Najee Olya at the LARB:
Derbew’s book arrives at a pivotal moment in classical studies. The past years have seen debates on the whiteness of the discipline and calls to burn the field down. The very term “classics” has come under fire for its perceived elitism and opacity, with eminent departments (including Berkeley’s) abandoning the name. Some have criticized the field’s intense focus on ancient Greek and Latin at the expense of archaeology, the ancient Mediterranean outside Greece and Rome, and the interdisciplinarity that forms the foundation of research like Derbew’s. Perhaps unsurprisingly, attempts to broaden the boundaries of the discipline have drawn fire from some quarters. The recent reworking of Princeton’s undergraduate language requirements in classics, for example, has become grist for the culture warrior’s mill. Yet what Sarah Derbew has accomplished is a testament to the kind of innovative work one can do by combining traditional philological rigor with fresh and novel thinking.