Off the Cuff: Thomas Van Nortwick
Thomas Van Nortwick, more simply known as TVN, has been teaching here since 1974. With a Ph.D. in classics from Stanford University and numerous publications and awards to his name, TVN continues to be active both in and out of the classroom. Currently TVN is on sabbatical here in our very own Oberlin, writing a book and, as always, putting the “class” in classics.
Why did you choose to spend your sabbatical in Oberlin?
I have a contract for a book, which is due in September 2007. I’ve reached the point where I must simply sit down and write, and I can do that most efficiently right in my office. Anyway, flying back every day from somewhere else so I could have lunch in the Black River Café seemed logistically difficult.
What is your book about? Care to share any tidbits?
The book is on ideals of masculinity in ancient Greek literature and culture. It is to be part of a series for libraries, aimed at non-specialists, my favorite kind of audience. Tidbits? Hmmm. Well, when Brad Pitt was playing Achilles in Troy, he had to have calf implants. Is that what you were looking for?
What have you been up to aside from your work?
I’ve been walking a lot and reading. I just finished a biography of Truman and am now halfway through American Bloomsbury, a gossipy book about Concord, Massachusetts in the mid-19th century. The highlight so far, of course, has been the Bardic Reading of Sophocles.
What are the pros and cons of living in Ohio when you don’t have to?
I love living in Oberlin. I grew up in a small town in Illinois and am not a big-city person, except for visits. Of course, Oberlin is not your ordinary small town, which is why I love it. Where else can I walk three blocks to see Lost Highway; have lunch with smart, interesting people every day; and never hear an airplane?
You’ve been spotted on campus rather often. Can’t get enough of the classics department?
There is no place better than the classics department. Why settle for second best? Not that I’m competitive….
How have your recent trips to Canada been? Have those trips changed your opinions on the U.S. at all?
My wife grew up in Ontario and our trips lately have been on family business. But in any event, I am a huge fan of Canada and Canadians. It’s a pleasure to be in a country where a sane, humane democratic society is taken for granted. We love going to the Stratford Theater Festival and the Shaw Festival every year.
What are your feelings on this year’s Martin Lecturer?
Robin Osborne is the first Martin Lecturer we’ve had in a long time who is addressing issues in Greek art, a topic too long missing from our series. His lectures have been learned, stimulating and well-delivered. We have all enjoyed getting to know Robin, who is excellent company.