Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2002.03.35
Whitehead on Cooper on Whitehead. Response to 2002.03.10
Response by David Whitehead, School of Classics and Ancient History, Queens University Belfast, Northern Ireland
Professor Cooper gives my Hypereides commentary a warm welcome, by and large, and I thank him kindly. On two general issues, however, he expresses dissatisfaction. I would be sorry if readers shared it, so I must (and believe I can) say something in my defence.
(1) "The general introduction (1-23) is somewhat uneven; although there is a good overview of Hypereides' ability as an orator and his reputation in antiquity, there is no real account of his political career. Given his importance as a political figure in the late [sic] fourth century, but relative obscurity next to more famous contemporaries like Demosthenes, such an account is most desirable and would round off the introduction in a more satisfying way". But "such an account" already exists, in almost excruciating detail: Johannes Engels, Studien zur politischen Biographie des Hypereides (2nd edn. Munich 1993). Having cited this, together with half a dozen other bibliographical items (in various languages) on the very first page of my Introduction, I informed my readers that "[t]he present work eschews biography (let alone the general political history of the period) unless it contributes to an understanding of the forensic speeches or is otherwise irresistibly prompted by something taken up in the Commentary". I still think this a reasonable position, and a satisfactory disclaimer before beginning a General Introduction which actually comprises four sections: Loss and Survival (1-4); In and Out of the Lawcourts (4- 10); "Hypereides of the Glib Tongue" (10-18); Some Texts and Editions (18-23). What is included, and excluded, here reflects my overall aims in proffering a commentary on the surviving speeches of Hypereides (other than the Epitaphios). I wanted to supply a gap in the field, not to duplicate -- beyond the extent that doing so was inevitable -- the work of others, recently undertaken and readily available.
(2) "The major difficulty with the commentary, if we should call it a difficulty, is certainly not with Whitehead's scholarship which is impressive to say the least but arises from his attempt (which I do not think is altogether successful) to 'cater in a wholly satisfactory way for the Greekless' (viii)." Readers of the review rather than the book might well infer that I make the (arrogant) claim quoted. Not so. Here is the quotation in full: "given an author whose words reach us by the tenuous means of single-copy papyri, it has sometimes proved difficult to cater in a wholly satisfactory way for the Greekless. What I do claim is that I have striven at all times -- not merely by providing continuous translations but also by translating all lemmata and nearly all quotations -- to keep in mind the needs of such a clientele, as well as those of that more traditional one which either has Greek already or else, for a fully-rounded engagement with Hypereides, might be prepared to acquire it".
If Cooper reckons he has found instances where my efforts in this regard have been (or might prove to be) in vain, so be it. My belief remains that "major" commentaries (as he is good enough to call this one) need nowadays to be different from their predecessors. They must maintain traditional academic standards while being more user-friendly. Walking this tightrope can be very hard but the attempt is surely worth making.
Or is it? Cooper appears to think not. My Hypereides, for him, "stands uneasily between two worlds", those who can (Y) and those who cannot (N) read Greek; and he later speaks of my failure in "targeting the right audience". But which of the two audiences, I am left wondering, would have been the "right" one? Catering for Y alienates N; catering for N denies Y all it needs. Only time will tell, of course, but for now I am still hopeful that there is plenty here for both; and I am thoroughly unrepentant about having endeavoured to keep both in mind.
I conclude with an explanatory point, in this connection, on which Cooper makes entirely fair comment: how good it would have been -- sc. for the Y constituency -- to have had continuous text facing my translations. He surmises that this lack "is not of Professor Whitehead's own choosing, but of the publisher". He is right, but not quite in the sense that he (doubtless) supposes. I am no papyrologist, and therefore unqualified to produce an authentic new text of my own. I and my publishers had accordingly hoped to deploy Jensen's text for this purpose. Permission to do so was first given, then given on prohibitive conditions. "A real shame", as Cooper says. But at least Y knows where to go.