A few days ago in an editor’s disk column, I quoted Prof. Lloyd-Jones and then commented in this order:
Here we find resurfacing the notion that arose during the eighteenth century as a result of Herder’s work, according to which the author of the Greek epics was not Homer but the Greek people itself. This idea is not congenial to those who believe that it is not the people, nor the tradition, but poets, aided, no doubt, by the tradition, that create poetry.
Leaving aside the question of how fairly that represents Nagy, what strikes this reader is the implicit claim that an idea must be congenial to be true (well, yes, American politicians believe that, but …) and that one begins the study of Homer with a belief (an a priori proposition?) about how poetry is created. Must what one learns in the course of scholarly investigation be governed by beliefs of that sort?
Professor Lloyd-Jones replies:
“I thought I could count on my readers to understand that this theory was not congenial to those people because they did not believe that it was right.”
Fair enough. The same mail brings a note from Professor Mary Lefkowitz calling attention to a piece she wrote in The New Republic for 2/10/92, pp. 29-36 (with correspondence in reply in the issues of 3/2, p. 6, and 3/9, pp. 4-5), on the vexed topic of African origins or filiations of classical Greek thought: her title suggests her theme: ‘Not Out of Africa’.
A short report on BMCR: Our e-mail list has just passed 300 subscribers; there are a few more than 200 hard copy subscribers, of which about 25 are libraries. This means we approach the point where there will be 500 individual readers, ‘end-users’ one might say, receiving BMCR directly in hard or soft copy form. We take particular pleasure in this development, for to distribute the relatively timely material of a ‘journal’ by mailing it to a library where it sits on shelves for months before someone (or at least before I) might notice it seems an inefficient engine for the advancement of knowledge and the interchange of outbursts. It’s cheering to have shortened the path from writer to reader.
Timely, did I say? How about urgent? The next BMCR message to ship will be an emergency warning for Latin teachers, courtesy of Ward Briggs, about the destruction of a valued teaching resource. Stay tuned, cliffhanger-lovers.