Bryn Mawr Classical Review

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2002.04.13

Burns et al. on Steinmayer on Hine.   Response to 2002.04.02



Response by Bryan Burns, Department of Classics, University of Southern California (bburns@rcf-fs.usc.edu lambdacc@runner.jpl.utsa.edu)

[[For a response to this response, see BMCR 2002.04.21.]]

Otto Steinmayer's recent review of Daryl Hine's translation, Puerilities: Erotic Epigrams of The Greek Anthology, provoked strong reactions among many BMCR readers, including the members and allies of the Lambda Classical Caucus signed below. Though the review is described as one of 'strictly literary aim', Steinmayer's remarks explaining his approach to the sexual content of the poetry are offensive and demonstrate a poor understanding of ancient sexuality and modern sex studies. Most notably, footnote 1 is meant to somehow elucidate 'boy love' with the following statement:

1. What is now called paedophilia is in the modern world universally labelled "abuse" and criminalized, and any discussion that touches on the subject is difficult. I wish to let the reader know that I myself am sexually conservative: I am married, faithful to my wife, and a father. However, I hold to no dogma, and have no objections--medical apart--if others prefer their own sex. The morality of paederasty in the present is a subject beyond this review. The ancient world accepted paederastia and felt no qualms about it. We cannot force our tastes on people of 2000 years ago and in this review I will deal with the poets and their translator according to ancient standards, recalling ...castum esse decet pium poetam / ipsum. uersiculos nihil necesse est.

The collocation of 'what is now called paedophilia,' 'paederasty in the present,' and those who 'prefer their own sex' suggests an equation of Greek paederasty and modern paedophilia with homosexuality, irrespective of issues of age or consent. This is clearly a false equation, and its appearance, even if unintentional, in BMCR is a matter for no little regret.

Steinmayer's clarification that he holds only 'medical' objections to modern homosexuality is very intentional and truly unacceptable. If this is a veiled reference to the sexual transmission of HIV/AIDS, it is not only inappropriate for this review and this forum, it seems profoundly ignorant as well.

It is puzzling that the reviewer felt obliged to share his point of view on these topics by equating homosexuality with paedophilia and disease. It is even more surprising that the editors of BMCR accepted the review by someone who shows himself to be, in accordance with his own admission, not 'equipped to handle [the] subtleties' of ancient attitudes toward sexuality and their relation to modern ones. The choice to distribute this piece suggests little concern for the text under review and indicates disregard for the minimum scholarly standards for discussion of ancient (or modern) sexuality.

Steinmayer further proves himself uninformed, with the assumption that 'Daryl Hine's translation of Book XII must be a first in the GA's career.' Readers may be interested to know that the entire corpus of the musa puerilis is, in fact, also available in two other English translations: as part of W.R. Paton's translation of the entire Greek Anthology in the Loeb series (the 1918 text was reprinted for the eighth time in 1992), and as translated by Dennis Kratz in Gay and Lesbian Poetry: an Anthology from Sappho to Michaelangelo, edited by James J. Wilhelm (1995).

Ruby Blondell, University of Washington

Sandra Boero-Imwinkelried, SUNY at Buffalo, Classics Department

Jackson Bryce, David and Marian Adams Bryn-Jones Distinguished Teaching Professor of Classical Languages and the Humanities, Department of Classical Languages, Carleton College

Brendan Burke, Assistant Professor, American School of Classical Studies in Athens

Bryan Burns, co-chair Lambda Classical Caucus, Department of Classics, University of Southern California

Shane Butler, Assistant Professor, Department of Classical Studies, University of Pennsylvania

Jerise Fogel, Columbia University

Bruce W. Frier, Professor of Classics and Roman Law and H.K. Ransom Professor of Law, University of Michigan

Tricia Gilson, Department of Anthropology, University of Southern California

Marilyn Y. Goldberg, Chair, Department of Ancient Studies, University of Maryland Baltimore County

Peter J. Holliday, Associate Professor, History of Art, California State University, Long Beach

Margaret Imber, Classical & Medieval Studies, Bates College

Bruce M. King, Columbia University

Terrence Lockyer, Graduate Student in Classics, University of Natal, Durban, South Africa

Rudolph Masciantonio, Director of Foreign Language Education emeritus, School District of Philadelphia

E. Ann Matter, Professor of Religious Studies, University of Pennsylvania

Kristina Milnor, co-chair Lambda Classical Caucus, Department of Classics, Barnard College

Kirk Ormand, Oberlin College

Cashman Kerr Prince, Visiting Instructor, Department of Classical Studies, Wesleyan University

Nancy Sorkin Rabinowitz, Professor of Comparative Literature, Hamilton College

John Rundin, Assistant Professor of Classics, University of Texas, San Antonio

Jacqui Sadashige, University of Pennsylvania

Elizabeth H. Sutherland, Assistant Professor, Department of Classics, University of Tennessee

Damian JM. Tremblay, Department of Classics, The State University of New York at Buffalo

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