Bryn Mawr Classical Review 97.8.22

RESPONSE: Van Nortwick on Nisbet on Van Nortwick/Hallett

July 23, 1997

To the editors of the Bryn Mawr Classical Review:

I am grateful to the BMCR for its prompt and thoughtful assessment [ed. note: see BMCR 97.7.2: by Gideon Nisbet] of the book that Judith Hallett and I edited, Compromising Traditions: The Personal Voice in Classical Scholarship. I want, however, to correct one or two factual errors that could produce a misleading impression of parts of the book. First, the review claims that Hallett's essay is, "by far the longest at 32 pages." Her essay, in fact, is 14 pages long, one of the shortest in the volume (the same length as Beye's, which the reviewer hails as, "short, dignified and moving"). She does provide a longer appendix, which includes 17 responses to a questionnnaire which she sent out to a diverse group of British and American classicists, only one of whom is identified by name. Since, as the BMCR reviewer noted, considerations of confidentiality prevented her from quoting written references and deliberations of American appointment committees, she provides these quotes to substantiate her impression that many US classicists share her sense that they are regarded as products of inferior academic training. Secondly, nowhere does Hallett make any remarks criticizing the professional performance and academic contributions made by European classicists in the US, much less characterize them as -- in the words of your reviewer -- "unwashed immigrants, living half a dozen to the faculty ... taking decent Americans' jobs and stealing their women." She quotes, in fact, from a 1992 paper of hers in which she praises some classicists of European birth and training because they "have strongly supported women, feminist scholarship and democratic change within our profession." It was another essay in the volume, responding to Hallett's essay, that stated, e.g., "Many will argue that the damage that foreign classicists have inflicted upon the profession of teaching classics in America is immense."

Thomas Van Nortwick

Oberlin College