Archive for juni, 2014


Mere politikk

Kunnskapsministeren svarer Gudmund Hernes, tidligere sitert her, i Morgenbladet:

Neste steg er, som Hernes påpeker, fagenes stilling ved universitetene. Jeg er ikke umiddelbart bekymret, men det er et godt poeng at mindre fag kan trenge en nasjonal koordinering.

Det kan være fornuftig å samle miljøene og styrke dem, men om alle plutselig skulle bli borte samtidig vil vi som nasjon stå fattigere igjen. Regjeringens melding om kvalitet i høyere utdanning har vi tenkt som et naturlig sted å diskutere dette.


Christopher Stray om Richardson, Classical Victorians

C. J. Blomfield, av William James Ward (etter Samuel Lane)

Nydelig anmeldelse av interessant, men beklageligvis ikke feilfri bok (den inneholder bl.a. et alvorlig tilfelle av ærekrenking) om «Classical Victorians: Scholars, Scoundrels and Generals in Pursuit of Antiquity», på Bryn Mawr Classical Review.

This is the first volume in a new Cambridge series devoted to classical reception. The book’s blurb announces that ‘Victorian Britain set out to make the ancient world its own. This is the story of how it failed.’ In an enthusiastic preface, the series editors declare that ‘Instead of the focus on canon and corpus which is so familiar from studies of the classical tradition, Richardson gives us the metaphor of classical antiquity as corpse—a deceased past which was resurrected by the living with unpredictable results. The master tropes here are fragility, uncertainty, instability and misdirection’ (xiii).
Chapter 2, ‘Old fashioned ambition: a Victorian seduction’ (11–71), looks at attempts at social advancement through classical learning. It includes episodes on […] the ‘Greek play bishops’ who were identified as owing their preferment to classical scholarship, especially Charles Blomfield, editor of Aeschylus and Bishop of London; ‘hungry professors’, including the Scottish scholar John Stuart Blackie; and John Selby Watson, like Buckley a contributor of translations to Bohn’s Classical Library, a headmaster, who after being dismissed in 1869, murdered his wife and ended his days in prison. The account of Buckley benefits from an imaginative use of his fictional accounts of social climbing, including several engaging illustrations in the style of Punch, but fails to take into account the snobbish atmosphere of his Oxford college, Christ Church, whose head Thomas Gaisford was notorious for refusing access to fellowships for poor students. The ‘Greek Play Bishops’ constitute a problem for Richardson’s failure-based agenda, and so Charles Blomfield, scholar and bishop, is described, without evidence, as a ‘formidably ambitious and effective social climber’ who ‘carefully cultivated members of the aristocracy’. No mention is made of the fact that his patron Earl Spencer, who was previously unknown to him, first contacted him after reading and admiring his edition of the Prometheus Vinctus (1810).
Chapter 4, ‘The Children of Babel’ (131–81), includes a section on the notorious forger Simonides which opens, ‘Constantine Simonides packed in a hurry. His razor, his books, his shirts, and the lotus leaves which held the oldest known text of Homer all went into his trunk, upside down and jumbled up’ (142). Thus begins Richardson’s account of Simonides’ unsuccessful attempt to sell his ‘Homer’ to the King of Greece. Richardson dates this to 1836—hardly possible, since Simonides seems to have been born no earlier than 1820. His source is a paragraph in an article on forgers in a 1903 issue of a Philadelphia popular monthly, whose author gives Simonides’ forename as ‘Alcibiades’; but the text quoted above is not to be found there. The scene, we must presume, has been imagined by Richardson: but how is the reader to know that this is fiction, and that the account it introduces is based on a worthless source?
Worse […] is to come, in the discussion of K. D. White (1908–98), the pioneering investigator of Roman agriculture, who spent most of his academic career in South Africa. (What is White doing in a book on Victorians?) Richardson quotes from a broadcast talks on ‘Our Classical Tradition’ which White gave for the South African Broadcasting Corporation in 1957: ‘those who are able to enter fully into the Greek tradition of thought have a powerful weapon ready to their hand against the violent influences of emotion undisciplined by reason, and against the dark forces’ (169). He concludes that ‘White and his white audience define themselves in opposition to the «dark forces» of black South Africa’. But it is clear that the quotation is incomplete, despite Richardson’s attempt to conceal this by omitting an ellipsis; in White’s original the sentence continues ‘… unleashed by those cults of the Will that have wrought such havoc in our time’. The obvious explicit referent is the Nazi regime, but White’s real target was probably the South African apartheid regime. This section is driven by an ideological agenda which encourages the construction of caricatures rather than the understanding of historically-situated texts.