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The Goodwin Award Committee is delighted to announce the three winners of this year's Charles J. Goodwin Award of Merit. The Goodwin Awards honor outstanding contributions to classical scholarship by members of the Society.

Deborah Tarn Steiner, Choral Constructions in Greek Culture: The Idea of the Chorus in the Poetry, Art and Social Practices of the Archaic and Early Classical Period, Cambridge 2021.

James Uden, Spectres of Antiquity: Classical Literature and the Gothic, 1740-1830, Oxford 2020.

Katharina Volk, The Roman Republic of Letters: Scholarship, Philosophy, and Politics in the Age of Cicero and Caesar, Princeton 2021.

You can read the full award citations by clicking on the links above.

Deborah Tarn Steiner, Choral Constructions in Greek Culture: The Idea of the Chorus in the Poetry, Art and Social Practices of the Archaic and Early Classical Period

Steiner’s book is a very richly suggestive series of soundings in what might be termed choral culture: her concern is not just with the place of choruses in Greek performative and dramatic life, but also with ‘the idea of the chorus and song-dance’ more generally, with how choral organisation and performance were used to imagine and order very many different facets of both public and private life. The book is a paradigm example of the fruitfulness of studying literary texts alongside iconographic representations, not only for the light each can throw upon the other, but also for the differences between them which are thus laid bare. Steiner shows remarkable control of modern scholarship on both literary texts and artefacts. From this perspective, Steiner’s work should serve as a protreptic to other scholars and as hugely instructive for graduate students.

The importance of the idea of the chorus to Greek ways of imagining both the large (e.g. the dance of the stars) and the small (individual metaphors) has of course long been recognised. Steiner has, however, not merely filled out this picture by her well-chosen and amply documented studies, but also put it on a quite new footing by the scope of her work, which ranges from the earliest texts and images to post-classical rhetorical theory and inscriptions, and by her admirably close reading of those texts and images. Some of the juxtapositions are of a familiar kind – Homer and geometric pots, for example – whereas others, shifting patterns of ‘dancing letters’ from inscribed pots and Theran graffiti, for example, will be eye-opening for most readers. Steiner’s insistence on the necessity to study both texts and images is clearly announced in her first chapter on Hephaestus’ automata and the Shield of Achilles in Iliad 18, which spreads out to a rich study involving Pindar (an author at the centre of many of Steiner’s arguments) and the myths of Hephaestus more broadly. Steiner’s method is to begin from a single text or artefact and move out from there to show the manifold interlocking connections across time.

Steiner’s chapters are arranged thematically, but that adverb does not do justice to the range of the material covered. Animals are naturally important to the arguments - choruses of (real or fictional) birds in both art and literature, horses dancing free in ‘choral’ processions – but so are buildings – columns and rows of statues as choruses – and the dancing choruses of ships and islands. A particularly enlightening chapter considers the insistently prominent relation between textile manufacture, notably weaving, and choreia, as female activities in the service of divinity. Steiner traces these links not just through large-scale iconographic patterns, but also in the detailed texture of poetic language and metaphor itself. This chapter places the very familiar ‘weaving ~ poetic composition’ analogy in a completely new context.

Steiner’s book will be a standard point of reference for years to come. It is a wonderfully full collection of evidence for others to exploit, as well as a very ambitious work which brims with its own persuasive arguments and suggested connections. The book is beautifully produced and the writing always clear and elegant. For its sheer range and its success in opening up new ways of seeing how the chorus was central to Greek culture at almost every level we are pleased to honor Deborah Steiner’s Choral Constructions in Greek Culture with the Goodwin Award of Merit.

James Uden, Spectres of Antiquity: Classical Literature and the Gothic, 1740-1830

Spectres of Antiquity is a brilliantly written and compulsively readable book about the haunting of the Gothic imagination by ghosts of the classical past. James Uden leads with the opening scene from The Castle of Otranto, where a father sees his son crushed to death by a heavy ancestral helmet. Through Uden’s reading of this horrifying spectacle, we see the crushing weight of history in Walpole’s “Gothic Story,” and also the historical emergence of Gothic as a genre that wrestles with classical antiquity’s persistent power in Enlightenment Britain. Offering a critical counterweight to the usual opposition of the Classical and the Gothic, Uden insists on “a specific psychic condition of the eighteenth-century: its attraction and horror toward an ‘eternal’ classical past that now seemed stubbornly undead.”

Chapter by chapter, Uden goes on to demonstrate how the Classical is a vital constituent of the Gothic in English literature from 1740 to 1830. He considers mid-eighteenth-century critics whose writing on antiquity shaped later Gothic tropes, and he traces the development of an unclassical aesthetic through the dismemberment of classical texts in novels, poetry, drama, travel narratives, journals, translations, imitations, epigraphs, and quotations. The book is full of insights unique to Uden based on his knowledge of Latin literature: “shards of untranslated Latin” in the writings of Ann Radcliffe; Walpole’s student letter signed “Horatius Italicus”; canny translations of Horace and Juvenal by Matthew Lewis that reveal and conceal the “queer antiquity” of The Monk; the ironic undoing of the cult of Cicero in Charles Brockden Brown’s American Gothic novels; the uncanny incorporation of Latin authors by Mary Shelley, as she calls into question a romantic identification between the classical and the modern, past and present.

Uden’s intricately detailed and elaborately structured book is built (like Gothic architecture) to create an overarching argument. He moves from exploring Gothic as a genre to theorizing a Gothic mode of reading that is not limited to eighteenth-century literature: “In reading the classics in a Gothic mode, then, we are primarily reading a mode of resistance to the classical, a mode that questions the authority of the past by representing its remnants in a hollowed-out or exaggeratedly fragmented form.” A sustained analysis of the Gothic mode opens up different models for responding to classical antiquity, as he concludes: “Gothic metaphors conceptualize a variety of responses that go beyond the somewhat bland metaphor of reception.”

The Gothic metaphor of haunting may indeed lead beyond the dead-ends of classical reception studies into thrilling new spaces, much as Uden writes of Lewis, “like secret doorways in a crowded room.” Uden has a great eye, and when he pushes the details, they often cause a secret door to pop open. For opening the doors to reading classical and Gothic texts in relation to each other, for attending closely to different forms of classical translation and imitation, and for an original approach to English literary history that conceptualizes multiple pasts and futures for classical reception, we are pleased to honor James Uden with the Goodwin Award of Merit.

Katharina Volk, The Roman Republic of Letters: Scholarship, Philosophy, and Politics in the Age of Cicero and Caesar

Over the first-century BCE, Rome was undergoing a cultural flourishing as some of the most influential and remarkable pieces of Latin literature and philosophy were being produced by a closely intertwined group of intellectuals, who all knew each other, read one another's works in progress, and dedicated the finished products to other members of this same circle. At the same time, such figures were also engaging with each other in the world of politics, and sometimes doing so in deeply antagonistic ways. In her remarkable new book, entitled The Roman Republic of Letters: Scholarship, Philosophy, and Politics in the Age of Cicero and Caesar (Princeton, 2021), a work which combines wide and deep learning with a light touch, Katharina Volk seeks to illuminate this integrated world so distinctive for its “comradeship of studies” and to treat the intellectual and political lives of this senatorial community as interlocking parts of one and the same story. In a Roman context, the nature of these intellectual pursuits was not felt to be remote from these men’s role as political leaders. In a variety of perceptive and brilliant ways, Volk brings out the way in which intellectual activities had a political charge and application, while political actions were informed by intellectual habits and especially by philosophical convictions. In the Roman world at least, you simply could not have one activity without the other, and that matters.

Volk’s carefully researched case studies include Cicero, Julius Caesar, Marcus Brutus, Varro, Cato, Cassius Longinus, and Nigidius Figulus, with a focus on the turbulent years between 63 and 43 BC. Especially commendable is the range of different subjects and angles covered in the discussion, even as each is brought into dialogue with others. Philosophy, the dominant theme, interacts with religion, antiquarianism, Roman history, cosmology, political theory, linguistics, and science. As Volk shows, despite and often because of intense political chaos, Roman senators and their friends drew both inspiration and solace from their shared intellectual projects. Volk’s treatment is notable for its deep learning and clear exposition. It will make many of these areas more accessible to students and others beyond the ranks of the specialist reader.

Volk begins her incisive study with a memorable quotation: “The past is an immense area of stony ground that many people would like to drive across as if it were a road, while others move patiently from stone to stone, lifting each one because they need to know what lies beneath” (José Saramago, The Elephant’s Journey. On behalf of Volk’s fellow-travellers across the stony ground in today’s societas studiorum, the SCS is delighted to award the Charles Goodwin Award of Merit to Katharina Volk for lifting the stones so deftly and revealing what lies beneath. We congratulate her warmly for her ground-breaking achievement in elucidating the complex literary and philosophical culture of the late Roman Republic within its rapidly evolving political landscape.

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