In Memoriam: Georg Nicolaus Knauer

(From the UPenn website)

G. N. Knauer, 1926–2018

Georg Nicolaus Knauer, Emeritus Professor of Classical Studies at the University of Pennsylvania, died on October 28, 2018 in Haverford, PA at the age of 92. His long life and career were distinguished by high scholarly achievement and enriched by extensive travel and many friendships. He was also deeply involved in political controversies that were the result of two tragic events that affected so many Germans of his generation: the rise of National Socialism in their youth and the division of Germany into two separate states in their maturity.

Nico, as his friends knew him, was born in Hamburg on February 26, 1926. In 1944, he was drafted into the Wehrmacht and dispatched to the Eastern front at a time when the German defense against the Red Army of the USSR was starting to collapse. Very soon after his arrival, he was almost killed by a land mine, which destroyed most of his right leg. That he even survived is remarkable enough, but his relentless refusal to let this injury limit his activities is in some ways even more so.

After the war, Nico studied Classics at the University of Hamburg with Ernst Zinn, the classicist who also produced that generation’s standard edition of Rilke’s complete works. Nico earned his PhD in 1952 for a dissertation on Psalm citations in the Confessions of St. Augustine, which laid the methodological foundations of his subsequent work. From 1952 to 1954 he was a fellow at the Institute for the Thesaurus Linguae Latinae in Munich, and then from 1954 to 1974 he taught at the Free University of Berlin, rising through the ranks from Assistent to Professor Ordinarius. He is best known for the book that originated as his 1961 Habilitationsschrift on Vergil’s imitation of Homer in the Aeneid, which was published as Die Aeneis und Homer in1964. During these same years, he was a British Council Scholar at the University of London (1957–1958), Visiting Professor at Yale University (1965–1966), Nelly Wallace Lecturer at Oxford University (1969), and a member of the Institute for Advanced Study (1973–1974). In 1975 he moved to Penn, where he remained until his retirement in 1988.Honors continued to accrue: he was in 1978 Visiting Professor at Columbia University, in 1979 a Guggenheim Fellow, in 1984 a Fellow of the National Endowment for the Humanities, in 1985 a Resident of the American Academy in Rome, in 1989 a Resident of the Rockefeller Foundation in Bellagio, and in 1991 and 2002 a Guest Researcher of the Herzog August Bibliothek in Wolfenbüttel.

At the time of his death, Nico had been working for years on a vast project to catalogue and contextualize commentaries on and translations of the works of Homer from antiquity to the Renaissance. Although he was not able to see the project through to publication, he left it very close to completion, along with a substantial archive of research materials on which it is based.  It will be finished and published posthumously, and he made provisions for this to happen.

No remembrance of Nico Knauer could be complete without mention of his wife, Kezia, with whom he shared his personal and professional life from before their wedding in 1951 until Kezia’s death in 2010. Kezia’s real name was Elfriede, and she used that name officially, e.g. as the author of many scholarly publications; but almost no one called her that, and therein lies a tale. Because she and her twin sister, Sybil, were born while their father was away on a business trip, the babies were not actually named until his return. In the interim, a midwife decided to call them Kezia and Keren-happuch after two of Job’s daughters from his second family (cf. Job 42.14). The name Kezia stuck, because everyone hated Elfriede, with the result that many people were unaware what Kezia’s “real” name was. (According to family lore, during a party to celebrate Nico and Kezia’s wedding, Nico’s father answered a phone call from a well-wisher, which caused him to turn to those assembled and ask, in puzzlement and horror, “Is there anyone here named Elfriede?”) Kezia was a classical archaeologist and art historian who specialized in iconography, but became an expert in an astoundingly wide variety of subjects. Perhaps chief among these was the Silk Road as a vector of culture between East Asia and the ancient Mediterranean basin. One result of this interest was that Nico and Kezia spent decades traveling together, he in search of humanist translations and commentaries on Homer (the bulk of them preserved in unpublished manuscripts in European libraries, large and small), she in pursuit of information about all aspects of trade, religion, art and architecture, and especially textiles, in the Middle East, Central Asia, and East Asia. Together, Nico and Kezia were among the last foreigners to visit freely countries like Afghanistan (where they photographed the now-destroyed Buddhas of Bamyan) between the time when that country’s war with the Soviet Union ended and the current American war against the Taliban and Isis began. When the improbable Karakoram highway between Pakistan and Xinjiang province in China was completed, they were on a bus there a few months later, rolling past washouts at high altitudes. They were genuinely indefatigable.

After more than half a century, Nico’s study of Vergil and Homer remains one of the most frequently cited books in the field of Classics, and it enjoys what will probably be a permanent place in bibliographies of Vergil and Latin literary studies generally. Its success is the more remarkable in that not all agree with its premises and methods, which are extremely positivistic and, as such, somewhat out of synch with contemporary notions of imitative, emulative, and allusive relationships among classical poets. Still, there are few serious students of Vergil who have not profited from this work. Indeed, it has advanced the field by inspiring both adaptive imitation of its methods among sympathetic scholars, and committed opposition, revision, and the adoption of methods based on quite different assumptions on the part of skeptics. In addition, despite an approach that looks back to the nineteenth century rather than forward to the twenty-first, the book is in many ways ahead of its time, not only in its firm commitment to the study of what ae now called intertextual relations as a fundamental and immensely creative component of classical Latin poetics, but also in its anticipation of contemporary reception studies. This is especially evident in its first chapter, which traces the growing familiarity with Homer in the early modern period through the gradual discovery by generations of Vergilian commentators of Homer’s extensive and detailed influence on their poet.

Although Nico’s scholarly vision drove him to take on projects of such scope that they would seem to have left him no time for other pursuits, he was deeply committed to the defense of specific social principles. His youthful experience of National Socialism convinced him that, after the end of World War II, it was of the utmost importance that European and, especially, German society be on the alert against any possible recrudescence of similar pathologies. Understandably, he initially expected that the likeliest threat would be from the political right; but his experience of Cold War realities in a divided Germany, and especially in occupied Berlin, convinced him that there was a more imminent danger from the left. Like many other German professors, he found it impossible to teach in the supercharged ideological atmosphere of the late sixties and early seventies. In response, he became one of the founding members and leaders of the Emergency Organization for a Free University (Notgemeinschaft für eine freie Universität) and the Freedom of Science Federation (Bund Freiheit der Wissenschaft). Ultimately, the volatile political situation caused Nico to move to the U.S. and to leave political action, though not strong political beliefs and opinions, behind.

Nico’s personal habits were ascetic and sybaritic in approximately equal measure. When he was hot on the trail of new evidence or the solution to an old problem, he would work long hours in the library without a break, sustaining himself with nothing but occasional spoonfuls of freeze-dried coffee crystals. When he felt he had the time for a proper lunch, he made it an occasion, usually enjoying the company of just one friend at a time, always with a carafe of white wine within reach. In either mode, even younger colleagues found it challenging to keep up with him. His enthusiasm for work and pleasure were equally great. The dinner parties that he and Kezia hosted from time to time in their high-rise apartment, filled with books and overlooking Philadelphia’s Fairmount Park, were memorable events. Nico always cut a dashing figure, with his bow ties (many of them made by Kezia from fabrics collected during their travels), his beret, his scarf (a souvenir from a visiting stint at Corpus Christi College, Oxford), and his silver-handled walking stick. He drove his red VW Golf, specially outfitted to accommodate his injury, like a Formula 1 racer. He especially enjoyed driving in Rome. His Penn students were in awe of both his personal and his intellectual style, recognizing that, through him, they had some contact with scholars like Eduard Fraenkel, Bruno Snell, Otto Skutsch, and many other great names from long ago and far away. He felt keenly the responsibility to pass on what his teachers had given him, insisting that the entire point of our work is to serve “the next generation,” one of his favorite and most often repeated phrases.

Nico Knauer is survived by Dr. Sabine Solf, his close companion during the years since Kezia’s death, a few family members, and many devoted students and colleagues.

---

(Photo: "Candle" by Shawn Carpenter, licensed under CC BY 2.0; picture of Georg Knauer used with permission)   

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The Classical Reception Studies Network was formed in early 2004 as a collaboration between six universities with research specialisms in various aspects of Classical Reception Studies. The aims of the Network include the promotion of rigorous debate about all aspects of classical reception studies and the development of seminars and workshops to encourage the exchange of expertise and growth of collaborative projects (including the supervision of graduate students). Data is being collected on the research and teaching currently undertaken in Classical departments in the UK and the Republic of Ireland. Collection of information about classical reception studies in other Arts and Humanities departments will follow and it is intended to extend the survey to international contacts. Data collected to date is now available as a searchable online database. The web site also provides links to research and teaching resources.

View full article. | Posted in Websites and Resources on Thu, 03/22/2012 - 3:20pm by .

From The Telegraph online:

After 244 years, the printed version of the Encyclopaedia Britannica has died a death, killed off by Google and Wikipedia. It’s sad to say goodbye to any venerable institution that’s lasted almost a quarter of a millennium but, still, the writing’s been on the wall for the encyclopaedia for several years now. And now the writing’s on the screen only – the great general knowledge reference work will live on in a digital format.

The idea of printing a sort of omnium gatherum – a collection of everything of any interest – seems ludicrous these days, as well as impossible, when the job is done so much better by a tiny laptop, thinner than a single volume of Britannica. What chance then for two new mammoth publications, out this week – the fourth edition of the Oxford Classical Dictionary (OCD), 1,680 pages long, costing £100; and the second edition of the Oxford Latin Dictionary, with 2,344 pages, going for £275.

View full article. | Posted in Book Reviews on Mon, 03/19/2012 - 12:34pm by Information Architect.

Dear fellow APA members,

Hadrian's Villa, the UNESCO World Heritage Site near Tivoli, is at risk. The City of Rome is under orders from the EU to close its biggest garbage dump at a place called Malagrotta. Since fall of 2011 the government has been looking for a new site to replace Malagrotta. Unbelievable as it may sound, the locality chosen is Corcolle, which is located at the doorstep of Hadrian's Villa.

As might be expected, the recommendation to use Corcolle has encountered stiff opposition. The City of Tivoli, the Ministry of Culture, and the Province of Rome have all gone on record with objections. Many civic groups and Italian citizens have also protested this irresponsible scheme. On February 26, 2012, an international petition was launched on the iPetitions website. In just over two weeks, we have collected more than 3,300 signatures. A list of cultural leaders and professors of classics, archaeology, and cultural heritage who have already signed can be seen on the website.

I write to urge all APA members to sign the petition now, before it is too late. Join people from all walks of life and from all four corners of the earth who have banded together to protest this unconscionable plan.

View full article. | Posted in Classics in the News on Sun, 03/18/2012 - 1:21am by Information Architect.

Jeffrey Beneker recently received a Distinguished Teaching Award at the University of Wisconsin. Read about it in the University of Wisconsin-Madison News.

View full article. | Posted in Member News on Wed, 03/14/2012 - 1:32pm by .

The APA is a member of the National Humanities Alliance (NHA), a consortium of organizations concerned about funding and policies that affect the humanities in the United States.   The NHA has sent us the following message about a "Dear Colleague" letter being circulated in the U. S. House of Representatives urging appropriators there to support President Obama's request for a slight increase in the Endowment's budget for the next fiscal year.  If possible, please get in touch with your Representative by this Friday, March 16 to urge him or her to support this funding for the NEH.

Adam D. Blistein
Executive Director

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View full article. | Posted in SCS Announcements on Mon, 03/12/2012 - 5:37pm by Adam Blistein.

Our tireless Gateway Campaign Committee is leading the APA down the home stretch as we approach our July 31st deadline for completing our NEH Challenge Grant match.  Nearly 1,000 APA members and others devoted to classical antiquity have contributed to the Gateway Campaign to date.  We have a total of $2.2 million and the Endowment for Classics Research and Teaching has become a reality.  We need another $400,000 if we are to keep every NEH dollar in the Endowment working to provide sophisticated and accessible tools for Classics scholars, develop future generations of inspired and diverse Classics teachers, and make high quality information about Classics available to the largest possible audience both inside and outside the scholarly community.  Visit the Campaign News section of the APA web site for the most up-to-date information and learn how you can help us to fill our Campaign amphora.

View full article. | Posted in SCS Announcements on Fri, 03/09/2012 - 6:23pm by Adam Blistein.

We are in the process of transferring the web site for the placement service to a new host. The site will be down for a while. We'll post an update when it is back up and ready to use.

View full article. | Posted in SCS Announcements on Mon, 03/05/2012 - 11:14pm by .

The Chronicle of Higher Education has a crossword puzzle with a Latin theme ("Ex Libris") this week. Download it (and the application for seeing it on your screen) here.

View full article. | Posted in Classics in the News on Sun, 03/04/2012 - 6:48pm by Information Architect.

From the Baylor Lariat:

An ancient Roman comedy and other Latin activities will kick off the weekend for a group of high school students celebrating ancient Roman culture. Baylor’s Classics Department is having its ninth annual Latin Day from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. today.

Undergraduate students will provide Latin-themed activities for about 200 high schoolers from across Texas, but the day can be enjoyed by anyone, said , assistant professor of classics.

A comedic play written by Plautus and directed by Dr. , professor in the classics department, is expected to be the most popular event, Hanchey said.

Read the rest of the story here.

View full article. | Posted in Classics in the News on Sun, 03/04/2012 - 3:35pm by Information Architect.

The APA web site now contains our audited financial statements for the fiscal year that ended on June 30, 2011, and the Executive Director's report for the year ending December 31, 2011.  I apologize for the delay in submitting the latter report.

Adam D. Blistein
Executive Director

View full article. | Posted in SCS Announcements on Fri, 02/24/2012 - 8:18pm by Adam Blistein.

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