- Incipitque Semper
With this issue we are happy to welcome back Dana Hollander as the Editorial Assistant. She came on board during the fall term to help with the production stage, but was already a veteran of M L N, having scrupulously supervised the 1993 issue. We are also grateful for the timely assistance of Myrta Byrum, who recently joined the Journals Division of the Johns Hopkins University Press. At various points in a difficult season, Ivan Grabovic and Philip Vogt also lent helping hands. Anne Rose has just joined the staff, replacing Dana Hollander.
Memorials to two former editors, Charles R. Anderson and Jackson I. Cope, appear in this issue. In a year that brought the deaths of a number of leading scholars from the most senior generation—notably two counselors and contributors of an earlier era, C. Vann Woodward and Walter Jackson Bate—we also mourn the loss from succeeding generations of two good friends of this journal:
Delbert R. Hillers [1932–1999]
Hopkins was saddened by the death in September of our colleague Delbert R. Hillers. An eminent scholar of the Hebrew Bible, of Ugaritic and related languages, and a leader in the work on the recent discoveries in Palmyrene Aramaic, by example he kept alive a fundamental Hopkins faith in the essential community of all those working in languages and literature—of whatever epoch.
A student of William Foxwell Albright, he began his teaching at Hopkins following the completion of his degree in 1963, eventually succeeding to his mentor’s chair here as Spence Professor of Semitic Languages. Although known to his peers as a meticulous scholar in linguistic and archaeological matters, Del was a popular, effective teacher of undergraduates and a dedicated, nurturing guide to his loyal graduate students. Something of his range of audiences as well as interests is indicated by what are probably his three best known books: Covenant: The History of a Biblical Idea, which appeared more than thirty years ago in a popular “History of Ideas” series from the Hopkins Press and is still in use in college classrooms and among general readers; his edition of and commentary on Lamentations for the [End Page 1165] Anchor Bible, which appeared in an enlarged second edition in 1991; and the formidable labor of his later years, Palmyrene Aramaic Texts, a massive JHUP volume that he published with Eleanora Cassini in 1996.
Del was always generous in trying to repair the ancient ignorance of those on this journal who sought his counsel on linguistic matters or customs of lamentation, cursing, similes, spells, and magic. He, in turn, would stop by to discuss recent theories of metaphor or his own extracurricular readings in German, Italian, and English literature. On other occasions he would introduce one of his students for crash introductions to deconstructive maneuvers or postmodern narrative techniques. Early and late he maintained a friendly if often bemused interest in some of the more arcane turnings of contemporary theory that engaged our editors. A wit as well as a philologist, Del could translate some of these extramural adventures into comic verse, and, chastened, I recall a brief, very funny essay of his on a “sexton’s view” of the burdens of modern interpretation. In a more public vein, his last published contribution to M L N appeared in the 1998 Italian issue, modestly titled “Two Notes on the Decameron.” Here he precisely illuminated the crux of the “santa parola dell’Evangelio” in III, vii, and demonstrated how a knowledge of ancient magical practices could heighten “the comic spookiness” of the impostures in two other novelle (VIII, vii and IX, v). The harmony of learning and humor in this foray into the world of Boccaccio could stand in microcosm for the qualities that we cherished in our colleague.
Michael Sprinker [1950–1999]
As a contributor, adviser, combative conscience, and friend, Michael Sprinker bore a special relationship to the comparative corner of this journal. His untimely death on August 12th was an event that left his students, friends, and collaborators as unreconciled with its finality as he himself was during his courageous struggle over almost eight years with multiple myeloma. He approached his illness...