A selection from those I have written over the years that chart the growth, development, and change in my thinking.
"Defining Defending Odysseus," Arion Third Series 19.3 (Winter 2012) 109-130.
This article which began as one of the Rouman Classical Lecture Series at the University of New Hampshire, Durham, deals with what has always seemed to me the opposition of the seductive power the story of the Odyssey offers the reader/auditor to the inherently disagreeable, sometimes downright nasty behavior of the title character. In some ways the oral performance of the lecture gave me the inspiration to be more freewheeling, less responsible in making my judgments about the poem, and therefore, to my mind, more insightful, at least more fun than some other things I have written about the Homeric epics.
“Alcestis and her Critics,” Greek, Roman, and Byzantine Studies 2 (1959) 111-127
In this piece I argue that rather than being a portrait of a noble woman who sacrifices herself for her husband Admetus, and is recovered from Hades by Heracles for a happy ending reunion with her husband, the play is about a woman who realizes that to survive her husband in a society where a single mother has absolutely no support, she chooses to die in his place, but stipulates that he will spend the rest of his life in mourning; he agrees as though it were a bargain to no parties, no girlfriends, a perpetual mourning. This cruel demand is upset when the Admetus feels compelled for his social position to host Heracles in the house set up as it is for a funeral; after learning the truth goodhearted Herakles brings back Alcestis in from the underworld, presents her to Admetus disguised as a nubile young girl, and wants the widower to take her in. Despite this violation of his vow of no guests and no sex Admetus agrees. His wife is restored, a so-called ‘happy ending, ‘ but from there to the end of the play she will not speak to him, betokening the underlying end to a relationship between the two.
“A New Meaning for NAYS in the Catalogue,” American Journal of Philology 82 (1961) 370-378
A slight little piece in which I argue that the the word for ship functions by metonymy for the crews as in ‘there were two tables of bridge’ meaning eight people..
“The Age of the Scholar-Teacher,” Atlantic Monthly March 1961 issue 76-78
A little nothing in which I decry the demands placed on junior faculty to teach successfully which is a skill that takes time to learn while at the same time gearing up to a lifetime of research projects for which the novice simply does not have the time. It all seems so innocent compared to the present day horrendous demands for publication already in place loaded onto entering faculty who can see all around them their competition and often their fate, that is, the sad eyed teaching adjuncts who are to the academic world what minimum wage employees are to Wal-Mart.
“Lucretius and Progress,” The Classical Journal 58 (1963) 160-169
In this piece I argue that Lucretius had the goal of introducing a Roman audience to Epicurean philosophy for which he used poetry as his medium, despite the severity of philosophical discourse calling for prose. As has been noticed he achieves a strong pessimistic tone for what is an optimistic philosophy. This contradiction is obviously important to him, and I argue with examples throughout the text that he uses poetry because he subconsciously recognized the pseudos in poetry and chose poetry for exposition because he could let himself be confused by it.
“Homeric Battle Narrative and Catalogues” Harvard Studies in Classical Philology 68 (1964) 345-373
In this piece I argue that the battle narratives with their enumeration of the names of winners and losers in each encounter are structures exactly like those found in the Catalogue of Ships and very likely represents the same technique of construction.
“Jason as a Love Hero in Apollonios’ Argonautika,” Greek, Roman and Byzantine Studies 10 (1969) 31-55
I argue that Apollonius has subverted the traditional conception of hero whose arete derives from battle prowess by creating in Jason a hero defined by his erotic powers in achieving his goals. He is emblematic of the hellenistic age heterosexual male as Herakles is of the traditiional conservative homoerotic hero who is cast aside by the narrator to focus on Jason and his encounter, as strange and provocative as Odysseus’ travel stories, with Medea, a woman who enters the narrative and proceeds to take it over. One of my favorite articles.
“Sophocles’ Philoctetes and the Homeric Embassy,” Transactions and Proceedings of the American Philological Association 101 (1971) 63-75
In this article I take the reader through the play, starting from the position that unusual for extant drama (which doesn’t say all that much, given the small sample for generalizing) the action is based on a previous well known scene in literature (i.e. Book Nine of the Iliad), and I note the unusual (with the same caveats) fact that the chorus enters the action to take sides against Philoctetes by lying to him, that the play blends the themes of social worth and individual identity very successfully, that the end must be manufactured from a deus ex machina, because the plot has nowhere to go.
“The Rhythm of Hesiod’s Works and Days,” Harvard Studies in Classical Philology 76 (1971) 23-43
I argue that Hesiod’s use of poetry for an idea better suited to prose does not derive from his having no prose to hand, but because these dactylic hexametric formualaic lines allow for a certain confusion that makes what passes for a consistent argument possible, that this same instinct to slippage in the ideas marks the choral odes of the fifth century and is an alternative way of managing ideas from that found in Plato and the other prose writers. The same thing I believe is happening in Lucretius.
“Tackling Homer’s Iliad,” Parnassus: Poetry in Review (Fall/Winter 1975) 137-149
This is a review of Robert Fitzgerald’s translation of the Iliad as well as a disquisition on the subject of translating from the Greek in general.
“Reupholstering Greek Tragedy,” Parnassus: Poetry in Review (Fall/Winter 1977) 289-304
This is a glowing review of Robert Fagles’ translation of Aeschylus Oresteia together with considerably less enthusiastic notice of several titles in the Oxford University Press translation project for tragedy.
“Greek Lyrics in and out of Brackets,” Parnassus: Poetry in Review (Spring/Summer 1981) 199-216.
This is a review article of the translations by Guy Davenport of fragments of ancient Greek poetry which he treats as fully formed poems in their own right. (Much more recently the same has been done by Ann Carson). The aesthetic of ruins is of course essential for appreciating the surviving pieces of ancient architecture, so it is good to consider the aesthetic potential of other fragmented forms as well.
“Nature’s Mirror or Nature’s Distillery: the Proper Metaphor for Ancient Greek Tragedy,” Florida State University Comparative Drama Papers (Washington DC 1982) vol. 1, 11-36
This an adaptation of the keynote speech I gave for the first conference Florida State established for comparative drama. My main argument in this paper was that ancient Greek tragedy is a highly artificial depiction of human action and expressly designed so in order to distance the audience from the human and social problems with which the surviving texts tend to deal. Especially the choral odes which are generally quite platitudinous remove the audience still further from the problematics expressed in the dialogue passages and have the same soothing effect that the nostrums of religion offer in other cultures.
“Sunt Lacrimae Rerum,” Parnassus: Poetry in Review (Fall/Winter 1982) 75-95.
One of my all-time favorite articles written on the occasion of the Metropolitan Opera’s production of Berlioz’ Les Troyennes (Domingo, Norman, Troyanos). which opened their 1983 season. It is a study of Berlioz’ love affair with the Aeneid and how he used the text for his creation of the opera
“Fitzgerald’s Aeneid,” Parnassus: Poetry in Review (Fall/Winter 1983 Spring/Summer 1984) 213-235
This is a review article of the translation problems inherent in bringing Virgil’s absolutely gorgeous, sensuous Latin lines over into English while focusing of course on the then new translation of one of the most distinguished translator/poets of our time, Robert Fitzgerald.
“Repeated Similes in the Homeric Poems,” Studies Presented to Sterling Dow Greek, Roman, and Byzantine Studies Monograph 10 (Durham 1984) 7-14
This piece is easier to follow if one knows some Greek, but the idea is essentially that there only six similes repeated in the two poems which otherwise feature repetition as one of the principal story making devices, and thus we may assume that there is some significance, some meaning in the repetitions. I believe that I have been able to account successfully for this phenomenon.
“Classical Baggage Left in the Unclaimed,” Southwest Review 5 (1984) 390-412.
I was asked to contribute an article for an Italian publication on the state of classical studies (see “Miti e realtà dell’antichità classica,” Fondamenti: Rivisti Quadrimestrale di Cultura” [gennaio, 1985] 11-38). The survey struck many at the time as unduly pessimistic; I do not see any reason at this later date to change my opinion. Readers who enjoy a Spenglerian sense of the doom of things might also like to read my “Classics and Professor Bloom’s Closed American Mind,” New England Classical Newsletter 16 (1988) 30-36 which started life as the luncheon speech and ruined the digestion of a roomful of classicists.
“The Epic of Gilgamesh, the Bible, and Homer: Some Narrative Parallels,” Mnemai: Classical Studies in Memory of Karl K. Hulley (Chico CA 1984) 7-20
This is another foray into texts outside my so called professional ken. In this instance I try to show that certain themes and figures in the Gilgamesh story, the book of Genesis, the Iliad, and the Odyssey have so much in common as to suggest a common folkloric, or mythic source. A lot of generalizations in a very few pages.
“Horace in English,” Parnassus: Poetry in Review, vol. 14, no. 1, (1987-88) 164-186
When I was a youngster I thought Horace was the dullest poet alive. When I finally learned to read Latin fluently, I realized that he was the supreme poetic genius, whose disposition of his language was a sublime sensual thrill as great as that provided by Virgil’s Aeneid. This is an essay in which I discuss the awesome problems in trying to bring any of that excitement over into English.
“Logue’s Homeric Battles,” Parnassus: Poetry in Review, vol. 14, no.2, (1987-88) 93-107
This is a description of my first encounter with Christopher Logue’s brilliant translation, rereading, paraphrase, flight of fancy--whatever you want to call it--of the Iliad. After a lifetime of reading the poem in the original Greek, studying it, explicating it, reading zillions of translations, teaching from so many of them, I came to this created by a fellow who did not even know Greek but had to go through an English translation with a friend explicating it for him. I don’t know if I had grown jaded over the years and thus was ready for something really over the top or what, but I find this the most dazzlingly close approximation of Homer’s poem, while at the same time not being anything at all like it. A great paradox which I tried to get across in this review article.
“Gilgamesh, Lolita, and Huckleberry Finn,” Classical and Modern Literature, 96 (1988) 39-50
This article is an adaptation of what constituted my inaugural lecture as the Distinguished Professor of Classics at Lehman College of the City University of New York. The far more distinguished classicist, Charles Segal, when I sent him a reprint of this piece sent me a note telling me how enjoyable and amusing he always found my crazy ideas. Others have taken it more seriously. It is one of those structuralist things where I was trying to establish that the buddy bonding travel story that ends in the death of one of the two, for which I used Gilgamesh and Enkidu as my paradigm, underlay the travel story of Lolita and Humbert Humbert as well as Huck Finn and Jim.
“Sophocles and Pound,” Parnassus: Poetry in Review vol 15 (1988) 83-98
A decade ago the Classic Stage Company in Manhattan put on Ezra Pound’s adaptation of Sophocles’ Electra under the direction of Cary Perloff who later went on to fame and fortune at San Francisco’s American Conservatory Theater. Since the play is so rarely performed this was the chance to hear Pound’s theory of language put to the test, which in my estimation it did not pass too well.
a review of “Werner Jaeger Reconsidered,” ed W.M. Calder III Bryn Mawr Classical Review 1993
This lengthy review article looks into the several papers given at a conference to consider Werner Jaeger’s celebrity in Germany in the 20’s and 30’s and his subsequent obscurity in America, his adopted home after the rise of the Third Reich in Germany. The event was interesting because it brought into play Germany, German philology, American responses to it, the Third Reich and its sympathizers, the attraction it offered to classicists, and a host of similar issues arising from the historical circumstances of the time. The speakers represented a spectrum of Germans, former Harvard students, friends and critics, altogether a representation of classics in our time in the United States of America. Although I found Jaeger a total bore as as a teacher and had long since outgrown the appeal of his famous three volume Paideia which captivated me as a teenager, I was deeply moved by the man who appeared through these talks. Call it pietas, who knows, but the volume is immensely appealing to me.
a response in Compromising Traditions ed. J.P. Hallett & T. VanN ortwick Routledge (London 1997) 153-167
In 1995 I was invited to make this response to a group of papers given at a meeting of the British Classical Association at St. Andrews University in Scotland in which the speakers outlined how aspects of their personal life and experience affected their scholarship. Personal voice theory is much vilified by the classics establishment, and often rightly so, since it easily degenerates into the most extraordinary narcissistic revelations better suited to an appearance on Oprah than a conference of classicists. But there are real issues involved in the matter, some of them more than a little upsetting. I well remember Judy Hallett’s talk for which she dressed up in red white and blue, and tried to get the audience to join her in singing some catchy popular song. The audience squirmed with embarrassment, I along with the rest of them. But upon reflection I realized that she was making a very important point about how the conventions of teaching classics are so rigid that freedom of expression in the matter is almost nil. Which got her to the main point which was that the European, then the Oxbridge, then the Ivy domination of the presentation of the subject of classics was perhaps now so anachronistic as to be self-defeating. Most persons I know hated the talks, hate the book, but I decided to have a good time at St. Andrews, and so prefaced my response by introducing my own personal voice, i.e., that of a gay male, so coming out of the closet (as is I were ever really in it!) at a major British classics conference. It brought down the house; the applause was deafening.
“Virgil’s Apollonian Aeneid,”Chapter 15 of Reading Vergil’s Aeneid: An Interpretive Guide, ed. Christine Perkell (Norman OK 1999) 271-284
The chapter I wrote for Perkell’s book contains the only extended discussion of my interpretation of the Aeneid. Although I once claimed that I would write a book on the Aeneid this chapter is the only result of the claim. I attempt to demonstrate that Virgil was indebted to Apollonius for much more than elements in the narrative of the Dido-Aeneas love affair. I attempt to show how Apollonius’s narrator’s betrayal of Jason has been carried over into Virgil’s portrait of Aeneas making aspects of Aeneas and the narrative in which he is portrayed problematical and indeterminate in interpretation, much more in the nature of Hellenistic poetic practice than usually thought to be so.
“The Translator’s Dilemma,” Arion vol 7, no.3 (2002) 176-199
This is a review article of Peter Green’s translation with commentary of Apollonius’ Argonautica in which I analyze the translation both as an expression of the Apollonian Greek hexametric line and as a good or respectable piece of English poetic style. The analysis is relatively unfavorable to the results Green has achieved, but highlights some of the problems he or any translator confronts in doing translation. There is also a lengthy discussion of his excellent commentary to the poem, certainly the most valuable feature of his book, and well worth consulting by anyone interested in the Argonautica. Unfortunately it is not reprinted in the paperback issue.