Bryn Mawr Classical Review

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2001.12.05

Calder III, William M., R. Scott Smith, A Supplementary Bibliography to the History of Classical Scholarship. Chiefly in the XIXth and XXth Centuries.   Bari:  Edizioni Dedalo, 2000.  Pp. 224.  ISBN 88-220-5802-X.  L.50.000.  



Reviewed by Phillips III, C. Robert, Lehigh University (crp0@lehigh.edu)
Word count: 1749 words

A timely and welcome update to Calder's earlier Introductory Bibliography (1992).1 Over one thousand new items appear (SB 8); since Calder presumably still follows his earlier principle (IB ix-x) of citing only what he has both read and owns, multiple benefits ensue. The real-world assessments of most items will be helpful and thought-provoking to everyone. Since Calder has seen the works he lists, it means they exist. No small benefit this, since many will recall otiose chases for a non-existent item, or for an existent item which does not deliver, since the author citing it never troubled to append "I have not seen this work."

SB is useful on its own but most useful teamed with IB. Both share the same fivefold division: general books, general offprints, books on institutions, books on individuals, offprints on individuals; IB has an index personarum, SB that and an index auctorum too. Further, SB preserves IB's alpha-numeric references, e.g. where IB has 64 (Burrow) and 65 (Bursian), SB presents 64a for Burrows. IB's preface (ix-xii) explains the principles of inclusion, exclusion, and organization, which SB assumes. SB's understandably briefer preface contains a new and valuable item, a listing of reviews of IB (8n2); this is not conventional.2

It is not often that comprehensive bibliographies provide item assessments; selective bibliographies sometimes do that but often tend to the bipolarities of the encomiastic or the polemic. Calder pulls no punches but generously lauds excellence too, always in characteristically lapidary style. Consequently, regardless of his esteem, or lack thereof, for a particular item, there usually appears information on significance (especially of less familiar items), contents, usability (especially welcome: indication of absence of indices), and often references for further reading. A selection will demonstrate. On Christopher Stray's Classics Transformed (376a) "...an invaluable book from which one only learns...."; J.H. Russell's Petrarch....(2006b): "The tried and true first book to read on Petrarch"; 826a: "One learns far more from this than from more general works"; 254a: "welcome indeed"; 111d: "This great book." Less laudatory but still balanced: John Bayley, Housman's Poems (1497a) "A poorly documented but not unintelligent appreciation" On Richard Jenkyns, ed., The Legacy of Rome (211c): "In general the essays are superficial and poorly documented with nothing to say to the specialist but surely useful to those few undergraduates who do extra reading"; 2005a: "An informative, rather popular life...."; 1041a: "A popular, easily-read life without much that is new...." And the outright negative appears with reason, including reason (for some) to read, thus on Rosa Ehrenreich, A Garden of Paper Flowers (806a): "A hilariously naive description of Oxford by a politically correct Harvard feminist...." One might venture that those of the Cantab. persuasion will gravitate immediately, those of the Oxon. persuasion variably, depending on sense of humor or lack thereof. Overall, then, IB is both useful and usable; those who deem it "only a bibliography" may need to reconsider.

Both IB and SB raise an important issue, albeit not of Calder's making. It would be all too easy to amass a list of items which pass Calder's muster and use those items without further thought, confident of Calder's implied nil obstat. But there is more. For example, Calder asserts (IB xi) that "one consults...without being told" works such as the Dictionary of National Biography. Obviously, the utility of that work derives from the quality of individual notices. But even in an excellent notice, an author cannot fairly be expected to proffer all of the information someone might need for her/his particular concerns in Wissenschaftsgeschichte. For example, Peter Fraser's fine entry on Hugh Last does not indicate the dates of Last's tenure of the Camden chair; the chronology matters if one would sort out the oft-strained relation between Last and the next Camden Professor, Ronald Syme. Indeed, trying to find a simple list of all the incumbents, with dates, of that chair--or, indeed, of any of the Oxbridge chairs--can be an exercise in futility. Then there are the obituary notices in Gnomon and PBA, which Calder does reference. Obviously, one does not have the latter if the figure in question was not FBA. Gnomon offers more comprehensive coverage, obviously, but length and importance do not always run in tandem. A figure such as Stefan Weinstock, of major importance for Roman religion but perhaps of understandably lesser concern to many classicists, receives a virtually "model" entry from Peter Parsons.3 But any number of figures of major importance to all classicists receive relatively brief, relatively undocumented notices.

That is, biographical notices, no matter how good, comprise but starting points--they need the context and contrast which can come from letters and diaries: "Almost everything that is revealing and controversial has languished in the archives, when not, like Conington's diaries, burned."4 Some archival material has been published, but much more still languishes; the task of discovery, to say nothing of interpretation, can assume Herculean dimensions. One can suddenly find oneself in a classicist's terra incognita with such an apparently simple task as deciphering the text. For example, Eduard Fraenkel's correspondence is eminently legible, while Cyril Bailey's script is so crabbed that experience in medieval palaeography offers scant help; indeed, in the case of Bailey, not even the friendly assistance of the archivist enabled me to make a full transcription. Classicists may not have had occasion to be acquainted personally with archivists before entering Wissenschaftsgeschichte, but these helpful and knowledgeable professionals constantly ease the treks through archives. Then there are the oral traditions, since some material never takes written form; this is especially true in the institutionalized oral traditions of Oxbridge Senior Common Rooms. Sometimes a valuable recollection cannot be attributed to the source, sometimes it cannot even be mentioned as "deep background." Thus one must needs acquire skills in oral history.

There is also quasi-archival material such as official university notices. Much is either uncatalogued or only superficially so. Consider, for example, the Oxbridge undergraduate lecture lists, apparently mother lodes of information of a classicist's interests. They reveal, for example, that Arthur Darby Nock never lectured on Roman religion during his relatively brief time at Cambridge, W. Warde Fowler never during his relatively long time at Oxford. But this information must be balanced with that knowledge that, for many at Oxbridge, don and undergraduate alike, lectures are considered optional (at best) while the "real" work takes place during the weekly tutorial. Thus it can be wretchedly hard to use these particular items without enough personal experience of the Oxbridge "system"--but the results can be rewarding.5

As for those tutorials, consider Ved Mehta's Continents of Exile: Up at Oxford (SB 1777b), where the author presents his later (1993) revised recollections of reading Modern History at Balliol/Oxford in the mid-1950s. He inevitably encountered classicists, which means, per Calder's notice, much on Jasper Griffin, bits on, among others, Fraenkel, Ogilvie and Macleod. Mehta on Robert Ogilvie (p.321): "During a debate or discussion of a paper, he was sure to deliver himself of some highly polished, brilliant, ironic remark..." On first glance, of but modest interest--after all, that is what one would expect from the brilliant and learned Roman historian. Interest grows in light of the Oxford emphasis on "cleverness" where opportunity to produce the witty turn of phrase, the droll jape, the clever riposte, sometimes substitutes for factual accuracy and intellectual engagement. "Cleverness" has traditionally been inculcated in Oxford undergraduate tutorials, perhaps rightly, as the path to superior marks on the examinations of the Final Honour Schools (cf. p.313). But "cleverness" can ooze out of the tutorial hour to become a sport for all the university's denizens. It may be that sometimes a fascination with clever rhetoric can drive out careful and sustained thought, and thus subverting the aims of the tutorial system. Here be issues not just of peculiar (to some) Oxbridge conventions, but of the larger educational role of the tutorial, both in theory and practice, and hence the high esteem often attached to Oxbridge undergraduate classics.

Indeed, the issues can expand even beyond classical studies proper. Classicists know of Karl Lachmann's epochal edition of Lucretius and related palaeographic demonstrations; some will know that he edited the Niebelungenlied, an interest originating in his student days and that this edition involved him with the brothers Grimm, and that there exists substantial correspondence (edited in two volumes by Albert Lietzmann, 1643 in IB), where we see a quasi-adversarial situation, reflected in J. Grimm's (December 31, 1826) "grillenhaft und ungefaellig." That is, there arose an issue over Lachmann's method when it moved outside Greco-Roman material. Why should classicists care? Because whatever may be said for or against the Grimms' work, it constituted part of the Volksgeist interests of many nineteenth-century German classicists and overt opposition to the use British classicists made of comparative ethnographic material from the British Empire. Hence the origins of the classicist debate on comparative material, a live issue even today, often conducted in terms of considerable asperity.

Profiles of the purchasers, or users, of Calder's bibliographies would be fascinating since in his "Research Opportunities in the Modern History of Classical Scholarship" (CW 74 [1980/1] 241-51) Calder observed (246) "Contrarily interest in Wissenschaftsgeschichte is enormous. I can dispose of 200 offprints easily", similarly the prefaces of IB and SB. Still, it is hard to escape the impression when reading, say, scholarship on literature or history, that for many Wissenschaftsgeschichte seems epiphenomenal to an alleged "real" task of finding the best contemporary interpretation. Thus I recently wrote that some seem to consider Wissenschaftsgeschichte as "a purely factual focus on whether a scholar loved fresh oranges (one did) or needed several boxcars to hold his library (one also did)."6 Consider this: both points involve refugees from National Socialism. The oranges form part of a larger picture of privation, of an important scholar who never succeeded in becoming fully integrated into the academic life of his host country despite major scholarly contributions, and the lack of integration directly influenced the reception of his work. The railway cars of books form part of a larger picture of success, of a scholar who had little privation and who was welcomed with open arms by the academic community of his host country and who also made major scholarly contributions--and that integration also directly influenced the reception of his work too. Oranges and railway cars may seem trivial today. But not so many years ago misogyny and homophobia were often considered trivial too, even when identified. They are not thought so trivial today, and therein perhaps lies a cautionary note.


Notes:


1.   Id. & D.J. Kramer, An Introductory Bibliography to the History of Classical Scholarship. Chiefly in the XIXth and XXth Centuries (Hildesheim: Olms, 1992) still in print; I abbreviate the two works here as IB and SB. Typos in SB are few and nugatory. I have chosen Oxbridge examples passim in the interests of maximum comprehension by a diverse readership.
2.   Thus the second (1997) edition of Walter Burkert's Homo Necans (1972) contains a "Nachwort" (333-52) which has a list (352) of his writings since the first edition, with no hint of Rezeptionsgeschichte.
3.   Gnomon 46 (1974) 217-20.
4.   Thus Calder 70 in his Epilogue (71-8) to the second (1994) edition of the Usener-Wilamowitz correspondence.
5.   Cf. Jackson Bryce, rev. C. Stray, Classics Transformed..., CJ 96 (2000/01) 326: "English educational institutions have been and still are remarkably complex, yet he provides very little aid for the uninitiated by way of explanation of terms...." Adding in a footnote "Very fortunately I read this while in Oxford and gained considerable help from resident academics...." On uses of lecture lists, some preliminary examples in my "In Search of the Occult: An Annotated Anthology," Helios 15 (1988) 153-4; there will be very full discussion in my forthcoming The Religious Knowledge of the Roman People. No one should miss the illuminating use Mary Beard has made of the Cambridge material: "The Invention (and Reinvention) of 'Group D': An Archaeology of the Classical Tripos, 1879-1984," in C. Stray, ed., Classics in 19th and 20th Century Cambridge (Cambridge, 1999 = PCPS Suppl. Vol. 24) 95-134.
6.   CW 93 (1999/2000) 118.

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