Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Wilamowitz-Moellendorff/Homer's Iliad

BMCR has a new review of a book that looks very interesting, which is centered around 'the publication of a nearly word for word transcript of Wilamowitz's lectures on Homer's Iliad in 1887/1888'. The reviewer, Edith Foster, goes on to say:

Paul Draeger and a team of sub-editors surround these lectures with a very copious and responsible supporting apparatus. However, the book reaches far beyond the editing and publication of transcripts, since in addition to the lectures it offers a portrait and defense of Wilamowitz himself.

This many layered volume begins with a short essay in praise of Wilamowitz by Walter Burkert (who is simultaneously the dedicatee of the volume), after which Paul Draeger provides an essay on Wilamowitz's character as a lecturer. He describes Wilamowitz's broad activities both as a university and a public lecturer, citing many vivid eye-witness accounts. Student accounts emphasize the appeal of Wilamowitz's deep knowledge and rhetorical power.

This introduction to Wilamowitz as lecturer is followed by introductions to the lectures themselves. First, Draeger offers information on the student copyists and on the character and history of their transcripts of the Homer lectures. Second, he provides an outline of the lectures and detailed remarks on Wilamowitz's personality as it emerges from the lectures. For instance, he compares how Wilamowitz characterized scholars with whom he agreed or disagreed (62-64), and discusses how and how often Wilamowitz mentioned himself (65-66). Draeger also lists and evaluates Wilamowitz's terms of praise and blame (56-57). Other questions have a more practical orientation. Draeger argues about whether or not Wilamowitz used a blackboard and maps (probably, 54) or brought any books other than the Iliad with him to the lectures (probably not, 55-59). Without neglecting to mention Wilamowitz's errors, Draeger provides detailed demonstrations of his astonishing memory (56, 66-70). The description of the lectures is laudatory; 21st Century practices are seen in negative contrast (53, 55).

The third and penultimate element of the introduction is a description of the close connections between these lectures and Wilamowitz's book Die Ilias und Homer (1916). Draeger argues that Wilamowitz's Homer lectures of 1887/88 are still useful even though Wilamowitz's main hypotheses about book 11 of the Iliad are nearly universally rejected (77). He points out that the lectures offer a very comprehensive discussion of the material from book 11 and that this discussion is not available in Wilamowitz's later publications (77-78). He also provides a sequence of examples to show that the lecture notes contain readings which have not yet been considered for critical editions (79-81), as well as a list of passages about which Wilamowitz changed his mind by 1916 (82-83). He might have been better off to let Wilamowitz speak for himself by this point and to place such arguments after the lectures, or even in an appendix. They give the impression that the lectures will be interesting mainly to an audience studying Wilamowitz, whereas in fact, both readers studying Homer, as well as readers studying their own received practices in historical context will find them useful.

You can read the rest here.

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