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Michael S. Flier, David J. Birnbaum, and Cynthia M. Vakareliyska, eds. Philology Broad and Deep: In Memoriam Horace G. Lunt. Bloomington, IN: Slavica, 2014, 35–53. The making of a Slavist: Beginnings Interview with Horace Gray Lunt conducted in Baltimore, November 2008 Patricia R. Chaput and Christina E. Kramer In the fall of 2008 we decided that we wanted to interview Horace Lunt about his life as a Slavist. He had begun his study of Slavic languages in the 1930s, when the study of Slavic in the United States was in its infancy, and he had lived through the detstvo and junost' of many university departments. He had known and worked with many of the “biggest names” in Slavic, and he had taught and influenced hundreds of students. We wanted to capture his memories of his life in the field.1 In all we recorded approximately twelve hours of conversation. This edited interview covers a large portion of our first round of interviews in the November session. PC: We’re curious. What attracted you to the study of Slavic languages? HGL: I don’t know, because it goes back to a general interest in language which I developed because, apparently from nothing, I suddenly discovered there was such a thing as language—“non-English.” I remember that our house still had some of my father’s schoolbooks. He’d studied German when he was barely in his teens, I would guess. There were some textbooks lying around and I wanted to know what they were about. It turned out there were a couple of Spanish textbooks that my father had had when he was a miner, a mining engineer in New Mexico for a while. I got very intrigued with this and began to get books out of the public library. Any language would do. I read through grammars; how much I understood I don’t know. In the Denver Public Schools, I had Latin and I guess that’s all. But then I went to a prep school in Connecticut which was more specifically a feeder to colleges, and was one of the so-called select private schools. It was firmly high church Episcopalian and you had to take Latin and French. They also offered Spanish, German, and Greek, so I took all these things and managed to skip taking a history course or two. I had figured out that if you did something and didn’t let on about it, you could get away with it. So I took all five languages. That meant that when I applied for Harvard I had a beginning. I had some German, and French and Spanish, and Latin, and that was a 1 Initial transcription and editing of this interview was provided by Paul Franz. 36 Patricia R. Chaput and Christina E. Kramer pretty good start. I thought that I wanted to get a Slavic language because Russian was important and fitted in, so I took Russian. It was called Slavic 10, Elementary Russian, with Sam Cross.2 Then I wanted to go on because it wasn’t enough to do much with. At the time Sam Cross was chairman of the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures, which we didn’t discover until later—he never bothered to get… PC: He didn’t have it recognized as a department. HGL: Yes, exactly. It didn’t matter to me at the time. But he also would have had to be the tutor, and he didn’t want to be the tutor. He said, “No, no, you go ahead, major in German. You’re doing well in German and you can get a job with German. This Slavic stuff won’t get you a job.” Then, as a sophomore, I took Polish with Frank Whitfield3 and that’s where I learned a great deal of Slavic grammar, because he was very tough. There’s a story there too, because Frank Whitfield was a Junior Fellow, still a very prestigious award at Harvard. Albert Lord4 and Whitfield were both Junior Fellows. Whitfield was young—he was very little older than I, and he looked about twelve. One time he was talking in one of the Houses—he was having supper with some undergraduates. He sat down and was joined by some students he didn’t know, and one of the guys was saying he had the easiest course in the place. [This student’s] family spoke Polish. He knew Polish very well and thought...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780893578985
Related ISBN
9780893573980
MARC Record
OCLC
898005441
Launched on MUSE
2014-12-10
Language
English
Open Access
No
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