Sunday, June 29, 2014


The Higher Crossword

William N. Calder III, "Classical Scholarship in the United States: An Introductory Essay," in Ward W. Briggs Jr., ed., Biographical Dictionary of North American Classicists (Westport: Greenwood Press, 1994), pp. xix-xxxix (at xxix, footnotes omitted):
In the case of philology the undistinguished generation between Böckh-Hermann-Karl Otfried Müller-Welcker and Wilamowitz, that is, the generation dominated by Friedrich Ritschl (1806-76), was also formative for the American tradition. Ritschl, the admired teacher of Gildersleeve and Nietzsche, was also beloved by the second-rate who needed a doctorate as the union card to secure a minor teaching post. He made the catastrophic error of substituting "what needs doing" for the important. That is, he turned research into the higher crossword. He specialized in Plautus, an author with nothing of importance to say to an educated man of intelligence but whose orthography, grammar, and metric were still speculative. His legacy was enduring and made a remote subject more remote. Later, through the controversial figure of A.E. Housman and his imitators, Ritschl's dread Wortphilologie would influence American appointments in classics. There is an irony. America does not produce great textual critics because of the weak preparation afforded by our schools in the ancient languages. Imports only fail to teach American students what they do not want to learn.
Hat tip: Alan Crease.

<< Home
Newer›  ‹Older

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?