In Memoriam Valerie French

Valerie French, Associate Professor Emerita of History in American University, Washington, D.C., died suddenly in her home in Washington, Dec. 8, 2011, in her 71st year. She was born in Toledo, Ohio, Jan. 16, 1941. She received her B.A. degree in chemistry from Cornell University, where her interest in ancient history was awakened in classes under Donald Kagan. She pursued ancient history at UCLA, where she gained her M.A. and Ph. D. (1971) degrees, learning her needed languages in graduate school. She taught at American University from 1969 until her retirement in 2005. She received multiple awards for teaching and for her work in administration. Ebullient and supportive towards all, she served several years as a dean. She published widely on the history and activities of women and children in antiquity and sustained by herself the program in ancient history at American University. Other colleagues will discuss her work in these areas. This notice will focus on her strictly scientific work. It has remained little known but is of the highest importance for Greek, especially Athenian, history.

Her dissertation at UCLA was “The First Tribute Stele and the Athenian Empire, 455-445 B.C.,” 173 pp. It is unpublished but available from University Microfilms, under the name Valerie French Allen; she later gave up the name Allen and was known in her last decades by her maiden name, Valerie French. The official copy of the dissertation is held by the Department of History, UCLA. The work is a highly detailed study of the texts of the first ten of the Athenian tribute lists inscribed on the famous First Stele, or Lapis Primus, preserved in the Epigraphic Museum, Athens. The tribute lists constitute a document second only to Thucydides for our knowledge of fifth-century history. In this study French rigorously brought to bear her scientific training and proposed many important new readings and hypotheses. In measuring and reading the often worn and fragmentary letters she had the advice of Markellos Mitsos, the director of the EM, and of two of America’s preeminent epigraphists, Professors Ronald Stroud and Stephen Tracy. She drew attention to the need for multiple measurements of all ambiguous letters and preserved her many original readings in the notes to her discussion. The result is the only precise study of the texts of the tribute lists since the edition of the lists, known to all as ATL, by Meritt, Wade-Gery, and McGregor (Cambridge-Princeton, 1939-1953). Any future editor of the lists will inevitably have to use French’s work on the texts.

She submitted her manuscript to the University of California Press, which replied that it would not “publish all those numbers,” that is, her many records of measurements of the letters in her endnotes. Discouraged by this reply, she apparently lost interest in pursuing another publisher and turned to interests in other fields. Her publications in fifth-century classical studies are essentially limited to essays in Festschriften dedicated to Truesdell Brown, Donald Kagan, and Mortimer Chambers. The result is that her work on the Athenian empire has been all but totally overlooked. McGregor, who heard about it, requested from her a photocopy of her dissertation but seems to have made no use of it. It is briefly mentioned by Raphael Sealey in his A History of the Greek City States (Berkeley-Los Angeles 1976 etc., pp. 286, 296), in a discussion of W.K. Pritchett’s suggestion that a decorative relief, perhaps containing one list on its back, was mounted on the first stele above list 1. French (pp. 38-41) examined the surface at the top of the first stele and concluded that there was probably “a decorative relief which has been totally destroyed,” but she reserved judgment about whether this hypothetical relief also carried a list of a year’s tribute.

As one specimen of the originality and importance of her work, we may look at the first line of List 9 as numbered by ATL. This line is designated as a prescript by ATL (that is, it supposedly follows the usual formula at the head of a year’s record, “under the ninth board of treasurers, for which ... was secretary,” following which would come a list of cities that paid tribute. The reader will note, however, that only three Greek letters in the whole line are printed in ATL. The first is a dotted (that is, by epigraphic convention, uncertain) alpha, which ATL understands as the first letter of á¼€[ρχε̃ς], “board.” Eight letter-spaces farther on, ATL printed ἐν[á½±τες], “ninth,” in which both epsilon and nu are undotted, that is, considered certain by the editors.

Through repeated measurements of these supposed letters and the location of letters under them in the list of states paying tribute, specifically the name of the city Μενδα[á¿–οι], French showed that the undotted epsilon and nu of ἐν[á½±τες] cannot be read and, more crucially, that the whole line is not, as ATL held,  the prescript heading the records of tribute for the year. She finally sketched and interpreted the preserved marks as rho, gamma, alpha, part of [Βε]ργα[á¿–οι], a city in the Thraceward region; and the column in question contains only Thraceward names, thus “Bergaioi is the most likely restoration.”

French’s results support those of David Lewis, ABSA 49 (1954) 25-28, who with George Forrest had rejected the supposed alpha of á¼€[ρχε̃ς] as “no more than an accidental nick on a much-worn stone.” For Lewis, there was “a distinct possibility that the letters [sc. epsilon, nu of ATL’s ἐν[á½±τες] are not part of a prescript.” Lewis could not accept ATL’s ἐν[ and finallysaw “no alternative to the reading [Βερ]γ[αá¿–οι],” which was to be French’s final suggestion. Note, however, that she read rho, gamma, and a possible alpha, thus carrying the decipherment beyond Lewis. Her work on these letters, it will be seen, is not confined to rediscovering the name of one city, but requires a whole reconsideration of ATL’s list 9.

There is not enough space here to discuss the other critical subjects that French surveyed in her dissertation, such as ATL’s very adventurous opinion (barely accepted, reluctantly, by Meiggs-Lewis in their collection, p. 135) that in the year 449/8 the Athenians collected no tribute whatever and resumed collection in the next year. Rejecting this conclusion after detailed argument, French writes, “there is no ‘missing list,’ no year in which tribute was not collected” (p. 63). On all such topics French maintains her iron concentration and clear, vigorous prose;  and she provides data available nowhere else. Her work, based on a direct, hands-on study of the famous Lapis Primus, will surely some day receive the attention that it deserves.

Mortimer Chambers

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Revised 6/17/21 with updated submissions guidelines

As previously announced, Patrice Rankine and Sasha-Mae Eccleston will serve as guest editors of a future issue of TAPA with the theme of race, racism, and Classics (issue 153:1, to appear April 2023). Covid-19 and the global Movement 4 Black Lives have highlighted the extent to which racism is a public health emergency whose reach extends across the Black Atlantic and far beyond. In light of these deeply imbricated developments of 2020, this volume becomes even more timely. A detailed call for papers, along with instructions and deadlines for submission in 2021, follows.

Race and Racism: Beyond the Spectacular

…the “cultural logic” of lynching enables it to emerge and persist throughout the modern era because its violence “fit” within the broader, national cultural developments. This synchronicity captures why I refer to lynching as “spectacular”: the violence made certain cultural developments and tensions visible for Americans to confront.

Jacqueline Goldsby, A Spectacular Secret: Lynching in American Life and Literature

View full article. | Posted in Calls for Papers on Thu, 06/24/2021 - 8:49am by Helen Cullyer.
Scene from Lil Nas X's music video for MONTERO. A distorted image of a landscape with red trees, large ancient statues, and ancient buildings.

On the eve of March 26th, rapper and internet personality Lil Nas X dropped his newest single, “MONTERO (Call Me By Your Name),” which caused immense controversy in its wake. At its heart is a young, gay Black man’s anthem about self-expression, resembling a “coming-out song.” Lil Nas X himself implied this in a letter to his younger self, posted alongside the song’s release. The title references the 2017 film Call Me By Your Name (based on the 2007 André Aciman novel) about the summer relationship between a Classics professor’s son and doctoral student.

This allusion to the film is not the only sidelong glance that Lil Nas X gives to the Classics. One of the first establishing shots of the video shows the landscape of “MONTERO” littered with classically-inspired architecture:

A distorted image of a bleak landscape filled with ancient statues and ruins

View full article. | Posted in on Tue, 06/22/2021 - 8:51am by Vanessa Ruth Stovall.

The Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities The Hebrew University of Jerusalem cordially invite you to a Joint Conference on

Orality and Literacy XIV: Textualization

Sunday-Wednesday June 20-23, 2021

Sunday, June 20, 2021

Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities

View full article. | Posted in Conferences, Lectures, and Meetings on Mon, 06/21/2021 - 1:45pm by Erik Shell.

(Originally posted on haverford.edu)

Aryeh Kosman, Haverford's John Whitehead Professor of Philosophy Emeritus, died early [June 17] of complications following a fall. He was 85.

After receiving his undergraduate and M.A. degrees at the University of California, Berkeley, he briefly studied at Hebrew University before earning his Ph.D. from Harvard University. He joined the Haverford faculty as an assistant professor in 1962, was promoted to full professor in 1973, became the Whitehead Professor in 1987, and retired in 2010.

"Aryeh was a star in Greek Philosophy," says Joel Yurdin, Haverford associate professor of philosophy. "Many of his articles are required reading for anyone writing on the topic, and they covered virtually every area of the field, including metaphysics, ethics, philosophy of mind, and philosophy of science." Such scholarship led to visiting professorships at Princeton, UCLA, and Berkeley and, in 1985, an award for distinguished teaching from the Lindback Foundation. That honor affirmed what, by then, thousands of Fords already knew: Prof. Kosman was thoroughly devoted to his Haverford students.

View full article. | Posted in In Memoriam on Mon, 06/21/2021 - 10:20am by Erik Shell.

Call for Fellows: Data Visualizations Using the D’Argenio Collection

Seton Hall University – University Libraries (Fall 2021)
Application Deadline: July 15, 2021
Fellowship Period: Fall 2021

Background

Seton Hall University Libraries support excellence in academic and individual work, enable inquiry, foster intellectual and ethical integrity and respect for diverse points of view through user-focused services and robust collections as the intellectual and cultural heart of the University.  Walsh Gallery, based in the Library, manages the University’s museum collections, and the Library’s Data Services division assists the University community in managing and presenting their data.

View full article. | Posted in Awards and Fellowships on Wed, 06/16/2021 - 10:55am by Erik Shell.

The ACLS is running two searches this summer at ACLS. They seek a Program Officer in International Programs (regular ongoing staff position) and a Program Officer in Higher Education Initiatives (two year term).

These positions are excellent for classics Ph.D.s looking to stay in academic contexts but do a different kind of work from teaching and researching.

View full article. | Posted in Classics in the News on Wed, 06/16/2021 - 10:53am by Erik Shell.

The SCS Board of Directors has co-signed the following statement, which has been authored jointly by the American Association of University Professors, the American Historical Association, the Association of American Colleges & Universities, and PEN America. As of June 16, 2021, 80 organizations have endorsed the statement.

You can read the full text and list of signatories below and read the press release by the American Historical Association here

June 16, 2021

We, the undersigned associations and organizations, state our firm opposition to a spate of legislative proposals being introduced across the country that target academic lessons, presentations, and discussions of racism and related issues in American history in schools, colleges and universities. These efforts have taken varied shape in at least 20 states; but often the legislation aims to prohibit or impede the teaching and education of students concerning what are termed “divisive concepts.” These divisive concepts as defined in numerous bills are a litany of vague and indefinite buzzwords and phrases including, for example, “that any individual should feel or be made to feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological or emotional distress on account of that individual’s race or sex.” These legislative efforts are deeply troubling for numerous reasons.

View full article. | Posted in Public Statements on Wed, 06/16/2021 - 7:09am by Helen Cullyer.

TLL Fellowship 2021-2022 Application Cycle

Supported by a Generous Grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities

View full article. | Posted in SCS Announcements on Tue, 06/15/2021 - 5:16pm by Erik Shell.

Call for papers: Human Crime and Divine Punishment in Ancient Didactic poetry

Trinity College Dublin, 10-11 March 2022

As has long been observed, ancient Didactic poetry is not merely a vehicle to convey technical information and instruction. Justice and the place of humanity in the cosmos are already central concerns of Hesiod’s Works and Days, which attributes the harsh realities of agricultural life to a history of transgression, moral decline, and punishment. Similar questions continue to fascinate his didactic successors, who not only develop Hesiodic material, for instance in the departure of Justice from Earth in Aratus’ Phaenomena, but also explore other manifestations of divine intervention, such as through myths of metamorphosis and catasterism. In some didactic poems, such as Virgil’s Georgics or Oppian’s Halieutica, the pursuit of their subject matter itself poses the risk of violating ethical norms or overstepping mortal boundaries.

View full article. | Posted in Calls for Papers on Tue, 06/15/2021 - 5:09pm by Erik Shell.

Reception Studies: State of the Discipline and New Directions

Online conference

 

24-27 June 2021 (Northern Hemisphere)

25-28 June 2021 (Southern Hemisphere)

Conference Organiser: Anastasia Bakogianni

Hosted by Massey University, New Zealand

View full article. | Posted in Conferences, Lectures, and Meetings on Tue, 06/15/2021 - 5:03pm by Erik Shell.

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