We may not know in advance precisely what it takes for a book to win the APA’s Goodwin award, but we know it when we see it. In a year when there were many notable contenders, Lawrence Kim’s book, Homer between History and Fiction in Imperial Greek Literature, readily established itself as a leader. Kim’s sharp and perceptive readings of some difficult texts give us a critical study of the many ways in which his chosen Greek authors—mainly Strabo, Dio Chrysostom, Lucian, and Philostratus—view, attack, and defend Homer, particularly with regard to the Homeric poems as a source of historical knowledge. The Homeric poems were omnipresent in all later Greek literature; as a result, ancient readers' approach to Homer inevitably reveals a great deal not only about their methods of reading, but also about their own works. Kim, who shows a sure knowledge of this complex material, accomplishes his analysis by setting each of his four authors in the background of their own time, the Second Sophistic (not a term Kim dwells on), a project which entails a sound understanding of all their Greek predecessors and especially their attitudes toward Homer. Thus, Eratosthenes, Polybius, Plato, and—most notably, in chapter two—Herodotus and Thucydides, are examined for their formulation of Homer’s role as it shaped Kim’s later writers. What they learned from Homer we learn from Kim’s detailed and beautifully argued book.
Strabo the historian and geographer defends Homer for his passages that read as history and geography, but since he does not do so blindly he entangles himself not only in complex apologetics for Homer—perhaps suggesting that historians of all sorts, like Strabo himself, deserve a certain amount of trust—but also in an attempt indirectly to justify the value of Greek literature in a Roman world. Lucian turns Strabo’s plan on its head in his Vera Historia, establishing a place in literature for the false tale; but by attributing the Phaeacian stories to Odysseus rather than to Homer he begins to return to Strabo’s original defense. These are but sketches of only two of the sophisticated ways in which Kim subtly and conclusively demonstrates how these later authors fit themselves into the Greek tradition that had always looked back to Homer for standards of truth, paideia, civic status, and identity; and then how they saw Greek literature fitting into the new Roman frame of reference.
For his original vindication of the core concerns of the American Philological Association, we are proud to present the 2011 Goodwin Award of Merit to Lawrence Kim.
David Sider, Chair
Christina S. Kraus