"Be wary of those who offer simple solutions to difficult problems; often historical complexity reveals stories which challenge easy categorization into right and wrong, good and bad, etc., and reveal deeper, tragic, human commonalities."

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Ethan Schmidt

January 02, 2024

Individualized Interdisciplinary Studies doctoral student in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences

Tell us a little about yourself, including what inspires you to learn and continue in your chosen field

I'm a doctoral candidate from New York City studying Byzantine History and Literature under the tutelage of Professor Dimitris Krallis. I have always enjoyed history, as well as reading and creative writing, but what I really enjoy about studying Byzantium (or, more properly, Medieval Rome) is the amount of scholarly work there is to be done, especially as Byzantium has traditionally been overlooked in favor of Antique Rome or the polities of the Medieval West. Moreover, I love the humanism and vivid descriptive qualities of twelfth-century Byzantine literature, and the philological process of teasing out shades of meaning from what can often be somewhat intricate Greek.

Why did you choose to come to SFU?

I came to SFU due to the presence of my advisor, Professor Krallis, as well as the opportunities offered by the SNF Center for Hellenic Studies for pursuing my chosen field of research.

How would you describe your research or your program to a family member?

I work on the ways in which techniques of literary description, or 'ekphrasis', were utilized to imagine and memorialize lost worlds. I am particularly focused on the ways in which the revived genre of the romance or novel, sought to reconstruct a pre-Christian Greco-Roman world as its setting and as part of a process of identity formation, while, later on, other literati use similar techniques in their histories to memorialize lost people, lost times, lost works of art, whole ways of life and landscapes which had been borne ceaselessly into the past, especially in the aftermath of the Fourth Crusade.

What three (3) keywords would you use to describe your research?

Byzantium, Literature, Ekphrasis

How have your courses, RA-ships, TA-ships, or non-academic school experiences contributed to your academic and/or professional development?

The TA-ships which I have held have given me excellent practice not only in evaluating students work, but also given me valuable tools to facilitate the learning of students in a lecture or discussion setting. They have been a critical and enlightening means by which I have acquired skills which I hope will prove indispensable either in my future academic career, or in some other branch of human endeavor.

Have you been the recipient of any major or donor-funded awards? If so, please tell us which ones and a little about how the awards have impacted your studies and/or research

I have been the recipient of the Graduate Dean's Entrance Scholarship and the Katevatis Graduate Scholarship in Hellenic Studies. In addition to providing me with the necessary funding to live on while I pursue my studies in as costly a city as Vancouver, they have also allowed me to put aside some money to assist in funding any of the travels which my research may require in the future.

What have been the most valuable lessons you've learned along your graduate student journey (or in becoming a graduate student)?

Be wary of those who offer simple solutions to difficult problems; often historical complexity reveals stories which challenge easy categorization into right and wrong, good and bad, etc., and reveal deeper, tragic, human commonalities.

How do you approach networking and building connections in and outside of your academic community?

I approach it as I would the building of any other human relationships. Don't be too frenetic in terms of trying to meet everyone all and once and make an impression. Consistently invest in those relationships which are most important and closest in terms of interests, research, personal affinity, etc., but also be open to connections with new and unexpected people.

What are some tips for balancing your academic and personal life?

Try to do a bit of work every morning or midday, it adds up and leaves the rest of the day free to do whatever. Also try not to become to isolated.

If you could dedicate your research to anyone (past, present and/or future), who would that be and why?

I would either dedicate it to the authors of my primary sources and those who preserved their works, or to my parents for being supportive of my eccentric path and for imparting to me an early love of learning, the arts, and the classics, or to my advisors and all the colleagues who helped me along the way, or perhaps to posterity more generally.


Contact Ethan:ecs6@sfu.ca