2021 Goodwin Awards of Merit

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.

Aileen R. Das

Ellen Oliensis

Andreas Willi

Citation for Aileen R. Das, Galen and the Arabic Reception of Plato’s Timaeus, Cambridge University Press, 2020

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.

Citation for Ellen Oliensis, Loving Writing/Ovid’s Amores, Cambridge University Press, 2019

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.

Citation for Andreas Willi, Origins of the Greek Verb, Cambridge University Press, 2018

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.

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Broken Statue of Ramses II

The Ancient Worlds, Modern Communities initiative, launched by the SCS in 2019 as the Classics Everywhere initiative, supports projects that seek to engage broader publics — individuals, groups, and communities — in critical discussion of and creative expression related to the ancient Mediterranean, the global reception of Greek and Roman culture, and the history of teaching and scholarship in the field of classical studies. As part of this initiative, the SCS has funded 98 projects, ranging from school programming to reading groups, prison programs, public talks and conferences, digital projects, and collaborations with artists in theater, opera, music, dance, and the visual arts. The initiative welcomes applications from all over the world. To date, it has funded projects in 25 states and 10 countries, including Canada, UK, Italy, Greece, Belgium, Ghana, Puerto Rico, Argentina and India.

View full article. | Posted in on Wed, 06/02/2021 - 8:07pm by .
Penelope and the Suitors, by John William Waterhouse. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Blog: Weaving Humanity Together: How Weaving Reveals Human Unity in Ancient Times

To start with, she lived a respectable life, frugal and hard;
she earned her living by weaving and spinning wool.

primum haec pudice uitam parce ac duriter
agebat, lana ac tela uictum quaeritans.

— Terence the African (P. Terentius Afer), The Girl from Andros, 74–75

This line drew my attention because I am an avid fiber artist. When I am not reading, teaching, and writing about Classics and its connection to Black people, I am in my wool room, lost in the magical world of fiber arts. This line from The Girl from Andros has led me on a new journey of discovering fiber arts in ancient times.

View full article. | Posted in on Wed, 06/02/2021 - 1:18pm by .
Ravenna Mosaic. Image courtesy of Elizabeth Herzfeldt-Kamprath.

The Covid-19 pandemic has brought historical epidemics into contemporary public awareness on a massive scale. Although ancient pandemics have been studied in detail since at least the 19th century, over the past year, outbreaks of the past have become apparently more relevant for what they might offer us today. Of course, the interest in historical pandemics seems to increase every time contemporary diseases draw public attention. Over the last three decades, HIV/AIDS, Ebola, and Zika, among others, have made headlines, increasing interest in past diseases, even if not on the same scale as Covid. Presentist concerns, unsurprisingly, drive historical research.

View full article. | Posted in on Fri, 05/28/2021 - 10:26am by .

This is a reminder that the AIA-SCS Future Meetings Survey is now available.

Please click here to access the survey, which should take no more than 15 minutes to complete.

The survey will remain open until May 31.

The 2022 Annual Meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, January 5 – Saturday, January 8 in San Francisco at the Hilton Union Square, with the Parc 55 hotel serving as an overflow property. AIA and SCS signed contracts with these hotels several years prior to COVID-19, and we realize that attendees’ expectations and needs have changed since then owing to concerns about public health, accessibility, and cost. With this in mind, please take some time to fill out our survey on the 2022 meeting and on longer term planning for our conferences. The survey results will assist us in determining the optimal format and structure for our 2022 meeting and beyond.

View full article. | Posted in SCS Announcements on Tue, 05/25/2021 - 1:36pm by Erik Shell.

Dickinson Summer Latin Workshop 2021: Ovid’s Little Aeneid

Dates: July 12-16, 2021

Location: Zoom link to be provided to registered participants

Text: Ovid, Metamorphoses 13.623–14.582

Moderators: Meghan Reedy (D. Phil. Oxford), Christopher Francese (Prof. of Classical Studies, Dickinson College)

Cost: $200

View full article. | Posted in Conferences, Lectures, and Meetings on Mon, 05/24/2021 - 5:36pm by Erik Shell.
14th century illustrated manuscript of Omne Bonum (by James le Palmer – British Library MS Royal 6 E. VI, fol. 301ra); it shows a bishop instructing clerics with leprosy.

What use is Covid-19? Despite its epidemiological and socioeconomic consequences, can this pandemic do anything good for scholars? For Classicists? For one thing, we have seen the capacity of the virus to generate numerous themed conferences, journal volumes, and lecture series. Whether that’s a “good thing” is another matter. But, at the very least, we may say that this global pandemic renders a cluster of ideas more broadly interesting and salient than usual.

For some scholars, such events have proved fortuitous: say, for example, Kyle Harper, whose The Fate of Rome: Climate, Disease, and the End of and Empire appeared in late 2017 and dealt with disease and pandemic in late antiquity. Frank M. Snowden’s Epidemics and Society: From the Black Death to the Present has witnessed renewed interest. For some scholars, Classicists or not, Covid-19 has highlighted their work. No one likes to benefit from a public emergency — as a former wildland firefighter, a profession which lives for forest fires, I know the feeling — but it happens. It is outside our control.

View full article. | Posted in on Fri, 05/21/2021 - 10:08am by Carson M Bay.
Mary Beard in conversation with Vanessa Stovall and Ky Merkley

In Dialogue: Trans Studies and Classics works to bring some of the insights and lived experiences found in transgender studies into conversation with the Classics, in the hope that bringing these into dialogue with each other will enrich our pedagogy, deepen our understanding of what gender as an identity category even means, and help critique the various ways gender has been used as an instrument of power throughout history, while also creating a more inclusive and supportive environment for our students. If you’d like to contribute to this column or have ideas that could add to this conversation, email Ky Merkley.

When the latest ‘Twitter storm’ (to quote Mary Beard) broke out, my Twitter feed rapidly filled with heated denunciations of ‘cancel culture,’ cruel words directed at trans folx, and pontifications about the state of Classics. For many members of the trans community, this Twitter ‘dialogue’ was exhausting. Every day, a new blog post or article added more fuel to an ever-growing fire.

View full article. | Posted in on Mon, 05/17/2021 - 10:19am by .
LGBT Meets SPQR Logo

I wish that LGBT Meets SQPR had existed as I began my journey into Greco-Roman antiquity in high school. As a closeted gay youth, I was eager to find stories, experiences, and anecdotes that could help me understand my identity better and not feel quite so alone. Modern LGBTQIA+ youth seem to gravitate towards Classics for such resources and community-building. In a survey conducted by Hannah Clarke, young queer people indicated that their interest in Classics stemmed from the fact that “Classics remedies, to a certain extent, anxieties of feeling culturally temporary. [The survey respondents] describe the visibility of queer figures in Classics classes as providing a sort of temporal anchor, which proves that they are not the result of a trend, something that came about in the 70s, something that is having a moment and could potentially vanish once more.”

View full article. | Posted in on Fri, 05/14/2021 - 10:06am by Daniel Libatique.

The 2021 season of the Digital Classicist London seminar is on the theme of world classics: we have put together a programme of speakers who are working with digital humanities and digital classics methods to the study of antiquity—whether language, corpora, archaeology—from across the world. All sessions are streamed live on Youtube, and will also be available to watch there afterwards.

All seminars at 17:00 (UK time).

View full article. | Posted in Conferences, Lectures, and Meetings on Tue, 05/11/2021 - 5:27pm by Erik Shell.

(Sent on behalf of Lawrence Kowerski)

Dear friends of the Classics Program at Hunter College,

Please join us Friday, May 14, at 5pm for the 83rd Josephine Earle Memorial Lecture (see the attached poster). The lecture is taking place virtually over Zoom, and pre-registration is required at the link below. In addition to the lecture, the event will begin with a student award ceremony and a celebration of recent graduates from the Classics Program at Hunter.

83rd Josephine Earle Memorial Lecture, Friday, May 14, 5-7pm

"What did the Romans want from their law?"

Michael Peachin, Professor of Classics (New York University)

Register at this link:

https://huntercollege.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZwodu2prDwjHd0KuXntHJFFpwQ8YOY6WivN

(If the link doesn't take you to a registration screen when you click on it, please try cutting and pasting it manually into your browser. After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.)

We hope to see many of you there!

Lawrence Kowerski
Associate Professor in Classics (Hunter College and CUNY Graduate Center)

View full article. | Posted in Conferences, Lectures, and Meetings on Tue, 05/11/2021 - 4:41pm by Erik Shell.

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