From the Editor's Disk
Not much quality time on tree benches lately: I have had to break off work to go back to the office, where the endless idle round of meetings, three Coca-Cola lunches, and schmoozing with one's colleagues and students, punctuated by the few frenzied hours of teaching (still the most wonderfully exhausting thing I know how to do) all conspire to while away the days with the pleasant semblance of accomplishment. The prosecution of my mad lifelong love affair with the sound of my own voice is an exhausting thing indeed! BMCR 2.5 was supposed to leave our hands before the term's round began, but didn't quite make it and so hard and e-copy are setting off into the world at about the same time. This makes seven issues in the last 11 months, which is two to three more than we thought we could produce; there may be only one more before the end of the calendar year, but one never knows, do one? Some end of summer notes:
Anthony Grafton,Defenders of the Text: The Traditions of Scholarship in an Age of Science, 1450-1800. Cambridge, MA and London: Harvard Press, 1991. Pp. 330. ISBN 0-674-19544-2. The title and the TLS review were appealing: vine-ripened Grafton at his best (which is very good indeed).
Page 1: 'The Essays that follow were written at different times and for different audiences'? Oops. Of the nine pieces in this volume, one appeared in TLS, four appeared in the Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institute (from 1977 to 1985), one appeared in Renaissance Quarterly, and three appeared in books that were themselves collections of essays by several hands. Of those three, two had appeared in books that Grafton himself co-edited, while the third is apparently appearing almost simultaneously in this volume and in a collective volume coming from Chapel Hill. The only new thing in the volume is a 22 page introduction describing the common theme and including an amiable memoir of his student days in London (first visit to Momigliano, etc.). The listing there ends: 'All of the have been edited in minor ways, but I have made no effort to bring them fully up to date.'
I thought the purpose of recycling was to spare trees, not kill additional ones.
II. Old Prejudices. The sales flier for Cambridge Greek and Latin Classics, the series of texts/comms. with green and yellow bindings edited by Kenney and Easterling, has arrived. The list of present and forthcoming titles certainly gives an American reader grounds for prosopographical reflections of a not very generous sort (do full professors at Harvard still find cutting-edge excitement in producing student commentaries on the Catilinarians and the Aeneid?), but attention is then distracted by a blue-and-white insert. 'Cambridge Greek and Latin Classics: Imperial Library'. Editors also Kenney and Easterling. 'The time seems ripe for new developments, in response to the trends of current teaching and research and to the changing perceptions of the ancient world which these reflect. The Imperial Library has been established as part of Cambridge Greek and Latin Classics to accommodate titles which fall outside the conventional canon but are works of genuine interest and literary quality. Format, length and level of commentary will match the style of the existing series.' All that is available so far is Kenney doing the old chestnut, Apuleius' tale of Cupid and Psyche. Forthcomings include sel. orations of Dio Chrysostom, Longus' Daphnis and Chloe, two invectives of Claudian, and selections from Prudentius' Peristephanon and Augustine's Confessions.
Now am I wrong in seeing in this series the old snobberies just entrenched a little deeper? The works 'outside the conventional canon' will not be invited inside, perish the thought, but given their own separate but equal ghetto just outside; and to be sure, the works chosen are all quiet and non-threatening in their own way, all easily assimilated if they must be allowed into the classical neighborhood. None of Apuleius' florid excess for us, nothing from the Hermetic corpus, no jaw-breaking Martianus Capella, no mere woman like Egeria, no fire-breathing monks, no good and bad angels doing battle over the souls of Irish peasants. Why one fully expects to see Rutilius Namatianus edited in this company: but perhaps his spirit, in its own way a very fastidious one, lives in the editors.
III. Last query from the tree bench. That Cambridge series leads, by a commodious recirculation to the tree bench, to another question, and since these notes are not meant to be a monologue, so I will leave it for our dear and gentle readers: responses welcome and printed. Why is it that in classics, those in our midst with the reputation for being the most advanced practitioners of literary criticism and the most astute recipients of new theoretical developments seem so often to be devoting their work almost exclusively to the same old canon of texts? Jack Winkler wandered as far as Apuleius, who is of course thought of as exotic, though in truth he is thought exotic the way your humble and obedient servant has on occasion been thought a snappy dresser -- by hiding out in a very tame and unimaginative neighborhood; but even Winkler spent plenty of time with the old tragedians, and such league leaders as Zeitlin, Pucci, Segal, and Foley are remarkable not only for their talents but for the canonicity, not to say the DWEM-lichkeit, of the texts they study. I cannot decide whether this is a bad sign (a tribe so moribund that even its venturesome members cannot get very far from home base) or a good sign (a tribe whose common culture is strong enough for those of all persuasions to find it enriching and invigorating). At Penn we just had all freshmen read the Bacchae in small groups during freshman week, with assorted unclassicists expressing charmingly lunkheaded surprise that even though this text was written by an undoubted DWEM it managed to, why, call into question all sorts of things. Me, I never found a Greek or Latin text that didn't do that, and I had sort of thought that was the point of the whole business of reading them, but then I'm hopelessly behind the times -- or is it ahead of them? I can never quite tell.
J.O'D. 23 September 1991