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Modem Greek Studies at the Crossroads: The Paradigm Shift from Empiricism to Skepticism1 Vassilis Lambropoulos In 1988, the Modern Greek Studies Association of America (MGSA) celebrated its 20th anniversary. It was an appropriate moment for festive occasions, and gestures of pride and confidence as a small academic group has rapidly evolved into a national scholarly organization of international prestige, with its own forums, activities, publications , independence, and authority. This development and expansion also indicates forcefully that the study of contemporary Greece has come of age. While the field of modern Greek studies can trace its history back to the early 20th century, when linguists, folklorists , and historians turned their philhellenic interests to the descendants of the ancients, with the success of the Association it has finally acquired the coherence, comprehensiveness, and credibility of a legitimate research field. Such an impressive achievement deserves to be highlighted and celebrated. It may not even be too early to consider writing the history of the Association—the only one of its kind in the world—as a study in, and lesson of, disciplinary growth. The list of accomplishments is long: the growing number of modern Greek studies programs; the establishment of designated professorships and endowed chairs; increasing undergraduate and graduate enrollments; the scope and quality of curricula; ten major symposia and many special panels in general conferences; publication of journals such as Byzantine and Modern Greek Studies, the Journal of Modern Greek Studies and the book publications of the Association; the scholarly record and reputation of its membership; the interdisciplinary and international character of the organization; and everexpanding interest in the field by both colleagues and non-specialists. An original, wide-ranging body of scholarly and administrative work has been created with the result that an old area of study has successfully emerged as a legitimate and respectable academic field. Journal of Modern Greek Studies, Volume 7, 1989. 1 2 Vassilis Lambropoulos Festive occasions often provide collective opportunities for both affirmation of vigor and self-examination; a celebration of success can be constructively complemented by a criticism of fear, fetish, or failure. It is particularly reassuring to see this already happening in modern Greek studies. I am referring to a comprehensive review of its methods and practices which has been undertaken by many specialists in different disciplines, and is currently remapping the territory and redrawing the boundaries that have separated the field from other areas. Such extensive revision can be perceived as either a critique or a threat: as a critique of notions and legislations which narrow the scope of research by those who deplore limits and controls on inquiry; and as a threat to hierarchy and balance by those who dread the erosion of common sense and authority. There is no doubt that this revision proposes both an alternative vision and a different empowerment. Knowledge and power can no longer be kept artificially separate in any institutional environment (Unger 1975). The debate is about rights, not right and wrong. It would therefore seem to me that an open discussion of this continuing development can only contribute to a better understanding of the field. The moment is no less festive than critical. Criticism, indeed, does not violate the spirit of celebration ; on the contrary, one ought to be mindful of gains made and of stakes raised. A radical potential for innovation has emerged. Let us then take a closer look at modern Greek studies at the crossroads of history and practice. I propose that we are witnessing, and we are also part of, a paradigm shift.2 Twenty years after the official establishment of the MGSA and its academic territory of operation, a revisionary, and often oppositional, collective effort to reexamine its direction seems to have reached a high point of maturity, visibility, and success. So far, a crude line has been tentatively drawn between two camps: the philologists and the theoreticians. The first camp appears to include traditionalists who still adhere to criteria of fact gathering, stylistic analysis, and factual reconstruction, while the second includes those who espouse methods loosely associated with the poststructuralist movement. Although the differentiation may not be entirely inappropriate, its institutional origin (in recent debates within departments of English...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-3265
Print ISSN
0738-1727
Pages
pp. 1-39
Launched on MUSE
2010-06-24
Open Access
No
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