BMCR 1992.01.03

The Cambridge Ritualists Reconsidered

By the time she reminisced about this moment in the 1920’s, Jane Ellen Harrison was of course famous for promoting the matriarchal (later, matrilinear 1) model of Greek culture that she felt this seal confirmed. But students of the Cambridge Ritualists will likely understand the seal in another sense as well, with Harrison as the regnant female, flanked by F.M. Cornford and Gilbert Murray, worshipped by ecstatic followers. 2 This collection of essays, originally presented at the University of Illinois in 1989, is useful for its analyses of the group’s background and intellectual associations, as well as the major works produced by its members. The collection is also a fine example of current work in the history of classical scholarship, and it is hardly surprising to find that the organizer and volume editor was Willam M. Calder III. After discussing the individual essays I shall make some general comments about the study of the history of scholarship.

The leadoff paper, on the origins and composition of the Cambridge group, is by Robert Ackerman, distinguished biographer of J.G. Frazer. Ackerman indicates the central role of Harrison in the trio of ritualists, and the additional “intellectual presence” of Verrall and Frazer. He succinctly sets out the intellectual milieu in which Harrison’s activity began: a world of romantic studies of the unconscious, imperialist ethnography, evolutionism, intense concentration on the search for “origins,” and an ongoing demythologization of the classics. Work at nearly the same time on the “communal basis of religion” and “sacrificial cult ritual” by Robertson Smith and G. S. Frazer paralleled rather than shaped Harrison’s evolving advocacy 3 of “the cult as the explanation of the legend,” but Smith may have played a role in introducing her to Durkheimian sociology around 1907, after Prolegomena to the Study of Greek Religion (1903) but before Themis (1912). Frazer, a rationalist opposed to ritualism’s pivotal genetic theory, figures as an influence for his ethnographic orientation toward ancient Greeks as “primitives.”

Harrison, according to Ackerman, was the intellectual leader who “pressed … on her friends” the importance of Durkheim, Nietzsche, Bergson, Freud, and Robertson Smith, and who was alert to the “terror or darkness of the chthonic cultus,” while Murray revealed his rationalist predispositions in referring, for instance, to “the silliest and cruelest old agricultural magic” practiced by the Greeks. A.B. Cook, author of Zeus, resisted the group’s wholehearted primitivism, perhaps motivated by his commitment to Christianity and resistance to seeing a god—especially his own—”dissolved … into a froth of collective primitive emotion” or reduced to a year-spirit. While he alludes to problems such as “documentary lacunae” that impede fuller analysis, Ackerman has written a survey that is, for all its brevity, substantial and suggestive.

Thomas W. Africa discusses Harrison’s commitment to a matriarchal interpretation of Greek culture and to the emotional basis of Greek society, joining Ackerman in refuting claims that Harrison was inspired, even “titillated,” by Frazer’s Golden Bough. He aptly compares Harrison to Aunt Jane Glegg in George Eliot’s Mill on the Floss, two “strong women … in the premodern countryside” and fleshes out this picture with passages from Harrison’s work and letters and from negative reviews and comments by scholars like Farnell, Ridgeway and Paul Shorey, a group whose criticism was often inseparable from general assaults on suffragism and on “sex-freedom Hellenism” (Shorey’s term). Africa succeeds, inter alia, in assembling a valuable collection of references to Harrison by contemporaries and successors. There is, of course, some danger in so condensed a review of opinion: on one page Africa cites Edmund Leach as a reliable authority, while on the next he exposes Leach’s carelessness (pp. 22-23). In a longer essay he would be obliged to evaluate, not merely quote, such sources.

The volume’s editor then discusses Harrison’s two “failed candidacies,” arguing forcefully that Harrison was passed over for positions in 1888 and 1896 not because of “misogyny” (as some have argued) but because “in both cases there was a stronger candidate,” a claim he supports with a detailed dissection of Harrison’s list of sponsors and of comments by the selection committees. Has he proven that gender bias played no role? No, for a number of reasons. Written statements by committee members may easily be so phrased as to cover up bias—most readers of this journal have surely come across, perhaps even fallen victim to, such guileful documents, and Ackerman in this very volume (though in another context) refers to the impediments posed by “smoothing or even doctoring of the sources.” Second, the very language of the comment by Flinders Petrie (for the committee) to the effect that “the balance of intuition may be on Miss Harrison’s side, while the balance of knowledge” falls on her competitor’s partakes of common assumptions about gender differentiation. (It also, ironically, echoes the dualities that dominate Harrison’s own thinking and writing.) Still, such artful attempts to cover up bias, common in our time, seem less likely in an age when committee members could openly pronounce, as two did in 1888, that it is “undesirable that any teaching in University College should be conducted by a woman.”

Thucydides, at any rate the geometrician of history so popular in the handbooks, might have seemed the Greek least likely to partake of the “froth of collective primitive emotion.” Cornford quickly set things straight with his first book, Thucydides Mythistoricus, boldly claiming that Thucydides had no notion of “cause” as we use the word and maintaining that the “mould” of his work was “supplied by drama.”Apate, Elpis, and Eros are the driving forces in this work, leading to the disaster in Sicily; after its dramatic conclusion, the eighth book is “unfinished, dull, and spiritless. The historian … seems to grope his way like a man without a clue.”

Clueless Thucydides! Mortimer Chambers, in his essay, defends Thucydidean objectivity and fairmindedness: the historian is not, he says, in the grip of a “dramatic” or “pre-theological” view of events, and it is unlikely that he could have remained blind to a scheming “commercial group in the Piraeus,” as Cornford asserts. Turning to Thucydidean causation, Chambers succeeds to a degree in refuting Cornford, but his ultimate formulation (p. 76) rests on a definition of “cause” that is nearly synonymous with “motive,” which was just Cornford’s complaint. When will ancient historians look up from their justifiable, but somewhat obsessive, concern with the difference between aitia and prophasis and notice how problematic the very concept of causation is? If philosophy of history, or discussions of causation in the physical sciences, seem burdensome and remote, they might at least benefit from the recent sophisticated discussions by their historian colleagues of why wars—Napoleon’s invasion of Russia, the Crimean War, the Civil War, World Wars I & II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the war for the Falklands—begin.

That said, I must add that Chambers has performed a real service in working through Cornford’s book and in presenting its arguments fairly, and that his discussion of causation admirably reviews what other scholars have said. He makes a good case for including the book, which says little about ritual, in a consideration of the ritual school, emphasizing what is often forgotten: that in Cornford’s eyes, Thucydides is not simply “dramatic,” he is controlled by a dramatic view of events. Cornford also wrote a book on Attic comedy, on which the conference organizers might have sought an additional essay, since it seems on the surface more relevant to their topic.

Gilbert Murray and Emile Durkheim are the subjects of the next two chapters. Robert L. Fowler, who has read and reflected on a huge amount of Murray’s work, places him in context: a Liberal concerned with social organization, a League of Nations supporter, a vegetarian offended by the slaughter of the Gadarene swine, decent and generous, deeply influenced by the historicism of Wilamowitz-Moellendorff. Murray wrote Five Stages of Greek Religion in part to “counteract Jane Harrison’s exaltation of the chthonic spirits by a vigorous defence of the Olympian deities,” who for Murray characterized the Greek mind during the period of “true Hellenism” ending with the end of the Peloponnesian War. Murray’s gods were morally, intellectually, and politically good, opposing the “megalomania and blood-lust” of earlier Greek religion and favoring the city-state. Fowler shows how much this picture rests on wishful thinking and projection, but still draws a nuanced and respectful portrait of Murray, who at the end of his career “did more than anyone else” to bring to Oxford Eduard Fraenkel, a scholar whose presence there established a path of scholarship that supplanted Murray’s own.

Harrison became acquainted with Durkheimian sociology in the interval between her two major books. Robert Alun Jones’ survey of Durkheim’s work on the sociology of religion is in many ways a model for historians of scholarship. Jones gives us a bonus as well, by showing the relationship between the young Durkheim and Fustel de Coulanges, who sought to derive French feudalism not from the Germanic invaders of the fifth century but from the Romans. Fustel’s Ancient City found the sources of ancient institutions in ancient eschatology, hence his emphasis on the the authority of the father and on the religious origin of private property and of citizenship, and his denial that the ancients “had even the idea” of “liberty.” Only with Christianity, Fustel claimed, did a notion of “individual freedom” become possible.

Durkheim, Fustel’s student, began his career by seeking to deepen his understanding of ancient Rome by studying tribal America and Australia. By 1894-5 he was also deeply influenced by German social scientists, especially the psychologist Wilhelm Wundt, who was “the first German psychologist to break all connections with metaphysics” and who was convinced that social change took place according to “concrete, objective laws, which could be discovered through inductive generalization.” But Durkheim remained dissatisfied with Wundt’s downgrading of morality. Revising his 1893 book The Division of Labor in Society in 1902, Durkheim gave credit to Robertson Smith; he had also read Frazer. In a few clear pages, quite useful for classicists, Jones reviews the views of Smith, Frazer, and Durkheim on totemism, sacrifice, and the rationality of primitive peoples. 4 Australians and ancient Semites alike illustrated for Durkheim “the notion that ritual precedes belief, that practical action precedes rational thought, and that the ‘unconscious’ … plays a powerful role in social behavior.” This notion was central to Durkheim’s project of building a “secular morality for the Third French Republic.”

After the concentrated thought of these two essays, P.G. Naiditch’s “Classical Studies in Nineteenth-Century Great Britain as Background to the ‘Cambridge Ritualists,'” introduces a massive and convenient data-bank. In 98 footnotes, Naiditch has gathered bibliographical and biographical data for a huge number of scholars, soundly contending that Housman’s aspersions on British scholarship undervalue British advances in lexicography, grammar, art, and history, and exposing as spurious any claim that hostility toward the ritualists sprang from a bias against non-verbal studies. But who makes such a claim, and why? Readers are left to go figure, since at this point, just when we want it, Naiditch’s footnote juggernaut breaks down.

Anyone interested in the scholars of this productive era will benefit from Naiditch’s scrupulous research. Wondering where I could learn more about Shilleto, I now find a wealth of references in footnote 54. But to use 98 footnotes, sometimes taking up whole pages, to make such a simple point is to break the butterfly upon the rack: one wishes not necessarily for fewer footnotes but for more argument derived from them. The text does contain one remarkable statement: “the history of scholarship is still in its infancy. Students stand in relation to their subject in much the same way as humanists of the fifteenth century stood to theirs.” Granted, the field is a bit chaotic, but does Julius Steup require or merit a Ficino? Would Pico, alive today, busy himself emending Wackernagel? A sense of perspective seems necessary. Naiditch’s final sentence, with its ponderous subjunctive, would provide good fodder for Modern English Usage if Fowler were alive today. 5

The next essay falls at the opposite end of the spectrum from Naiditch’s. J.K. Newman’s allusive, witty, perceptive and frustrating essay moves from brief comments about Andrew Lang to a consideration of several Soviet scholars, especially Bakhtin and Olga Freudenberg, who was citing Murray back when the show trials (as Garbo remarked in Ninochka) left fewer but better Russians. Newman cites and quotes these sources in Russian, and his comments are often enlightening. He remarks, for instance, that the primacy ritualism accorded “half-understood religious and superstitious practices” made it “consonant” with Marxism, but that “the problem” (for Marxism) is that the “primitive” is something to be outgrown. Bakhtin and Freudenberg were less troubled than others by this, and Freudenberg hoped to “show that even contemporary bourgeois reality … is in debt to the primitive and conventional.” Newman concludes by listing twelve areas as “needing attention.” These include “the other-directed and polyphonic nature of language,” the “place of laughter in the sacred,” the theory of the genres and other topics: a list that could prove fecund if it were not so brief and lacking in detail. Here, just when it might begin, this promising essay, briefest in the volume, reaches its end.

Oh, most lame and impotent conclusion. Newman tantalizes us with his evident expertise in Russian, but offers only one extended discussion of anything: two and a half pages concluding that the “undifferentiated primitive” in art transcends differences of genre. Readers will benefit from the list of areas that “need attention,” but will still mutter about an author who could, had he chosen, written more than three lines on polyphonic language; who refers condescendingly to two American Bakhtin specialists but refuses to specify their shortcomings (p. 162, note 15); who profitably utilizes the work of Freudenberg (professor of classics at Leningrad, cousin of Pasternak) but could have plunged far deeper into scholarship on Russian criticism; and who never attempts to show that Bakhtin himself knew or dealt in any way with the Cambridge ritualists.

Harrison’s recollection of her “first encounter with Aristotle” at Newnham, quoted in Sandra Peacock’s examination of “the personal in Jane Harrison’s ideas on religion,” may be worth the price of the volume. Like the initial quotation in this review, it illuminates the degree to which Harrison’s work blended with her life. Beyond this, it shows how liberating the study of the classics can be, if conditions are right. (That conditions may sometimes be wrong was shown by Jones’ remark [p. 99] that Fustel de Coulanges “took up the study of Latin” when “the coup d’etat of Louis Napoleon [in 1851] led to the suppression of non-classical studies,” and was motivated throughout his career by a desire to justify the church and the old regime [p. 101].) Peacock goes on to discuss the religious (but anti-theological) impulse in Harrison, the influences of Nietzsche and Bachofen, her attacks on Olympian gods, arguments for matriarchy, love for her deceased mother and dislike of her stepmother, and two romances. When Harrison describes Orpheus—”a reformer, a protestant” with “a touch of the reformer’s priggishness” ( Prolegomena), is she really speaking of her father, as Peacock suggests? The choice of words tempts one to agree. All the more disconcerting, then, is her sympathy with “the determined looking Maenad” intent, in a vase painting, on tearing Orpheus limb from limb. Particularly interesting, and sad, are the letters that reveal her guilt over her mother’s death, following her own birth, from puerperal fever.

Harrison’s association with Cornford, 25 years her junior, was an intense one, and Peacock (along with others in this volume) remarks on the deep depression into which she sank when Cornford married Frances Darwin in 1909.

Clear throughout this essay, though not mentioned by the author, is the relentlessly binary cast of Jane Harrison’s mind: religion/theology, primitive/ modern, Dionysus/Apollo, female/male: these and other dyads are the basic building blocks of Harrison’s often rigid thought. Ironically, they recall, and perhaps mimic, the equally uncompromising antitheses (Heaven/Hell, salvation/damnation) that bombarded her as a young girl.

“[I]n almost every case the myth [is] derived from the ritual, and not the ritual from the myth.” Thus Robertson Smith expressed what became the first and great commandment uniting the triad of Smith, Frazer, and Harrison. In a detailed account, Renate Schlesier considers other scholars with concerns that overlapped this trio’s: Andrew Lang, E. B. Tylor, Mannhardt, Lobeck, and K.O. Mueller. Mueller’s study of classical myth, interestingly, influenced David Friedrich Strauss’ pathbreaking work on the life of Jesus, kritisch bearbeitet (1835-36)—a work that helped turn Harrison, at age twenty, away from the church (1869-70) just four years after it led Nietzsche, at the same age, to turn from theology too. (A further connection, unmentioned in this volume: Strauss’ work was translated in 1846 by George Eliot, whom Harrison greatly admired and who visited her as an undergraduate at Newnham at about this time. Like Harrison, Eliot had broken with her strict evangelical father.) Schlesier rightly praises Harrison’s use of vase-paintings. She then catalogues “a few basic religious-historical concepts in Harrison’s work,” including evolution, origin, reality, anthropomorphism, daimon vs. theos, matriarchy vs. patriarchy, monotheism, mystery and asceticism, and Olympian vs. Chthonian. Schlesier emphasizes that the last distinction cannot be found in classical Athens, except for the works of Aeschylus—but that is a very big “except.” Here (to draw a contrast with Newman’s essay above) each concept is discussed in detail. Schlesier is always alert to Harrison’s “ambivalence,” her tendency to complicate antitheses she originates.

Hans Schwabl, in an essay in German on A.C. Cook, author of Zeus, reviews Frazer’s influence on and collaboration with Cook from about 1900 onward, Cook’s initial ambition of studying the “sky-god” in Celtic, Germanic, and Slavic, and Farnell’s role in “restricting” that ambition to Zeus alone. Harrison, along with Cornford and Murray, played a major role in discussions with Cook, and Harrison introduced him to Freud’s Totem and Taboo around 1913. Cook’s religiosity and monotheism, already mentioned by Ackerman, lead easily to a vision of the Olympian sky-god who modulates into a precursor of Jesus, member of a trinity (with Semele and Dionysus), focus of a mass-like Attis cult. Schwabl illustrates all this, finding fault with Cook’s evolutionary model, according to which “Zeus became a personality” over the course of time: “von dem ersten Augenblick an, bei dem es sinnvoll ist, von Griechen zu sprechen, es keinen Zeitpunkt gibt, wo diese nicht ‘in a personal God, the ruler and father of all’ geglaubt haetten,” and complains of the “malleability,” the one-size-fits-all, quality of Cook’s description of Zeus.

Schwabl notes that unlike his “Lieblingsautor” Dio Chrysostom, Cook insisted on a “pre-animist” stage of religion when people worshiped Zeus not as “him” but as “it,” as “a luminous Something,” out of which he concocted an “ausgekluegelten” theory of development for Zeus the sky-god. Cook particularly relies on ritual theory in his “Euhemeristic” interpretation of myths. The “dark side” of Cook’s highly structured study lies in its wild and precipitate associations and analogies: a method by which “anything can be transmuted into anything.”

Robertson Smith, editor of the Britannica (9th edition), martyred (or at least fired, at Aberdeen) for the cause of scholarship, is the subject of a lively, occasionally mordant chapter by the late Morton Smith. Smith regards Smith less as a consequential biblical scholar than as the popularizer of a new method of study and of ideas about ancient sacrifice, kinship, and fetishism developed by others. After a detailed discussion of these ideas, Smith mentions some of the weaknesses of his subject, an analysis that seems also applicable to the work of Harrison and Cook:

Though he argued with brilliance … he suffered from several weaknesses. He would not recognize and fairly valuate the evidence against his case. He showed little sense of the relative reliability and importance of different points of evidence. He too rarely recognized the ambiguities of the facts to which he appealed, the different ways in which they might be explained. Finally, he sometimes cited as evidence texts which simply did not say what he said they said.

To illustrate these claims, Morton Smith offers a wonderful paragraph on Robertson Smith’s defense of the study of scripture:

Briefly stated … the documents in the Old Testament, when critically studied, approve themselves a God-given revelation of the work of God to bring into being the people of Israel, separate it from paganism, and make it an environment suitable for the incarnation of His Son to reveal a purely spiritual religion, free alike of priestly hierarchy, sacrificial ritual, superstitious observances, and ethnic limitations—in one word, Calvinism [a convenient conclusion, in Aberdeen].

Morton Smith continues: “This magnificent conception Smith set forth with great homiletic power …, but the effectiveness of his presentation depends on his careful neglect of the biblical facts.” These “biblical facts” include the capture of Jericho, assisted by a local madam named Rahab (who “was rewarded for her treason … by marriage into the tribe of Judah and a place in the Messianic line”) and concluding when:

[T]he Israelites, on the Lord’s direction, continued the revelation of divine love … by slaughtering all the other men, women and children of the city, in accordance with the law of the Lord, which destined all Canaanites for genocide. (Much to the Lord’s regret, this law was not obeyed, but He tried…)

All in all, “Smith’s position in Old Testament criticism is that of a ninteenth-century eccentric” who introduced Frazer into the field, succeeded as editor of the Encyclopedia Britannica and later as University Librarian in Cambridge, and, in a series of trials over his teaching “broke the hold of Calvinistic orthodoxy in Scotland.”

The last essay in the volume is one of the worthiest. John Vaio has gone to the British Museum to study George Grote’s essay on “Magick” (1821), which he publishes here along with an introduction that skillfully places the young Grote in the circle of James Mill and Jeremy Bentham, and attributes the guiding ideas in the essay to Mill himself. The essay so forcefully attacked religion that it was never published (an example: Grote/Mill argue that kings who cure scrofula no more depend on divine aid than pigs that scent game). Their approach prefigures that of Grote’s massive history of Greece, with its attack on “the entire uncertainty and worthlessness of tales” that cannot be proven to occur. The scepticism of the essay, as Vaio points out, goes back to Hume; the notion that magic rests on post hoc ergo propter hoc reasoning goes forward to Frazer. Both text and introduction are delightful, a fine close to a fascinating volume.

This is a very worthwhile collection. It is nicely produced, though an index would have been valuable and appropriate. The editor might have leaned harder on some participants to improve their contributions, urging Newman to flesh out and clarify his argument and Naiditch to build a more substantial edifice on his impressive foundation. But there is no essay from which classicists will not benefit, and the volume is especially strong in its considerations of the importance of religion and of personal psychology. We now have, in one place, well-researched papers on works by Cornford, Cook, Smith, Durkheim, Harrison and Murray, with impressive walk-ons by Frazer, Fustel, and others. The volume is useful in part precisely because, unlike much of the work of the ritualists, it makes careful, documented distinctions about influence and about similarities.

Work remains to be done. Believe it or not, important scholarship is now being written on women in Greek culture and literature, much of it by female scholars. Jane Harrison herself figures importantly in a work of feminist scripture, Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own. Yet, to read through The Cambridge Ritualists Reconsidered, one would imagine that feminism scholarship is insignificant, a lunatic fringe: indeed, I believe that the only occurrence of the word “feminist” occurs in Peacock’s disparaging observation that “much of [Harrison’s work] stands in danger of being misinterpreted in the current revival of interest in her, particularly by feminist scholars.” Curiously, in a volume that insists on documenting the career of James Henry, Peacock was not asked to provide evidence. In point of fact, Harrison plays a distinctly minor role in the impressive contemporary scholarship on women in antiquity, earning hardly a mention even in the most anthropologically oriented work. Moreover, contemporary scholars in this area often explicitly reject the notion of primitive matriarchy. Harrison does figure importantly in Camille Paglia’s Sexual Personae (hardly a paean to feminism) and in a number of unscholarly popular books. Scholarly sloth and bias aside, it would have been worthwhile here to appraise the ways in which Harrison has influenced more recent work in women’s studies.

I think the same is true of anthropology, a discipline this volume frequently mentions. Two contributors refer, too briefly to be helpful, to remarks on the ritual school by M.I. Finley, and we learn a great deal about formative figures like Fustel and Durkheim. But anthropological studies in the classics did not cease in 1900. Scholars working on (say) Homeric dowries, Greek festivals, duels, supplication, even the birth of democracy, now rely increasingly on anthropological research. Attitudes toward “the primitive” have changed greatly. Some acknowledgment of this body of work would be welcome.

The “history of scholarship,” some claim, is still in its infancy. To make such a claim is to betray one’s antecedent commitments, one’s notion about what the history of scholarship is. The past fifteen years have witnessed a series of attempts to assess the work of our predecessors. It is hard to pass over Bruce G. Trigger’s masterful A History of Archaeological Thought. 6 Reconsiderations of the history of scholarship are central to a series of recent studies on the current state of the discipline: John Peradotto’s dissection of the modus operandi of classical philology, 7 M.I. Finley’s magisterial survey of scholarship on slavery, 8 and Martin Bernal’s chapters on romantic linguistics, “Hellenomania,” and the “Final Solution of the Phoenician Problem.”9 One might add Edward Said’s Orientalism. 10 These scholars are intent not only on ascertaining what their predecessors said and thought, but on locating themselves in this tradition. Indeed, this methodologically informed shift in perspective, the new emphasis on how our own activity fits into and reshapes what went before, is a hallmark of much recent work, though not of the papers in the volume under review.

Recent work in this area also stands apart from the papers in the current volume in taking the word “history” literally, insisting on the element of temporal change. Granted, the papers in this volume show that earlier nineteenth-century scholars anticipated Harrison’s ritualism, and mention influences of Nietzsche or on Malinowski, but only in passing. Sometimes (e.g. when Bakhtin pops up in Newman’s essay in a manner that recalls the “irrational” entrance of Aegeus in Euripides’Medea) “historical” reflection is simply jettisoned. We would surely benefit from a serious consideration of Nietzsche’s influence on Harrison, or of Harrison’s on the history of anthropology, especially one that showed what has happened to concepts like matriarchy, totemism, sacrifice, and kinship, and how experts currently feel about the rigid sequential chain espoused by the ritualists. Greater attention to what is “historical” in the history of scholarship would relieve this volume of its static flavor.

In short, there is some danger that the history of classical scholarship may fall victim to the same limitations as classical scholarship itself, that it may succumb to what Finley so often attacked as “antiquarianism.”11 As we work to recover the work of our predecessors, we will benefit from noticing the powerful models developed in other disciplines. One such model is the work of J.G.A. Pocock and Quentin Skinner, who aim to recover earlier intellectual and political attitudes through a close study of language. Although occasionally maddeningly sure of themselves, Pocock, Skinner, and others shed considerable light on earlier ways of thinking: consider Keith Baker’s analyses of the discourses of justice, will, and reason in the French Revolution, 12 or Pocock’s demonstration that Jefferson echoes the language of Machiavelli. 13 A second approach, urgent to my mind, is oral biography: interviews with students of the major scholars of our century—Karl Reinhardt, for example—with the goal of retaining a record of how these scholars thought. A third productive line of approach is the study of scholars working under political pressure, like the various Soviet historians who have written on the uprising of Spartacus. 14

Finally, fiction, with its capacity to establish a complex narrative frame, often succeeds better than much scholarship in placing scholars in a historical context. Consider the following scene:

For a moment he lacked bearings, but soon he recognized familiar faces in the waiting room of the Ministry of Culture. Planck had been there for hours and was going home to write to Althoff from there. Kayser left to go to Althoff’s house to demand to see him. Wiener got up to follow him out and to send around his servant to that all-powerful and all-feared man. These were brave actors. Otherwise, the room remained filled with long-suffering professors. They were all bundled up and some were beating their arms to keep warm.

The year is 1918. The professors, in this case, are physicists, and the moment is reconstructed by the historian of science Russell McCormmach in his novel, Night Thoughts of a Classical Physicist. 15 McCormmach’s achievement is to have recreated, from letters and records, the dark days at the end of World War I: the professors are lecturing in horrid conditions; there is nothing to eat; their discipline seems to be collapsing under the pressure of new ideas; lectures are regularly spied on by minions of the all-powerful functionary Althoff; their confidence in German superiority is shaken.

Classicists as well as physicists have gone through such traumas in our century. McCormmach isn’t Tolstoy, but we come away from his book with a fuller sense of the scholar’s life—the reflection on theoretical developments, the concern for day-to-day needs, the myriad anxieties—than we gain from much scholarship. 16

The history of scholarship, then, is alive and well, practiced in a number of different forms, almost all enlightening. To write good history of scholarship, we will have to write good history, that is, history that is aware of the nature of change over time, concerned with significant matters, capable of making us see them in a new light. Since scholarship is concerned in part with ideas, good histories of scholarship should succeed as intellectual history, for which we have plenty of models. The volume under review helps to get us going in that direction, despite occasional lurches toward inert antiquarianism. I will use it often and will gladly recommend it to others.

[1] As Renate Schlesier points out in a careful and enlightening discussion in this volume, pp.216-218; see Jane Ellen Harrison, Themis. A Study of the Social Origins of Greek Religion (reprint Cleveland, 1962), pp.492ff. Although Camille Paglia proclaims Harrison her model, she overlooks this crucial and obvious shift: see Paglia’s Sexual Personae (New Haven, 1990), p.42. [2] See pp. 179, 214-5 of the volume under review. [3] 1890 was the year of publication of both The Golden Bough and Harrison’s Mythology and Monuments of Ancient Athens. [4] See also Morton Smith’s comments on these topics, pp. 252-255 in the volume under review. [5] “Accordingly, if one design to evaluate the reception of the Ritualists, it will be necessary to reject the commonplace notion that their investigations were entirely outside the mainstream of scholarly work, for to do otherwise is to falsify the history of classical scholarship.” [6] Cambridge, England, 1989. [7] “Texts and Unrefracted Facts: Philology, Hermeneutics and Semiotics,”Arethusa 16 (1983) 15-33. [8] Ancient Slavery and Modern Ideology (Harmondsworth, 1980), pp. 11-67. [9] Black Athena. The Afroasiatic Roots of Classical Civilization. Volume I. The Fabrication of Ancient Greece, 1785-1985 (London, 1987), pp. 224-399. [10] New York, 1978. [11] Ancient Slavery, pp. 26, 31, 35. [12] Keith Michael Baker, Inventing the French Revolution (Cambridge, England, 1990), pp. 26-27. [13] The Machiavellian Moment. Florentine Political Thought and the Atlantic Republican Tradition (Princeton, 1975), p. 535. [14] See the survey by Wolfgang Zeev Rubinsohn, Spartacus’ Uprising and Soviet Historical Writing, translated by John G. Griggith (Oxford, 1987). [15] (Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1982), p. 39. [16] Almost as fascinating is Beryl Bainbridge’s Watson’s Apology (London, 1988), an account of the 19th century educator and translator of the Bohn Classics, who murdered his wife.