill Loerke or maybe even before that, went through Giles' phase and was still there in the time of Angeliki Laiou. This was a project that we were all the time hoping would come to an end, that the group of people involved would write their final reports, so that was always a major issue, and there was actually a second one of those that came in more in the time of Angeliki Laiou, and that was only resolved in the last four or five years. Probably archaeology lends itself to that; it's a team project and very difficult, so if you don't follow up immediately it can stretch out for years. The Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium was a huge project in a positive sense. Ironically I remember another instance, and since he's no longer with us I don't mind talking about it – Alexander Kazhdan was clearly the driving force behind the Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium; it would never have been completed without him, but he also later had a project, which was this history of Byzantine literature, and that came in for a lot of discussion, some of it negative, because Alexander was very well along in years at that stage. But it wasn't so much that; it was the fact that it was a rather peculiar project in some ways. He was doing it totally on his own, and he wanted to start Byzantine literature in the seventh century and end it in the thirteenth century. So, that was a little bit strange to Byzantinists, because they certainly want to include Justinian, but most people would like to go back even to the fourth century, and they certainly would want to go to fifteenth century, to 1453. But Alexander was his own man; he had very strong ideas and opinions, and so that was a little bit controversial and it was a little bit difficult, because Angeliki Laiou was the Director at the time and so we found it difficult to decide whether we were going to – because he had submitted it as a Dumbarton Oaks project; he wanted to know was Dumbarton Oaks going to submit this and publish this as a project and it turned out that Dumbarton Oaks decided against it, and before that decision was made Angeliki Laiou organized a meeting at which experts in Byzantine literature from abroad and from this continent were brought in to have an open discussion with Alexander Kazhdan, and with the Director there, and some time after that it was decided – and I must say I was in favor of the decision not to have Dumbarton Oaks publish this history of Byzantine literature. It has been published, at least two volumes, and it's very, very good. It is Alexander Kazhdan and it's his total take on it, and it has up to date bibliography to some extent and it's very, very useful, but he, when he first came to this country and on his way here passing through Vienna, he gave a lecture in which he criticized rather severely the newly arrived History of Byzantine Literature, a two volume work by Herbert Hunger in Vienna, the head of the Vienna school, a very, very distinguished scholar who produced this massive – and more or less told him this is not the history of Byzantine literature. Presumably he knew what a history of Byzantine literature would be, Alexander himself, and presumably this is what he meant his to be, but it's not in any sense; it's purely his take on certain aspects of Byzantine literature. I'm glad that he did it, but I still think it was the right thing not to accept it at Dumbarton Oaks at the time. That was another. On the whole there haven't been – the issues at Dumbarton Oaks tend to be each year on issues like the publications program. There was a big change done when we went from the older type of printing with a very distinguished firm, Augustine, which did it in the old days and we had these very luxurious volumes, impeccably printed and so on, but that became prohibitively expensive, and people like Ned – I'm not sure if Giles already started that; he was very concerned about economics, but he was still working with people like Julia Warner, who was an extraordinary editor and so on and looked after the series for many years and he probably was reluctant to offend Julia, and she had a long-standing relationship with Augustine. But certainly when Ned Keenan came he was more interested in looking at the statistics, how many books were being bought and what it was costing for each volume and so on, so he changed that, and that became a huge issue every year at the Senior Fellows, and then of course with the age of digitization, he was always – not concerned, but he was very interested in how many hits certain Dumbarton Oaks publications were getting, and that was wonderful because Angeliki Laiou, for instance, was much more old-school and she didn't believe – and in fact when Angeliki was Director it took her a long time to actually get computers into the building and get Dumbarton Oaks wired. But eventually she got into it herself and became sort of gung-ho in that sense. But Ned Keenan was very practical about things and it's still a big matter of discussion. Jan Ziolkowski is very concerned about publications, but you have to be; it absorbs tremendous amounts of the operating budget at Dumbarton Oaks. Then we've had problems of course with the publications department itself, and in fact in recent times a new design editor was brought in and she changed the whole formatting and it turned out to be unacceptable to most people, but she hadn't cleared the final format with the Director of the Byzantine center before going into print, and so the current Director has had his work cut out for him; he's had to turn that around and he's actually made quite a number of changes. But those are the types of issues that have been uppermost in recent years. There hasn't been a tremendous amount of controversy, and certainly the Senior Fellows as a group have always, I think, in my experience – I mean, it's not always perfect, and different representatives disagree depending on the field and so on – but there has never been any open dispute, and everything is resolved in the discussion in picking Fellows and so on. Ultimately of course the final decision is made by the director of Dumbarton Oaks, and the only person that I remember vividly pointing that out was Angeliki Laiou herself, even though very often she would be the one, when she was not the director, as a member of the Senior Fellows Board, she would be fighting for her side against the director in a sense. But when her turn came to be the director, she on one occasion reminded us that yes, we were the ones giving advice; she was the one making the decisions. But on the whole it's always been a pleasure to be a Senior Fellow, because these are very serious scholars who are not out fighting for their own turf; they want to defend their own field, let's say history or archaeology and so on, but when you see the voting and hear the discussion, you know that they're really interested in the quality of the candidates and how much they deserve to get a fellowship, because it's quite an honor and there are large numbers of people, including some very good scholars, who are obviously turned down every year, so that's the difficult part of it.

AS: Shall we talk a little bit about the role of the Chair, and how that differs?

JD: Chair of the Senior Fellows?

AS: Or does it?

JD: It's an important appointment to some extent, to the extent that, first of all, the Director of Dumbarton Oaks would like to have somebody who's the chair of the Senior Fellows that they can speak to ahead of meetings, and they can discuss the agenda or discuss for instance suggestions for future appointments to the Board, as a sounding board. So, the person appointed to be the Chair will obviously be somebody that the Director of Dumbarton Oaks will have confidence in, that they're the right person to discuss confidential matters with before it comes up before the Board. Other than that the main role of the Chair of the Senior Fellows is simply to introduce each item of the agenda at the meetings, and to make sure – some people are better at it than others – to make sure that the meeting is moving along, because sometimes discussions can get diverted and people can get excited, in a good way or a bad way, about certain issues, and time can slip by. So, I see that as an important role of the chair, and particularly then in picking the Fellows, the Chair's role is to see that discussion is done in an orderly way and that there's a certain – we don't have to stick to the same scheme every time. I remember vividly in the time of Ned Keenan, Ned had a certain idea that there were certain ways you could reach a better – you know, it's like arguing over elections and election processes. He thought there was a better way of tabulating things to get a better result. We tried it for a while and then the following year we decided this really wasn't – but that gave rise to a lot of discussion, and that's the sort of thing that has to be mediated by the Chair of the Senior Fellows, particularly if a director has an idea that they want to put into place. The Chair really should try and give certain leeway to the Director of Dumbarton Oaks, so that the Director won't have to remind people, “After all, I'm the boss.” It's a diplomatic sort of role and it's a nice honor for the person who gets it but it's really not in the larger scheme of things of any great significance or importance, and I say that myself having had it twice. I was happy to do it and I did it as a service, but I don't – I think it's another way of going through the democratic process. I think it works fine and it's a good thing to have but it's not a huge element in the running of Dumbarton Oaks

AS: That cleared up my questions about the Senior Fellows. Should we move on to other academic – ?

EG: So, over the years, the whole term of your association with Dumbarton Oaks, have there been any particular publications or symposia or colloquia that have stood out to you and been particularly memorable or important?

JD: Well, I can say that there have been – it's the same thing, you just wait to see. They can look good on paper but you have to wait until everything is over and then you sit down and decide. There are some years in which maybe half the papers people are disappointed with – doesn't mean that if there's a little work done on them, they might be salvageable as a publication. There are other years in which everything seems to gel and you can almost say after the discussion of the papers, “Oh, this would make a very nice volume,” because ninety percent of the papers were excellent, the theme came together well and this illustrates a particular interesting aspect of Byzantine culture, sometimes even with a comparative perspective to the Western or the Slavic world, or whatever it might be, and just comes together very nicely. If I thought about it long enough I probably could think of some examples but I would say probably every second or third one is really very good, most of them are pretty good, and there are only occasionally – maybe one in ten – that you would say just didn't work out; it was a good try, the people weren't right or they didn't do the right preparation, the symposiarch didn't beat the drum, and that's an important role. For instance, this past year there was a very good one and it was run by a very good symposiarch, a younger scholar, sort of middle-level scholar, Sharon Gerstel, and she just did a particularly good job of picking the right people and working on them. In other words, she knew these people, she was able to influence them to get their abstracts in even before the papers were finished and in some cases actually to have the papers submitted to her, and that presumably – first of all she had the right people but secondly it was the right type of organization and she was the type of person who was able to do it. Not every symposiarch either is willing or able to do that. In some cases they don't know some of the scholars themselves, in some cases they wouldn't even want to try to push people – and sometimes it works out. It depends, there's a lot of luck involved in it. So, the Senior Fellows are intimately involved in the planning for it, planning who will be the symposiarch. Some years we try to have it only a member of the Senior Fellows and that worked out pretty good, because then it was all in-house, but sometimes some people submit proposals and they sound very good and they may be outsiders, but we usually try to get at least one Senior Fellow involved, maybe as a co-symposiarch, and certainly in the case of somebody from the outside who doesn't know Dumbarton Oaks or hasn't been a Fellow there, we would always want a Dumbarton Oaks person involved in that. In those preliminary discussions, it goes through, it could be discussed over three meetings over the course of the year, because then the person who's supposed to be symposiarch will come back with a revised version, Senior Fellows will say, “Well, why don't we think of this particular field, it hasn't been covered,” or, “So and so is not likely to be a good speaker. Oh, so and so is retired” – and so there are all sorts of implications, there are all sorts of considerations, the goal obviously being to get the best group of people together to make the best presentations for the live symposium and ultimately the best publication either as a volume or contributions to Dumbarton Oaks papers. So, that's the – but I don't want to say specific examples, but as I say, probably every three turns out to be really very good and maybe every eighth or tenth one is more or less not a success. But it's not for the want of trying. It's a central part of Dumbarton Oaks as an institution. That was thing that was really there from the very beginning, from the time of people like Kurt Weitzmann and so on, particularly in art history, but also in history, and you had very distinguished scholars like Milton Anastos, who was at Dumbarton Oaks for quite a few years, and these were the giants in the field who sort of – that was the main activity every year at Dumbarton Oaks. It was the Byzantine symposium and it has an illustrious history and it's all reflected mainly in the Dumbarton Oaks papers, until modern times when volumes sometimes were devoted to the proceedings. It's still a very important part. It was probably even more important in the good old, bad old days.

EG: Now, the newer kid sister, as I understand it, is the colloquia –

JD: Yeah. So, this probably started – well, I haven't mentioned Alice-Mary Talbot's name at all, or Henry Maguire, they were wonderful Directors of Studies, and both of them worked under Angeliki Laiou. When Angeliki took over, she, and again I could be corrected on this, but my recollection would be that she was the one, in order to stimulate more activity and so on – certainly was a great promoter of colloquia on particular topics, smaller groups of people who would come for one day, usually, sometimes for an evening plus the following day. And again the original idea was wonderful. If the topic works out this may lead to either papers, Dumbarton Oaks Papers, or to a separate volume and that may even – see, the other thing that happened over the years, at certain points people became concerned, let’s say Alice-Mary Talbot or Henry Maguire as the Directors of Studies plus Angeliki, that it was difficult to make a substantial volume of Dumbarton Oaks Papers with very high-quality contributions. So, the idea would have been in part, "Perhaps we can stimulate – as well as having extra activities at Dumbarton Oaks and giving younger scholars a chance to come and speak here – we could stimulate potential articles for Dumbarton Oaks papers.” In other words, it was all in the interest of the institution and for publication. That was something that would never have been done, or very – the only thing equivalent done in the old days, when you would have a scholar passing through – and I remember people like Arnaldo Momigliano, who was an extremely famous scholar – and so Bill Loerke would use that as an opportunity to have that scholar give a short paper. The other example I remember in Bill Loerke's time was another giant, the head of the French school, Paul Lemerle, and he came and he actually set up a little colloquium in which he gave a presentation on a particular inscription, if I remember correctly. But he had submitted this material to the scholars and the Junior Fellows ahead of time and during the course of this asked people their opinions, including the Junior Fellows, and I thought that was very exciting. But an organized colloquium probably first came in the time of Angeliki Laiou.

AS: You've been colloquiarch twice?

JD: I was symposiarch once and I was colloquiarch once, I believe. I was involved in another colloquium but I'm not sure I was the colloquiarch for it. But I was the – most recently there was one, a joint colloquiarch with Stratis Papaioannou on Byzantine literature, and I was symposiarch for the one on Byzantine – no, I wasn't, actually. No, I was involved in the Byzantine medicine one, but it was the one on literature and aesthetics and presentation in Byzantine art, literature and music.

AS: Was this '95?

JD: That would be '95, yeah. And that was quite successful as a presentation. It wasn't quite successful in getting all the papers that we wanted. Some people just decided they didn't want to submit their papers but some of them did and were published in Dumbarton Oaks Papers. The colloquium, I must say, was not a success. The idea was very good; it was to sort of get new young people to hear about the new things, people using the newest methodologies and theories and so on in Byzantine literature, and the people were nice and they were young and they were good but they didn't actually produce, apart from one or two exceptions, papers we could accept for publication. So, you chalk it up to – it was an effort with a good intention but it didn't work out. But I'm sure some of the others have been – well, they have been successes and ones that haven't been quite as successful are not complete failures, but again it's a toss-up, you take a gamble, you take a chance and you hope for the best. But I think it's a very good idea and sometimes it's an occasion in which you can get to a smaller field, or a field with a smaller group of experts. Again it could be across disciplines, it could be very technical, it could be something like ceramics or the dating of pottery or something like that, or it could be broader but with a very small – and it could be real experts or it could be younger people or a mixture of both, but it does allow you to get for a particular topic people at a much shorter notice. That might be only in the planning for a year. Symposia sometimes begin at least two if not three years ahead of time, because you do all of the planning and then the symposiarch after a year and a half of discussion will actually pin these people down and then they'll have a year to actually write, so it's a big responsibility, particularly for the symposiarch to get that done, and the same thing with the colloquiarch. Colloquia tend to be generated and driven by the director of the center, the Director of Byzantine Studies in our case. I don't know what the other centers are doing, presumably something similar, but they then very often pick somebody on the outside, one or two people, art historians or whatever, and have them sort of organize it and bring the other people together. And the audience for that is usually fairly restricted. The Senior Fellows are invited of course but many of them are not in town and can't come. Obviously all the residents at Dumbarton Oaks are invited and then they may have a list of people who are specifically interested in that field. It's all – again, it's not exclusivity. I think in the old days there was this idea, “This is our club and we invite only the people we want to invite,” but now it's a healthier, more inclusive type of atmosphere there, and people like Alice-Mary Talbot in particular are all the time thinking about how to involve, make connections, do something to add an extra excitement to the field, get things moving and just be helpful particularly for junior people.

EG: One example that you maybe were involved in that you might want to talk about is the Byzantine Magic – started as a symposium?

JD: No, that was actually a colloquium. And that was done when Henry Maguire was the Director of Byzantine Studies, and a very good one he was. Henry was certainly the organizer. Angeliki was supporting it, and I remember she was there but I don't know – probably it was Henry's. I was a speaker at it but I don't think I was involved beyond being a speaker. That was a very good one; that was a big success. It was a success first of all because the people who spoke had something to say – sort of knew it was a newish topic to do within the walls of Dumbarton Oaks, and it's also the type of topic, if it's done correctly, that lends itself to a lot of curiosity on the outside. In other words, when it was done in a very nice publication – but it actually sold to a much wider population, and you can imagine why, in a sense. Anyone hears the word magic, they don't have to be a Byzantinist to be interested in magic and the occult. That eventually – I don't know if it was digitized, but I think it became available online and it got a lot of hits, with the result that it was reissued I think maybe in paperback and presumably used in certain courses, culture and history and so on. But it just happened to be one of those things that gelled very nicely. There were a number of people from Europe, a number of people from this country, different areas represented, art history, law, history, somebody who had written quite a bit on magic, a Canadian scholar, and even some slightly outside the field who were in late antiquity, classical type thing. So, it's a good mixture, it was a good representation, but it had a focus in Byzantium and it just really worked out very well, and I would think that Henry Maguire in particular had to be thanked for organizing, thinking of the people and following up and getting it published nicely within the house of Dumbarton Oaks.

EG: For that particular volume you were responsible for the Psellos –

JD: Yeah, I wrote the article on Psellos and Michael Italikos, intellectuals, eleventh century –

EG: And you were also involved, I think, in the Psellos text, the Philosophica?

JD: Yeah, and that's another thing I was working at while I was at Dumbarton Oaks, because I had my own project – but that had nothing to do with Dumbarton Oaks in the sense of publication, that was in the German series, the Bibliotheca Teubner, and also my dissertation was eventually published and I was working on that while I was at Dumbarton Oaks, and I thanked Dumbarton Oaks and the library and so on for that, but that was purely my own – the only thing that I did in text was the Synodicon Vetus, so called, this history of church councils, the project I finished. It was in tandem with John Parker, who had left the field. That's why I was asked to take over; he went back into, I think he was a Russian historian or something. Byzantinists tend to be very versatile, in a sense, because it's such a huge empire, and that's another thing Giles Constable – I keep coming back to that because I reread it a couple of days ago – it's a very fine piece of work. That actually led – I think the succeeding directors of Dumbarton Oaks actually dipped into that, because one of the things that Giles did was he actually did a questionnaire and sent it around, so he asked the field, in a sense, “What's wrong with Dumbarton Oaks? What's good about it? What should it be doing?” And so he gathered along with his own ideas this sort of larger picture of the possibilities, and many of those things that were done later by, particularly, Angeliki, and maybe even some of the things that Jan – certainly the Loeb, the medieval library, that was already – and probably even before Giles's time, but Jan I must say is the first person who actually took this and ran with it and decided to do the equivalent of a Byzantine Loeb, in other words with the Greek text and the translation, and that's starting actually for the first time. It's been talked about for many years. But this is all in Giles and then the others picked it up. So how did we get – oh yes, my involvement. So the Synodicon Vetus

AS: We've just gotten the sense – we talked earlier in the summer to Elizabeth Fisher, and also we talked last summer to Professor McCormick, and we got the sense that there was sort of a collective effort on Psellos, I guess by Kazhdan, who loved Psellos –  

JD: Well, he certainly would have been supporting it, and I myself was a Senior Fellow at the time and I was supporting it because I was a student of the person who started the project, Professor Westerink, and I sort of have inherited it from him in a sense, and I worked with people who are still preparing volumes for it. There aren't very many, maybe two or three still under preparation, but in any case, I – to put a little feather in my own cap – being a member of the Board of Senior Fellows, I actually was very vocal in support of Professor George Dennis and Professor Elizabeth Fisher, each of whom – she did one volume, he did a couple of volumes – and so they were applying to Dumbarton Oaks for fellowships in order to complete their Psellos projects, and Alexander, he wasn't on the Board of Senior Fellows and he was not at these meetings, but he would write for them. Since he was an associate, he wasn't restricted, so he could write. I think he certainly wrote for George Dennis. It was a combination of things, but it wasn't a Dumbarton Oaks project, but Dumbarton Oaks, because it was a very important project and they saw the wisdom of it, of having this collection of first time critical texts of this hugely important figure in Byzantine culture and thought and history and – so yeah, but it was not – I mean, in that sense Dumbarton Oaks was involved, they actually gave fellowships to people who were completing volumes for the Teubner edition.

EG: Oh, I see. I think there was also a seminar, a Psellos seminar –

JD: There was a seminar, yeah. Alice-Mary Talbot, along with Alexander Kazhdan, used to have this reading group, and it would change topics – and at some stage it was obviously Psellos – depending on who was going to be there at the time. In later years it became largely hagiographical, which is Alice-Mary Talbot's main interest, and so on. But it's been many things. It was also history in the last few years; they translated historical documents. But there was a period – and I remember I was teaching at Maryland at the time, but I would come in from College Park and sit in at this reading group of Psellos, and there would be visiting scholars there on fellowship and some of them would participate if they were interested in it. Yeah, Alexander Kazhdan, he obviously knew the importance of Psellos.

AS: So, the reading group, that's good to know, is a sort of a Dumbarton Oaks institution that's larger than one topic and has been –

JD: Oh yeah, it's essentially driven by – originally started – I don't know who came up with the idea, but certainly Alexander as research associate was involved with Alice-Mary. I don't know if it was there in Henry Maguire's time, but Alice-Mary has changed the topic, and in fact when I went – because there are some perks to being a Dumbarton Oaks Professor, one of them is that you can literally go there once every three years for a term, still on full salary from Harvard, and just go there and do your work. It hasn't been taken advantage of – I think Ioli Kalavrezou and I are the only ones – she may have done it twice. I've done it once in all of the years, so in other words we're not jumping, for several reasons. But in any case I went there in 2003 and Alice-Mary wanted to know – because they always like you, when you come there, particularly as a Dumbarton Oaks Professor, to do something – and I said, “Well, if you would let me do” – I was interested in a particular saint's life at the time, the life of one of the patriarchs, Ignatius, and it's also very important from a historical point of view, and I was supposed to be getting that ready for publication, again completing a project started by somebody else, so I asked her, “Well, I would love to come and we can translate that because I'm interested in having a revised translation, and we can discuss it.” So, she let me do that. The following year presumably they went back to doing some saint's life, they were working on Athanasius of Athos. A few years after that they were working on the life of Leo, I think, and again even before I went they were presumably working on something else. So, essentially, they had a reading group which consisted of a nucleus of people in the area, Byzantinists like Elizabeth Fisher, Dennis Sullivan, and presumably when George Dennis was still active at Catholic University, and so on. Several people like that, who are neighbors, let's say, then, of course, from among the population of Junior Fellows and visiting fellows each year. And I haven't kept track of – but sometimes it would go on for two or three years, the same topic, and other times it would change, but I think it was very, very good. It was another way of the Byzantine Fellows getting together, and I presume sometimes even some of the others came in from the other fields, if they were able to or interested. But it was, again it wasn't social, but it was social-intellectual in a sense, it was social-scholarly, where junior and senior scholars and staff could interact for an hour a week, whatever it was. So, I think it was very good.

EG: There's no overlap between that and what the publications of the time – I suspect it's just an overlap of interests. I know that in the same period, especially led by Alice-Mary Talbot, the saints’ lives translation, that whole series, came up. I think you served on the advisory board –

JD: Yeah, that was done just by individuals on their own, and they submitted them and she presumably commissioned or made arrangements with the individuals who were going to do the lives. But that was not connected, it was totally different. That was a project just as the Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium was a separate project. Then there was the hagiography database, and she was intimately involved in that with Alexander Kazhdan. Yeah. Then there was Alexander Kazhdan. This is purely because of – he's historical and he's no longer with us – he was an amazing scholar and he was probably the most productive scholar who ever went through Dumbarton Oaks. There have been scholars who I would say were more brilliant, and it's not that he wasn't, he was very, very bright, but there were people who were actually brilliant without being tremendously productive, and then there were people who were really brilliant and productive at the same time, but not as productive as he was. But he was the most productive I would say. And one of the projects – he had come from Russia and he had these very famous little cards, have you heard about this? I mean, he was practically blind by the time he came to Dumbarton Oaks, so he would be reading these, he would be holding them up to his eyes. The story goes that paper was in short supply in Russia so he had to use it – or it was he was a persona non grata to some extent in Russia as a Jew. He wasn't a practicing Jew but he was of Jewish background. In any case, one of the projects he brought was, he had gone through an extremely important twelfth-century historian named Nicetas Choniates, and he'd literally gone through his volumes of Greek history word for word – and it's very complicated Greek – and he had made notes on every word in there. It was sort of a super-index in a sense, but it was all raw material, and it's probably now archived as something in Dumbarton Oaks, and maybe people will go to it, but at one stage Alexander, when he got a little bit older and I think the sense of time – I think after one of his heart attacks he decided, “Oh my God, I've got all these projects, I'd better start moving along,” so he proposed to Angeliki to somehow publish, if not all of this, to publish parts of this index, somehow. And he did some – that was typical of Alexander, he published at least one or two articles on it. So, he went to Angeliki as the Director and proposed this, and Angeliki came to me – I wasn't resident anymore but I was a member of the Senior Fellows – and she asked me my opinion, and I had read his article in whatever very well-known publication, and I wasn't very thrilled by it when I read it, and I remembered that and I read what she wrote to me and I considered the whole thing and I said, “I wouldn't touch this.” Because there was no way that you could make it, certainly you couldn't make a narrative text out of it. It was just purely raw data and what he had done, he had chosen particular words as used by Nicetas in a particular context, let's say in the context of describing the body, and then he tried to show why Nicetas used a different word in this particular context, for the body or a body part, than he did in another context. And he tried to put a meaning into it and he was forcing it, and I could not see – I think it was glorified synonymism, in a sense. The guy was a very good writer, like many good writers he had tremendous control of vocabulary, he wanted to show versatility, but you couldn't bring out anything culturally or intellectually meaningful out of this and he was going to – and he even wanted me, he proposed to her that they would employ me part-time or give me a fellowship from my job at Maryland. At this stage I was a tenured professor and so on. I certainly wouldn't have done it myself, but I didn't suggest that anyone else should do it. I didn't think it was the proper thing to do and I think it was driven more by his sense of time running out, and he wanted to make use of this material. There were projects over the years at Dumbarton Oaks that were waiting to be done, some of them never got done, some weren't worth doing, some of his were wonderful, the Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium is the best example. Not only to have the idea but actually to see it through, and in such a short period of time.

AS: And he wrote the bulk of the articles.

JD: I don't know what the percentage is. He wrote a huge amount of it, and he oversaw the whole thing. And he was very, very strict. I mean, Alexander was not disrespectful of persons, in the sense that he would have been the same way with himself. So, I can tell you that when I wrote a couple of articles for him – I've forgotten how many I wrote altogether – but let's say I submitted a couple, and he just wrote back, and he more or less told me there was nothing in them. I'm sure there were lots of people then who went to Alice-Mary Talbot as being more human and approachable, and she probably had to go to Alexander and say, “Alexander, tone it down, you're dealing here with – ” But he didn't see things that way. He would have been the same way – the same way he went to Herbert Hunger and gave this big lecture in Vienna, this head of the Vienna school, one of the most distinguished people, a member of the academy – and more or less told him this two volume work he had just spent forty years on really was not a history of Byzantine literature. As his guest! In any case, Alexander cannot be faulted in that sense. And he had this wonderful sense of what he's associated with now, if you want to put it into a little formula, "homo Byzantinus." He wanted to get the Byzantine reality that the man, the soul, of an ordinary Byzantine person – all of its complexity, the realities of Byzantine life, material, thoughts, everything. And it's part of the Russian training in a sense, and also there's something of that in parts of the French school of scholarship, and he brought both of those. And then since he couldn't do it himself for all of Byzantium he got it put into this Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium which includes all of these ideas, concepts, material culture, pictures, ideas, everyday objects, from the sublime to the banal, in a sense, but everything having its place somehow as being an expression of a culture. It was great.

EG: As long as we're on the subject of publications, I wonder if you might clear up for us, for the record, some of the various positions you've held over the years. I think you're a reader for the text series, a member of the editorial board and also the Byzantine text committee, and I don't know if this is an example of the same thing, Dumbarton Oaks taking on different forms –

JD: Yes, it is, essentially. In fact, at the moment technically I'm the editor of the Dumbarton Oaks series of the Corpus Fontium, because that series is part of the international – which is run or was run out of Vienna, because people like Herbert Hunger and his successor, who now has retired – In any case, for several years, Alice-Mary Talbot was wondering who actually is the editor of the Dumbarton Oaks texts, and it's not very clear, but at the moment I am, and my name will be on the next volume, and there's at least one volume in production and I have overseen, I've read it and vetted it and so on, so my name will appear there. There might be a second name on – because there was one traditionally on there but it's not clear that anyone is willing to take it off. That's the way Dumbarton Oaks works, it's much more streamlined and much more efficient and much more businesslike than it had been in my early days, ever since the time of Giles. Giles, as I said many times, introduced a whole new world and concept there and Angeliki and they all – Robert Thomson I didn't mention at all, he came down from Harvard, he was one of the Harvard appointees, and they've now gone to that model for the Center for Hellenic Studies because in the old days there it was not necessarily a Harvard scholar. Bernard Knox, who was the first director and the longest one, he had nothing to do with Harvard. In any case, Robert Thomson was a good caretaker. Others came in with an agenda, I think he probably didn't want the job in a sense, not that anyone asked for the job, but he was less enthusiastic I suspect, because he was a scholarly type and would have been doing his own Armenian and other types of studies. He was a great scholar. He probably had – not the same thirst or enthusiasm for administration. So, he came, he did a good job, he looked after the place, nothing bad took place but nothing tremendously new happened. Giles Constable of course came with huge ideas, that's the type of person he was, and always expressive, he's very expressive. People resented him to some extent because he was this Western medievalist, wasn't really a Byzantinist and came with all these ideas about what Byzantinists should be doing, about the whole field. He meant very well and some of it went down well. Some of it didn't go down well, but in the totality of things, when you look back, he did a tremendous amount of good at Dumbarton Oaks. I've forgotten the sequence, remind me, Angeliki was there before Ned Keenan and Angeliki was sui generis because she was a very active person, a great scholar, a very good administrator, a very tough administrator, an astute person, very businesslike, took no prisoners when she had to confront issues and so on, but I would say her agenda was the intellectual agenda. In other words she didn't come like Giles to change the whole field; she probably didn't need to because he had established so much good groundwork, so she came to look after the intellectual program and maybe colloquia and publications and changes there, making sure that the quality of people invited was good and the quality of papers accepted was – she was particularly concerned about quality and the level of scholarship. Ned came in, Ned Keenan, again probably took the job – because he was ready to retire when he took the job – out of the goodness of his heart. He did have a background but it was in Russian studies. But his agenda, whether he came with it or not, was to build, and build he did. He did a wonderful job of getting that library done, up and running. So, that was his legacy. Not that he didn't care about the scholarly side of things, but most of his attention was on the building program. He happened to have a very good Director of Studies in Alice-Mary Talbot, so he didn't have to worry too much. I don't know how the other centers went. I'm sure they went fine, and then he got involved when he had to. He attended all the Senior Fellows meetings and ran them when he had to, and I'll stop there because we have a whole different – I mean, I'm delighted that Jan is there but I'm not going to talk about Jan for two reasons, because he's very new to the job but he's off to a great start, and secondly, he'll be alive for many years after I go, and he may even be the first person to see this!

EG: That's fair.

AS: Well, that opens a good door to talk about some more of the business –

EG: And we need to stop fairly soon.

AS: Yes, and thank you very much –

JD: Oh, I'm sorry.

AS: Can we do like five minutes more?

JD: Sure! Do you –

EG: Maybe just a wrap-up question, perhaps?

AS: Well, maybe we won't talk about the present, but what do you see as Dumbarton Oaks' role in the future of Byzantine studies? If there is a changing role.

JD: Dumbarton Oaks will inevitably change itself. It's kept changing ever since I've been associated with it, although the picture that I have of it is much more steady, a more fixed picture, because there is that gulf between what I call the old days – and presumably in the old days it changed too over certain periods. But I came at a time of transition. I saw the end of the old world and I saw the beginning of the new and I've lived through this new world. That picture changes to some extent with each new director I see. Dumbarton Oaks always was central to Byzantine studies in this country and even internationally, it has a tremendous respect in all of the countries where Byzantine studies are important: France, Germany, Austria, Italy, and so on. And it's looked up to, particularly because of its publications, that's the first thing, but also because the reputation for its library; it's possibly the best Byzantine library in the world when you take everything into account, and of course it offers fellowships which is very good, even for people from abroad. So it was always central in that sense. And it will continue to be, because if Dumbarton Oaks doesn't remain central and continues to contribute in whatever way, as it changes according to conditions as they change – if it falters, I think Byzantine studies in this country, on this continent, not so much in Europe but on this continent, will suffer a mortal blow almost. It's that important. There is an organization, as you know, the Byzantine Studies Conference and all the community of Byzantinists around the country and Canada and so on, which is very important, but from the point of view of material and spiritual support, in a sense, Dumbarton Oaks is the mecca. While not everyone even now gets into it, there've been people trying for years to get in as genuine scholars; it simply cannot hold everyone who wants to get in. But I still think that that's the importance of it. It's even broader than that because I do agree, I admire still the foresight of the Blisses, because they had this vision and of course visions are utopias, but they had the guts to put their money into a vision about the medieval humanities. We may not think anymore so much restricted to medieval or Mediterranean, but the humanities – by humanities I mean a sense of history, a sense of the past – that's something Dumbarton Oaks is devoted to, and we're always going to need that, particularly in difficult times when for other reasons people may not feel that this is something you need to keep pouring money into, that there's something you can maybe short-change and turn a blind eye to, or don't feel as obligated to support as other parts of the academic or the intellectual world. So, I think that Dumbarton Oaks – and that's why it's so important for us now looking back at it, that they actually stipulated it would be in Washington D.C., in that location, because as long as that stays there with the money carefully invested and carefully spent, as long as that is there, the humanities have a real important core, and specifically, of course, the humanities that are highlighted in those three centers. But as you know it's much broader than that, and music of course is part of that, and the gardens themselves are wonderful, right?

EG: Yes.

JD: But for Byzantine studies it's vital, I would think. I'm not saying that Byzantine studies will die in universities or as a subject or even intellectual curiosity on the part of a general public, but if Dumbarton Oaks were to die somehow or be severely curtailed I think it would have a proportionately adverse affect on that field, and presumably for the other fields that are represented there. So, I'm hoping that it flourishes for many, many generations to come. Possibly centuries; this is a young country, and the cultures it explores are very old. Pre-Columbian and Byzantine and medieval, even the garden goes back. They have a lot of things to do with Pompeii and so on, Persian gardens – the whole concept is there of history and the continuity. Even the gardens at Dumbarton Oaks, that's part of the continuity, the people who designed it were in spiritual touch with gardens in England and elsewhere all along the chain of – so I hope you enjoyed your time there.

AS: Yes, thank you very much!

EG: And thank you for your time.

JD: Not at all, I'm delighted, I'm one of the people that has had a fairly long association.

Document Actions