As we leave behind the nomenclature of the nineteenth century and slowly but surely retire the name “American Philological Association,” the Goodwin Committee is pleased to report to the membership that philology itself remains alive and well. We submit, furthermore, that there is no text of more symbolic significance for the unifying purpose of our discipline than Virgil’s Aeneid. Many of us are in the field at least indirectly because of the Aeneid, our adolescent selves first fired with a new passion for the potential of language and of poetry when we were introduced to the poem.
But this award is not about symbols; rather, it is about the very real and very important work of Richard Tarrant, whose commentary on the twelfth book of the Aeneid (Cambridge, 2012) makes this familiar poem new, serving as it does so as a salient reminder—just in case we needed one—that the richness of our field only continues to deepen. The editor of a recent collection of scholarly essays on the classical commentary describes such works as belonging to “a genre with a pedigree almost as old as classical literature itself”; at least for the Latinists in this organization, that pedigree is closely linked to Virgil in particular, whose work has invited scholarly interest and exegesis ever since the late 30s-early 20s BCE, when Q. Caecilius Epirota introduced Virgil’s early verse to his students.
That long tradition is a constant reminder, both of our responsibility to maintain the vitality of our discipline for future generations and of our debt to those who preceded us—those giants upon whose shoulders we all struggle to maintain our balance. That balancing act is managed with grace, skill, and modest confidence by Richard Tarrant, who in his new commentary on Aeneid 12—in his words, “the first moderately full one in any language devoted to book 12”—invites us to read Virgil not only with him, but with the “multitude of voices” constituted by commentators before him, from Servius and La Cerda to Conington, Traina, and Horsfall, among so many others. Like the Sibyl’s cave, unde ruunt totidem uoces, this commentary is bursting with ideas, suggestions, and roadmaps for paths not taken as well as firm guidance for moving forward; but in place of the Sibyl’s irrational rabies Tarrant offers us astute, but equally inspired, ratio. In addition, the commentary itself is prefaced by an Introduction that is a model of breadth and succinctness. In it, Tarrant provides a judicious discussion of the most prominent structural, thematic, and metrical features of Aeneid 12; this general material is complemented by a careful focus on the figure of Turnus and on the book’s final scene. Tarrant cuts through interminable (or so it seems) debates about cast of character, moral high ground, and manifest destiny to set out the issues systematically, with ever an attentive eye on both the poem and its critical history. The end result is a commentary that embodies the enduring commitment of the APA, even as it becomes the SCS, to classical literature and its scholarship; on behalf of the organization, therefore, this committee is delighted and honored to award the Goodwin Prize to Richard Tarrant.
C. J. Goodwin Award of Merit Committee
Peter T. Struck, Chair
Barbara Weiden Boyd
Alain M. Gowing