Saturday, January 18, 2020


A Sea of Red

T. Corey Brennan, "Ernst Badian's Methodological Maxims," in The Legacy of Ernst Badian, ed. Carol G. Thomas (Association of Ancient Historians, 2013), pp. 9-26 (at 12):
One of his teaching techniques was to take the first written work of a student who had newly signed on to his supervision, and then spend many hours checking every single reference, ancient or modern, in addition to offering copious annotations on the thought and style of the paper. I remember sitting at a desk in Harvard’s Smyth Classics Library and quaking in fear as Ernst shuffled around the room's bookcases with my own paper in hand for what seemed to be two full days. You can guess the final result: a sea of red. But Ernst only checked quite so thoroughly on the first occasion. The pedagogical—or one might say psychological—effect was such that he didn't ever need to repeat the process for his students, at least at that excruciating level.
Id. (at 16):
As for the perpetrators of scholarly outrages, Ernst's harshest face-to-face critique was the simple phrase, very rarely employed, and only then when confronted with what seemed to be invincible ignorance, "I pity your students."
Id. (at 20):
The story is perhaps apocryphal, but legend has it that at a Cambridge cocktail party sometime in the 1980s a woman turned to Ernst's Harvard colleague, the great Latinist Dr. Shackleton Bailey, and asked him "so what do you do?" His answer: "I look things up." Whatever the veracity of the anecdote, Ernst certainly put a premium on "looking things up," starting of course with the ancient sources, then Pauly-Wissowa, and proceeding from there. Badian had little time for books written from books, that show (in his words) a "perverse refusal to look at what it is all ultimately derived from."

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