Saturday, November 08, 2014


Insular and Continental Commentaries

Martin Litchfield West, "'Forward into the Past': Acceptance Speech for the Balzan Prize in Classical Antiquity, 2000," in P.J. Finglass et al., edd., Hesperos: Studies in Ancient Greek Poetry Presented to M.L. West on his Seventieth Birthday (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007), pp. xx-xxviii (at xxiv):
When I was writing my first commentary (on Hesiod's Theogony) Stefan Weinstock asked me if it was to be 'insular' or 'continental'. He meant, would it be the sort of commentary that seeks only to elucidate the particular work which is its object, or the sort that reaches out in all directions and is full of material relevant to other authors in which related things occur. When he put the question, I was not familiar with the distinction, and not sure of my answer; but I think that in the event I leaned towards the continental, and find most value in those commentaries that have the ambition to build bridges out from the work under discussion to the rest of ancient literature. A note in such a commentary often becomes the classic statement of some observation relevant to many authors but prompted by the study of one. By making cross-references to commentators on other authors, scholars create a network of links across the exegetical corpus, and the seeker after insight on some point may find himself bounding happily from one volume to another.

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