Bryn Mawr Classical Review 02.04.11


Sir Hugh Lloyd-Jones, Greek Epic, Lyric, and Tragedy: The Academic Papers of Sir Hugh Lloyd-Jones, vol. 1. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1990. Pp. x, 474. ISBN. 0-19-814680-9. $125.00 (hb).


Reviewed by Michael R. Halleran, University of Washington.

Sir Hugh Lloyd-Jones' extraordinary career is celebrated with the publication of his collected academic papers. Lloyd-Jones has been an exceptionally active and influential scholar for some forty years. He has edited the fragments of Aeschylus, Menander's Dyscolus, Semonides' "Satire on Women," the Supplementum Hellenisticum (with Peter Parsons, his successor as Regius Professor of Greek at Oxford), and, appearing in the same year as these collected papers, the plays of Sophocles with the companion Sophoclea (both with Nigel Wilson). He has also published an annotated translation of Aeschylus' Oresteia and his Sather lectures, The Justice of Zeus. Despite these impressive accomplishments, I suspect that the author is best known for his articles and reviews. The Bibliography which follows the papers lists (with cross-references to their location in the collection) ninety articles and over one hundred and forty reviews. (Excluded here are "non-academic" pieces, many of which have been collected in Blood for the Ghosts and Classical Survivals, both published in 1982.) Thirty-nine pieces (twenty-nine articles and ten reviews) are collected in the first volume [vol. 2 is reviewed below by R. Rosen], covering Greek epic, lyric, and tragedy, and spanning from 1952 to the future ("forthcoming"). Lloyd-Jones explains in his brief Preface that in reissuing these papers he has refrained from wholesale changes, deleting only some (not very much) material which he now finds erroneous and confining himself "to correcting errors, to updating references to texts and to adding references to relevant literature that has appeared since my own works were published." The additions appear unobtrusively in square brackets. All the essays have been reset, with the original page numbers in square brackets at the inside of the headers, making it easy to track down references to the original publications. Four helpful indexes follow the Bibliography. I noted relatively few typographical errors and none that causes trouble.

Reading through these papers (many of them quite familiar), one is struck by the range of interests and the wide learning of the author. Lloyd-Jones shows his expertise now as papyrologist and textual critic, now as student of Greek religion and culture. Even his notes make for worthwhile reading, often referring to valuable dissertations and out-of-the-way articles. Yet Lloyd-Jones is not one to parade his formidable learning: his citations are apropos and helpful and his notes are not padded with unnecessary references. (The notes also reveal his familiarity with Latin literature.) Nor is his learning confined to ancient texts; he is an expert on the Classical tradition and the history of scholarship, and references to Kipling's The Jungle Book and Carroll's Alice also appear. Lloyd-Jones writes with an authority apparent even in his earliest pieces. This authority stems from his learning and is expressed in vigorous prose. His writing is always clear and elegant and often memorable. Lloyd-Jones has never shied away from strong opinions and their pungent formulation. Two examples: "Who but a bigoted nationalist, and one grossly deficient in aesthetic sensibility, would have argued that Creon and Antigone represented moral viewpoints of equal validity ?" (p. 202) "Kamerbeek is an exception; his fear of departing from the manuscripts occasionally leads him to prefer the right reading." (p. 395)

Much of Lloyd-Jones' work can be seen as a reaction to prevailing opinion, and he is often at his best when probing the unexamined assumptions of another scholar or challenging a commonly-held belief. Although, for example, he has great respect for the contributions made by Bruno Snell, he rightly exposes Snell's reliance on his own sense of Geistesgeschichte to interpret and even to reconstruct texts. His important work on Aeschylus is grounded in opposition to the then prevailing view of the playwright as an original thinker with a novel notion of justice. Lloyd-Jones is also wary of applying any system to literature as a substitute for thinking critically about each text. In the case of Pindar, for example, while acknowledging the importance of Bundy's contribution, he is skeptical of applying Bundy's methods too strictly (e.g., pp. 122-3). He also maintains that echoes of historical events and the cultural milieu form part of the texture of the odes. About the theory of oral composition of the Homeric poems, Lloyd-Jones is less sympathetic. The one piece in the collection devoted to Homer (his best work on Homer is found in The Justice of Zeus) is a general survey of the Homeric question, and in it Lloyd-Jones expresses his view that the various thematic links within the Iliad make it difficult to believe that the poem is "solely the product of oral composition" (p. 15), and seems pleased that in his view this period of Homeric scholarship gives signs of drawing to an end (p. 19).

While Lloyd-Jones is quite willing to express his disagreements with others and other points of view, he also values and praises the work of many scholars. Among those frequently cited with approval are Paul Maas, Eduard Fraenkel, and Jacob Wackernagel; he also has laudatory reviews of, for example, Kurt von Fritz' essays in Antike und Moderne Tragoedie, W. S. Barrett's Hippolytos, and Denys Page's OCT of Aeschylus. He writes a very positive appreciation, with appropriate awareness of its excesses, of John Jones' On Aristotle and Greek Tragedy and shows sympathy to Anne Lebeck's The Oresteia: A Study in Language and Structure.

Many of the pieces collected are textual critical, where Lloyd-Jones' superb knowledge of Greek language and culture and his own excellent judgement serve him and the texts in question well. Never afraid to advance novel, and even bold, suggestions, he is at the same time not perverse or needlessly provocative in his proposals. Often he offers not an emendation, but a new interpretation of the mss. Some of his suggestions have been adopted into texts edited by others, and almost all are worth careful consideration. His reviews of others' editions (Barrett's Hippolytos, Diggle's Phaethon, and Page's OCT of Aeschylus) give him an excellent opportunity to address the issues (textual and other) raised by the works and provide one of the best avenues for the expression of his talents and learning. But Lloyd-Jones' interests include much more than textual criticism alone; his work is always informed and stimulated by an abiding and deep awareness of the larger picture of Greek culture, and some of his general pieces are particularly useful for a wider audience. His general study of Pindar, for example, ("Pindar," pp. 56-79, originally published in the Proceedings of the British Academy, 1982) can serve as an excellent and very helpful introduction to this author, and his study of Agamemnon's guilt (pp. 283-99, originally published in CQ, 1962) is important for studying the play at any level.

Some may be put off by the certainty with which Lloyd-Jones makes many of his statements ("clearly," "surely" and the like recur often) and by the tone of some of the arguments. And of course one will disagree with him on a variety of individual observations. (Lloyd-Jones himself has changed his view on more than one point over the years.) And this is as it should be. One regret that I have in reading these papers is not over what is here but over what is not. During the past two decades, the theories, positions, and tenets of literary criticism have changed radically, and within the field of Classics no area has been more greatly affected than Greek tragedy. While Lloyd-Jones' views on these topics might be inferred from some of his writings (and he expresses his views on some modern theories in "Psychoanalysis and the Study of the Ancient World" = Chapter 23 of vol 2), still I would like to have seen his argued opinion of the work of, for example, Segal or Goldhill. The wider the debate on these topics, the healthier it is, and his voice would be well worth hearing.

Lloyd-Jones acknowledges (p. 110) that E. R. Dodds has been one of his chief sources of inspiration, and he sees his Sather lectures (The Justice of Zeus) as a type of commentary on Dodds' (The Greeks and the Irrational). He praises Dodds for his great ability to balance "humanism" and "technique" in his study of Greek (the two terms are taken from the title of Dodds' inaugural lecture at Oxford). Lloyd-Jones, too, should be praised for balancing, in different measure from Dodds, these two aspects of scholarship. His work embraces many of the varied techniques of scholarship without losing sight of humanism in the study of Greek literature. The publication of these papers is testimony to his great success at this difficult balancing act, and reading them is a bracing and immensely rewarding experience.