Friday, November 18, 2016


The Scholarly-Industrial Complex

John Herington (1924-1997), "Foreward" to D.S. Carne-Ross, Pindar (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1985), p. ix:
"It would be a pity," said Nietzsche, "if the classics should speak to us less clearly because a million words stood in the way." His forebodings seem now to have been realized. A glance at the increasing girth of successive volumes of the standard journal of classical bibliography, L'Année Philologique, since World War II is enough to demonstrate the proliferation of writing on the subject in our time. Unfortunately, the vast majority of the studies listed will prove on inspection to be largely concerned with points of detail and composed by and for academic specialists in the field. Few are addressed to the literate but nonspecialist adult or to that equally important person, the intelligent but uninstructed beginning student; and of those few, very few indeed are the work of scholars of the first rank, equipped for their task not merely with raw classical erudition but also with style, taste, and literary judgment.

It is a strange situation. On one side stand the classical masters of Greece and Rome, those models of concision, elegance, and understanding of the human condition, who composed least of all for narrow technologists, most of all for the Common Reader (and, indeed, the Common Hearer). On the other side stands a sort of industrial complex, processing those masters into an annually growing output of technical articles and monographs.
J.A. Willis, "The 'Silvae' of Statius and Their Editors," Phoenix 20.4 (Winter 1966) 305-324 (at 322):
The volume of metaclassics is very great. What Schadewaldt alone has written about Homer far exceeds in volume what Homer wrote about the siege of Troy; a year's output on the Dyscolus dwarfs the whole surviving work of Menander into insignificance; no very large bookcase would be needed to hold all the texts of Greek and Latin writers from Homer to the end of paganism, yet to house the books written on them since 1850 would tax the largest of reading-rooms. Most sinister of all is the growth of periodical publications, of which roughly 200 are noted in L'Année Philologique. New ones are constantly being born; old ones are very tenacious of life.

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