The members of the Committee on the C. J. Goodwin Award of Merit are delighted to announce that the 2021 winners of the Goodwin Awards are Aileen R. Das (University of Michigan), Ellen Oliensis (University of California Berkeley), and Andreas Willi (University of Oxford).
Please click on the names below to read the full award citations written by committee members David Konstan and James I. Porter (co-chairs), Harriet Flower, Richard Hunter, and Amy Richlin.
It may be hard for us to imagine that medicine might have an inferiority complex with respect to philosophy. In classical antiquity, however, doctors understandably prided themselves on the status of their discipline as a technical skill (technē); this was a tribute to their claims to specialized knowledge and its practical applications—its capacity to improve lives. But in doing so, the physicians left their craft open to comparison with other, often humbler technai, such as carpentry or the smith’s trade, which lacked the higher rigor of true science (epistēmē). As the most prolific medical authority since Hippocrates, Galen was not content to see his profession demeaned in this way, and he endeavored to elevate it as a theoretical system that could enhance the understanding of the cosmos on a par with classical metaphysics. To sustain his pretensions, Galen turned to Plato’s Timaeus, in some ways an odd choice, since Plato was a clear defender of philosophy’s superiority to any empirical study of the organic body, but also a natural choice, since the Timaeus offers an account of the cosmic body. As a result of Galen’s attention, the Timaeus in later antiquity into the medieval period became what Das terms “a universal text.” Galen’s understanding of Plato became a flash point in the reception of both the Timaeus and his own writings.
Galen’s authority was felt, above all, in the Arabic-speaking world. In Iraq, the great ninth-century translator Ḥunayn ibn Isḥāq appealed to Galen to lend authority to his own specialty, ophthalmology, which he situated at the juncture of the human body and cosmology. A century on in Iran, the Muslim doctor Abū Bakr al-Rāzī took Galen to task for playing down God’s role in the cosmos, and so sought to Platonize Galen and to Galenize Plato by erecting the ideal of the philosophical doctor. Avicenna, in the early tenth century, introduced Aristotelian perspectives, especially in psychology, into the Platonic-Galenic view of perception and sensation, producing a hybrid of all three influences. Finally, the great medieval Jewish thinker Moses Maimonides attempted to delegitimize Galen’s appeal to Plato’s Timaeus, and so too the philosophical credentials of both writers, since Plato had denied creation out of nothing and hence God’s omnipotence.
With a sure command of Greek, Arabic, and Hebrew sources (among others) and a sophisticated sense of reception as opposed to mere transmission, informed by contemporary studies (STS and sociology of knowledge), Das expands the horizons not only of classical philology but also of the very concept of a discipline. Boundaries between disciplines (science, philosophy, theology), between ancient and modern thought, and between East and West are shown in this work to be provisional lines that are constantly and productively being redrawn and intertwined. For its scope and originality, its erudition, and its challenging perspectives, we are pleased to honor Aileen Das’s Galen and the Arabic Reception of Plato’s “Timaeus” with the Goodwin Award of Merit.
Who is Ovid? Is he the often hapless, morally tawdry lover he professes to be in the Amores (and elsewhere, too), or the verbally dexterous, suave poet, master of a thousand rhetorical techniques, whose very control of language seems to render him passionless, a mere technician without the earnest sincerity of a Catullus or a Propertius? Take the second couplet in the first of the Amores, in which Ovid explains why he abandoned epic for love poetry:
par erat inferior uersus; risisse Cupido
dicitur atque unum surripuisse pedem.
We know the story: Cupid pulls his usual trick of inflaming the poet’s desire so that he cannot help but write amatory verse. But, as Oliensis observes, that is not quite what the impish god does here. Rather, he altered the form of Ovid’s verses, transforming what was on course to be a hexameter composition into elegiac couplets by stealing one metrical foot and turning the second line into a pentameter. This device, as Oliensis observes, “exposes a very deep truth about love poetry. Poets who sit down to write love poetry are necessarily, while they are writing, poets first and lovers secondarily.”
Then what about Ovid’s persona in the verses? Oliensis gives him a name: Naso, as opposed to the poet Ovid. But Naso, it turns out, is not as simple a character as we might imagine, the foil for the poet’s own attachment to his poetry. Oliensis argues rather that Naso himself is erotically invested in the elegiac medium. It is not just Ovid: Naso too wonders what to write, and it is he who is faced with the choice between elegy and, this time, tragedy in the opening poem of Book 3. Such a choice, however, may seem a pale substitute for the living bodies that are the object of true erotic desire, and critics have pondered the logic of absence in this connection. A fine Latinist writing at the top of her form, Oliensis rather argues for “the pleasurable effects that texts can have on their readers and producers, not just as poor makeshifts ... but in their own right, not despite but by virtue of their textuality.” Sometimes lack itself is a pleasure, as Oliensis demonstrates with an elegant analysis of the way a pentameter line folds into and caresses its hexameter, inflecting the meaning as it folds and unfolds: an erotics of meter. Oliensis’ nuanced exploration of the double nature of Ovid’s Amores brings a refined sensibility to the interpretation of Ovid’s loves, of what we may call the corpus of his poetry, and in appreciation of her insights we are pleased to honor her book with the Goodwin Award of Merit.
This remarkable book is a bountiful storehouse of information on the proto-history and history of the Greek verb, a re-examination of some of the longest held views about the place of the Greek verb in the story of Proto-Indo-European and, above all, an explicit call to debate and further research. The book is a paradigm of detailed, technical philology, as well as an enlightening history of linguistic scholarship, but it is also a demonstration of how and why historical linguistics should matter to students of ancient literatures, even where many such students will be unable to follow the detailed linguistic arguments. Willi’s chapter on the augment, for example, sheds light all over the interpretation of the text of Homer.
The richness of the Greek verbal system means, in Willi’s persuasive account, that it should be at the heart of the study of the Proto-Indo-European verb, for it is only in Greek where aspect, rather than tense, continued to play the central role it seems to have done in PIE. Willi’s method is to proceed phenomenon by phenomenon to peel back the layers and reveal what happened very long ago, as imperfective formations came to be used as perfectives: reduplicated aorist, reduplicated present, the perfect, the thematic aorist, the augment and the sigmatic aorist all receive detailed chapters of historical investigation. The book’s attempt to offer an all-encompassing vision of the proto-history of the Greek verb is a challenge to comfortably received opinion and a genuine step forward in the field.
There is much in this hugely ambitious book which is (inevitably) speculative and where some will not wish to follow. In particular, Willi seeks to go back beyond the PIE verbal system to ‘Pre-Proto-Indo-European’ where, in his reconstruction, an ergative system gave way to the nominative-accusative system with which we are familiar. The speculation is built on remarkable command of the linguistic evidence, and it is certain to prompt further debate, both at the level of detail and also methodologically. What kinds of arguments are appropriate to such reconstructions and where do you draw the line and decide not to speculate further (a central question which Willi explicitly faces)?
Willi’s book is likely to be the basic starting-point for both discussion and high-level teaching of this subject for many years to come; it is as rich in reference material and the presentation of the evidence as it is in argument and provocation. It is also very elegantly written, despite the high level of technicality. For its scope, intellectual ambition and remarkable learning we are pleased to honor Andreas Willi’s Origins of the Greek Verb with the Goodwin Award of Merit.