Bryn Mawr Classical Review 95.03.19


RESPONSE: Dominik on Dewar on Dominik (BMCR 94.09.08)


Michael Dewar's review of my Speech and Rhetoric in Statius' Thebaid was disappointing. What Dewar does, especially in the second half of his review, is to pick holes wherever he thinks he possibly can. It is not for me to review my own book, but it seems to me that as a result of his predominantly negative approach he misses the contribution that it makes to the field of Statian studies in the areas of rhetoric and critical interpretation. For instance, he barely mentions the second chapter, which discusses the role of the speeches in the narrative strategy; to my knowledge, no other previously published book or article demonstrates how understanding the interactive relationship and ongoing dialectic between speech and narrative is crucial to appreciating the thematic and dramatic tensions of the Thebaid. Furthermore, Dewar distorts some of my arguments, for example, when he suggests that I see the 'human characters of the poem ... as little more than helpless victims of malicious supernatural beings' (my emphasis). As for Dewar's subjective comments on the length of my book, its style and diction, they reveal more about his own scholarly idiosyncrasies than they say about the substantive issues of the book. While Dewar considers my study excessively long and does not like my style, his comments on my 'inventival fecundity' (i.e., lexical creativity) are a boorish attempt at cleverness. He also exaggerates the number and significance of the copy-editing errors, which he seems to take as much interest in as the importance of the ideas presented.

Some readers will be aware that in Scholia 2 (1993) I reviewed Dewar's fine philological commentary of Thebaid 9 (Oxford 1991). Perhaps Dewar took exception to my pointing out that his commentary does not 'tell us much what the Thebaid is about' (p. 130), since he tries to show that some of my ideas, which are very different from the orthodox views presented in the introduction to his commentary and in his reviews, are really not all that novel (even if they are not made by any other Statian scholar). I believe that the Thebaid has been generally misinterpreted by modern scholars, including Dewar, and my recently published The Mythic Voice of Statius: Power and Politics in the Thebaid (Leiden: E. J. Brill 1994) attempts to demonstrate this by expanding upon the ideas presented in Speech and Rhetoric in Statius' Thebaid.

While Dewar does have a number of favourable things to say about Speech and Rhetoric in Statius' Thebaid in the first half of his review, he generally seems more interested in showing off his own cleverness than in objectively appraising what is valuable in the book. I can only hope the other reviewers of my book demonstrate a more constructive and informed approach to the writing of reviews.