Saturday, June 11, 2005


Newly Discovered Works

Michael Maul has discovered a hitherto unknown Bach aria. Music lovers are excited, and I share the excitement.

But I ask myself why. I haven't heard all of Bach's already extant works, so why should I be so interested in the discovery of a new one?

Years ago there was a flurry of excitement about the discovery of a poem by Archilochus, the so-called Cologne epode, and we graduate students dutifully sat in respectful silence while a visiting lecturer pontificated about it. And now scholars are gaga about the possiblity of new fragments of ancient works revealed in Oxyrhynchus papyri by multispectral imaging.

I haven't read every bit of the ancient Greek literature that's been available on library shelves for centuries, not by a long shot, so I don't understand why the newly discovered bits should exert such fascination over me. Yet they do.

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