Ertegun Staff and Scholar Profiles

Jordan Maly-Preuss

Nationality: 
Czech-American
Current course: 
MPhil in Greek and/or Latin Languages and Literature

I am happily ensconced in the first year of an MPhil in Greek and/or Latin Languages and Literature, with a professed inclination towards the Greek side. The core of this year’s studies is a self-designed combined course in Homer and Greek Historiography with a primarily narratological interpretive focus; I am also benefitting from tutelage in Old Persian and am beginning study of German for life as well as academic purposes. In the year to come I plan to pursue a Papyrology course and to compose a dissertation on the speech of the Persians in Herodotus’ Histories. The current of my thinking runs towards big questions: Why are people so compelled to tell and experience stories, and what do these stories do for our lives; what are stories really? How does creative use of language reflect and influence people’s thoughts; why do authors make particular choices in structuring their texts?

Classics has attracted me since childhood with the allure of the accessible inaccessible, the ancient world made tangible. But I did not begin my university career yielding to this allure: I took my bachelor’s degree with distinction at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a major in Biology with a Botany concentration and minors in Modern Hebrew and Music History. Following graduation I worked for a year as a tutor and as a regulatory specialist for a wine importer; this gave me space to consider the distinction between interests and values and to recognise what I truly cared about enough to engage with indefinitely. Classics, which had formed a cleverly constructed leitmotif in my life for years, asserted itself with sufficient force that I returned to school for a two-year post-baccalaureate graduate certificate in the discipline. This took me back to the University of North Carolina, where I was privileged to engage with the faculty and received notable encouragement from Greek instructors in conceiving and developing my romance with the language.

My mother is Czech and my father American; I grew up in Prague, Czech Republic and Dallas, Texas, attending Czech and American schools and British international school. Two factors in this period established lifelong intellectual themes: growing up bilingual and surviving the floods of cultural transition by reading British children’s books. I served for two years on UNC’s varsity fencing team, lettering twice; twice received ACC Academic Honor Roll recognition; was awarded a UNC Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship in 2012 to pursue moss ecology research; was presented the UNC Biology Francis J. LeClair Award for the greatest excellence in plant sciences demonstrated within my graduating class. I have worked as a tutor at a children’s hospital, an editorial assistant for chemistry academic journals, and as a contract-based grants consultant for institutions of higher education. During my post-baccalaureate years I served on the UNC Classics graduate colloquium committee, presented a conference paper, and sang with the women’s glee club. I have been an avid swing dancer, but as Oxford lacks an East Coast Swing scene I have been forced to take up rowing with Merton College Boat Club.

The Ertegun Scholarship is and will always be a tremendous blessing in my life. I would not be at Oxford without it: I have aspired to study Classics at Oxford since I was twelve, and often thought my road had taken too sharp a detour for it to ever happen, but here I am. Mica Ertegun’s commitment to the arts and humanities has made that possible; I could not but be grateful.