The Hamilton Lugar School’s 2020 Summer Language Workshop experienced record enrollment from a wide variety of students across the country. Today we are highlighting Margaret Squires, who studied Persian.
How would you describe what you do for work?
I am a historian of Islamic art, specializing in the arts of Iran during the Safavid period (1502-1702). I recently left my job at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, where I was the curatorial assistant for Art of the Islamic Worlds for the last two years. This fall, I will begin my PhD in the history of art at The Courtauld Institute of Art in London, England. My dissertation topic centers on Persian carpets of the Safavid period.
Why did you decide to enroll in the Summer Language Workshop?
I am working on Farsi in preparation for my doctoral studies, and wanted to be able to study the language as intensively as possible in between the end of my tenure at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, and the beginning of my PhD program. The online format worked out really well with my schedule this summer and seemed like a great use of time during the ongoing coronavirus-related shutdowns.
How has the experience of the Summer Language Workshop been?
It has been a great experience and I feel like I have learned a lot. Being homebound during the coronavirus crisis, there have been many days during the workshop when I have spoken much more Persian than English, so I feel like it has been closer to the immersive on-campus experience than I would have expected from the online format.
What has surprised you about the Summer Language Workshop?
I have felt much more connected to the other students and the teacher, Azadeh than I would have expected in an online class. I’ve really enjoyed watching our progress as a group.
What do you hope to do with the language skills you’ve learned?
I will continue to build on the Persian language skills I have learned in this workshop with the goal of being able to read primary sources from the Safavid period in Iran, particularly those that discuss carpets. I would also like to be able to read inscriptions on works of art, like lines of Persian poetry and quotations from the Shahnama (Book of Kings), which appear frequently in the Safavid period and other important eras of artistic production in Iran.