- Of Ohioology
Although Modern Greek Studies outside Greece is still a relatively small field, it has already developed a sub-genre, a body of criticism concerned with the people and work of the Ohio School. 1 For the sake of this paper I will call this criticism “ohioology.” Hardly an academic semester goes by without somebody saying something, usually negative, about this school. While ohiological texts vary in length, tone, and ideological preoccupation, they all seem to share two characteristics.
First, ohioology appears either unwilling or uncapable to address the theoretical and ideological issues raised by the Ohio School and resorts instead to ad hominem or moral arguments. The scholars of the Ohio School (and even those tangentially related to them) are routinely denounced as totalitarian, academic frauds, mishellenes, or self-hating Greeks. They are often accused of destroying both literature and the field of Modern Greek Studies and of misrepresenting Greece to the outside world. Secondly, ohioology builds its arguments on a theoretical contradiction. On the one hand, critics represent [End Page 179] Ohio scholars as marginal to “real” scholarly concerns, completely out of touch with affairs in Greece, and blind to Greek scholarship abroad. But on the other hand, these same critics—in order to justify ohioology—portray this school as extremely influential and in possession of considerable intellectual and institutional power. That it to say, to the objection “If these people are so crazy, why are you devoting so much time to them?” they answer “But, their influence is pernicious, they are well-connected, they have gotten a lot of followers, they are introducing new ideas.” Confronted with the question “But if their ideas are so weird, why are people publishing, reading, and commenting on their work?” they reply, “Who said they are influential? No one that I know reads their work.” Ohio scholars are simultaneously central and marginal, depending on the argument.
The preceding piece by Roderick Beaton, Koraes Professor of Modern Greek at King’s College, London, fits squarely within ohioology. The close fit between discourse and text is no accident since Professor Beaton has the honor of having inaugurated the genre of ohioology with a piece published in the Journal of the Hellenic Diaspora (1983). Since then he has been perhaps the most enthusiastic of ohioologists, rarely missing an opportunity to criticize the approaches, the people, and anything associated with the Ohio School.
The ostensible topic of Professor Beaton’s latest ohioological intervention is the special section of the Journal of Modern Greek Studies (1997:167–281) entitled “Whither the Neohellenic,” for which I served as guest editor. In his first paragraph Professor Beaton makes his opinions apparent. After accusing every single contributor of “revealing blindness,” he adds that the issues raised by the contributors are not new at all. Oh? One would like to know where Professor Beaton has seen them treated before in any systematic way. But leaving the matter of originality for the moment, let us follow his argument. Well, perhaps not, as his argument stops there. I quote: “[N]one of these developments can possibly be described as new. So why this amount of soul-searching now? Which brings me to my second theme: blindness.” After making this statement, and in only his third paragraph, Professor Beaton loses interest in the topics we tried to raise.
The contributors to the JMGS issue spoke of civilizational subjects such as the decline of Hellenism and the influence this has had on Neohellenism, and the rise of discourses such as multiculturalism that push countries like Greece away from the center of critical interest. One would have supposed that someone so concerned with the state of Greek studies might have responded with an amplification of the strengths and weaknesses of various papers and, of course, a continuation of the debate. But Professor Beaton is interested in neither dialogue nor in these ideas, for he rejects the whole project and most of Greek scholarship in North America. And, ironically, he renounces all of this scholarship while accusing Vassilis Lambropoulos of practicing “totalizing and intolerant rhetoric.”
Professor Beaton is interested not in the intellectual debate generated by the special issue of JMGS but rather...