[Authors and titles are listed at the end of the review.]
In 1811, August Böckh (1785–1867) became the first professor of classics at the University of Berlin, founded one year earlier; he went on to teach in Berlin for more than fifty years and was one of the most influential founding fathers of German “Altertumswissenschaften.” To celebrate this anniversary, the department of classics at the Berlin Humboldt University organized a series of lectures (“Ringvorlesung”) in the winter term 2011/2012. The format is popular in German universities: every week during the semester, one member of the faculty contributes one lecture to the series. This presupposes that either (a) the topic is so broad that every one will find room for her or his personal predilections, or (b) the organizers are able and willing to impose strict discipline on the contributors, and these are ready to go out of their way and do research which is strictly relevant to the chosen topic. The papers in the volume under review show that the Berlin enterprise clearly falls into the (a) category: it is obvious that every contributor was left free to choose her or his topic and that there was apparently no effort to produce a coherent collection. The result is what might leniently be called a “satura lanx”: a hodgepodge of wildly heterogeneous material.
After a brief introduction, we find twelve papers, which can be said to fall roughly into three categories: interpretation of ancient texts (Poiss, Schmitzer, Šterbenc Erker, Kanthak), reception studies and history of classical scholarship (Wenzel, Mundt, Overwien, Lo Presti), linguistics and the methodology of teaching classics (Liebermann, Kitzbichler, Kipf, Siebel). Many papers summarize ongoing research projects in which members of the department are involved. As is to be expected, the quality varies considerably. There is no clear indication why the papers are presented in this order. There is no attempt (nor claim) of any systematic overview of the field of classical scholarship. What we get is a random collection of individual papers which is “encyclopedic” only in the sense that it represents an outline of classics as practiced at Berlin University in the year 2011.
Overall, the volume gives the impression of being an amateurish product. There are some illustrations; their quality is atrocious. Entries are missing from the bibliographical lists, or they are sorted in the wrong order. There are two short indexes, but no consolidated bibliography. Typographical errors abound — at least I hope the sentence “L. Acilius apud patres nostros appellatum est sapiens” (p. 45) is a typographical error and not something that the linguistic contributor considers correct Latin.
I will briefly mention the papers that might be of interest to readers of BMCR. Overwien presents a learned and densely argued discussion of how we can reconstruct the medical teaching of Alexandrian iatrosophists with the help of the Arabic tradition. Kanthak’s paper on obscurity in Greek scientific prose contains some interesting observations, but reads more like an announcement of future research than a finished paper; the same is true for Mundt’s treatment of Neo-Latin supplements and forgeries. Poiss has some good remarks on Sappho and Horace, but overall, the discussion is too spotty; a connection between Sappho, fr. 1, Horace, carm. 1.32, and Ludwig Greve’s poem “Hannah Arendt” is postulated, but not really demonstrated. Schmitzer’s and Šterbenc Erker’s papers on Ovid discuss the poet’s self-fashioning and the construction of gender in his Fasti, but there is little innovation in these contributions.
Had these papers been printed and distributed as a Christmas gift for members of the Berlin department, their friends and family, everybody would have been happy. But the volume is on the book market, on sale for the hefty sum of € 52 (you could buy two Cambridge Green and Yellow classics for that price). And its title is seriously misleading: in this age of “Companions” and “Handbooks,” I suspect that quite a few libraries, perhaps even some students and scholars will feel obliged to buy this book before they had a chance of actually looking at it. Böckh’s Encyklopädie und Methodologie der philologischen Wissenschaften, first printed posthumously in 1877 ( available online), really tried to present philology (which for him encompassed all branches of classical scholarship) not only as a body of knowledge, but also as a logically structured system of human enquiry. Nothing of that sort is attempted here, and the word “Enzyklopädie” in the title is more than a bit pretentious.
In conclusion: unless you have a close connection with the Berlin institute or with the contributors, you can safely neglect this volume.
Table of Contents
Ulrich Schmitzer, Einleitung
Thomas Poiss, Die Zeitlichkeit des Gedichtes
Bianca Liebermann, Die Grammatikkonzeption Christian Touratiers
Ulrich Schmitzer, Strategien der Selbstkanonisierung bei Ovid
Darja Šterbenc Erker, Geschlechterrollen in Ovids Fasti. Carmentis, Euander und das Carmentalia-Fest
Antonia Wenzel, Neulateinische Gedichtbücher des Quattrocento. Vieritalienische Humanisten und ihr Umgang mit dem antiken Erbe
Felix Mundt, Kreative Philologie. Supplemente und Fälschungen antiker Textein der Frühen Neuzeit
Anna-Maria Kanthak, Obscuritas — eine Strategie griechischer Wissenschaftsliteratur?
Oliver Overwien, Zur Funktion der Summaria Alexandrinorum und der Tabulae Vindobonenses
Roberto Lo Presti, Werner Jaegers “Paideia.” Die Stellung der antiken Medizin in seiner Auffassung der Geisteswissenschaften
Josefine Kitzbichler, Travestie, Flussüberquerung, Lichtbild. Beobachtungen zur Metaphorik des Übersetzens
Stefan Kipf, Ars didactica necesse est colatur. Aufgaben und Perspektiven altsprachlicher Fachdidaktik
Katrin Siebel, Englisch- und Lateinunterricht in Kooperation (ELiK). Eininterdisziplinäres fachdidaktisches Forschungsprojekt