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Dumbarton Oaks/HMML Syriac and Armenian Summer School

July 10 to August 12, 2017 | Dumbarton Oaks, in collaboration with HMML

Building on a successful program last summer, Dumbarton Oaks, in collaboration with HMML, announces two intensive five-week courses introducing Syriac and Classical Armenian language and paleography in summer of 2017. The program, sponsored and funded by Dumbarton Oaks, will be hosted at HMML. The summer school will run from July 10 to August 12, 2017. The audience is doctoral students or recent PhDs who can demonstrate a need to learn Syriac or Armenian for their research. Note that it is not possible to enroll in both courses.

Approximately ten places will be available in each course. Costs for tuition, housing, and meals will be covered by Dumbarton Oaks. The selected participants will be responsible for their own travel costs to and from Saint John’s University (nearest airport: Minneapolis-St Paul). The program welcomes international applicants but does not sponsor J visas.

Course Offerings

The Summer School will consist of morning and afternoon sessions Monday through Friday, complemented by guest lectures and other learning opportunities, as well as social events and enjoyment of the beautiful 2700-acre campus with woods, lakes, and notable architecture.

Prior familiarity with basic Syriac or Armenian grammar is not a prerequisite but some preparation will be required before arrival, as directed by the instructors. The courses will include an introduction to paleography and to the study and use of manuscripts, especially those now available in the vHMML Reading Room from HMML’s vast collection of digitized Syriac and Armenian manuscripts.

Following this intensive course, students will be fully equipped to continue reading on their own or to enter reading courses at other institutions.


Accommodation and Costs

Students will be housed in shared apartments on the Saint John’s University campus. Each participant will have a private bedroom and bathroom, with shared kitchen and laundry facilities. A meal contract at the student Refectory will be provided. All expenses will be covered by Dumbarton Oaks, apart from travel to and from Saint John’s University.

Requirements for Admission

Applicants must be either enrolled doctoral students in good standing with a demonstrated need to learn Syriac or Armenian for their research, or recent PhDs, including early-career faculty members, who can demonstrate the value of Syriac or Armenian for their teaching and research. A basic familiarity with the Syriac or Armenian writing systems and principal script-forms will be presumed upon arrival. Those accepted into the program will be informed about resources to help them in their preparation.

Application Procedure

Applications are due January 15, 2017. The application letter should include a description of the applicant’s academic background (including language skills) and an explanation for why learning Syriac or Armenian is important for future research and teaching. Letters should be no more than two single-spaced pages in length. Along with it the applicant should send a curriculum vitae. Graduate-student applicants should also supply a transcript of the graduate school coursework (or undergraduate transcript if the former is not available). Two letters of recommendation should be sent separately.

The application letter and recommendations should be addressed to Fr. Columba Stewart, OSB, Executive Director of HMML. Letters and other materials may be sent as email attachments to with “Syriac [or Armenian] Summer School” in the subject line.

Applicants will be evaluated on the basis of previous academic achievement, demonstrated need for intensive study of Syriac or Armenian, and research promise. Awards will be announced in late February 2017, and must be accepted by March 15, 2017.

About Dumbarton Oaks

Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection is an institute in Washington, D.C., administered by the Trustees for Harvard University. It supports research and learning internationally in Byzantine, Garden and Landscape, and Pre-Columbian studies through fellowships and internships, meetings, and exhibitions. Located in residential Georgetown, Dumbarton Oaks welcomes researchers at all career stages who come to study its books, objects, images, and documents. It opens its doors to the public to visit its historic Gardens, designed by Beatrix Farrand; its Museum, with world-class collections of art; and its Music Room, for lectures and concerts. The institute disseminates knowledge through its own publications (such as Dumbarton Oaks Papers and symposium volumes) as well as through the Dumbarton Oaks Medieval Library (published by Harvard University Press). Dumbarton Oaks also makes accessible ever more of its resources freely online.

The founding donors, Robert Woods Bliss and Mildred Barnes Bliss, called upon future policymakers “to remember that Dumbarton Oaks is conceived in a new pattern, where quality and not number shall determine the choice of its scholars; that it is the home of the Humanities, not a mere aggregation of books and objects of art; that the house itself and the gardens have their educational importance and that all are of humanistic value.” These ambitions continue to guide Dumbarton Oaks, but with close attention to ensuring that the Blisses’ “new pattern” retains its vitality through constant renewal.

About Saint John’s University

Saint John’s Abbey and University is located in central Minnesota approximately ninety miles northwest of the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and Saint Paul. Set amid 2,700 acres of varied terrain, the campus is remarkable in its natural beauty and includes wetlands, several lakes, an oak savanna, a restored prairie, and hiking trails that wind through an extensive pine and hardwood forest.  The natural beauty of the landscape inspires spiritual and artistic reflection and fosters the Benedictine traditions of creativity, scholarship, education and environmental respect. The buildings at Saint John's date from the 1860s and are arranged in a series of quadrangles and courtyards. The Abbey Church, one of ten campus buildings designed by renowned mid-century modernist architect Marcel Breuer, commands a central presence. With its towering bell banner and three-story wall of stained glass, the Abbey Church is among the most striking pieces of twentieth-century architecture in the world.

Saint John’s University has an undergraduate college for men in partnership with the College of Saint Benedict for women, as well as a graduate School of Theology. Saint John’s is also home to Saint John’s Preparatory School, the Liturgical Press, the Episcopal House of Prayer, the Collegeville Institute for Ecumenical and Cultural Research, Saint John’s Pottery, and the Saint John’s Arboretum. Saint John's is also the home of The Saint John's Bible, the first handwritten, illuminated Bible commissioned in the western world in more than five hundred years.