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Commentary Margaret Alexiou "Tilting at windmills" I welcome the invitation from the Editor of the Journal of Modern Greek Studies to write a brief rejoinder to Lambropoulos' tour deforce, 'Modern Greek Studies at the Cross-roads: the paradigm shift from empiricism to skepticism': the issues at stake in this debate are crucial, they concern us all, and they cannot simply be wished away. No-one will question Lambropoulos' starting-point, that after 20 years of the MGSA's existence, it is time for critical reassessment and honest self-examination. Nor can any serious person fail to acknowledge the commitment of those scholars who have pioneered new approaches deriving from a wide range of structuralist and poststructuralist perspectives, and whose research and publications have changed the direction of modern Greek studies irreversibly and for the better. If (s)he does, (s)he will be self-damned as resistant to the erosion of authority and power. Such is the measure of the impact which the "new wave" of criticism has had on the subject within a relatively short space of time. I for one, however, am disturbed (and I suspect that mine is not a lone voice) by the simplistic polarization that is developed throughout Lambropoulos' argument, mainly by means of arbitrary and superfluous name-calling, between philology, tradition, historicism, empiricism on the one hand, and theory, innovation, metaphysics and skepticism on the other. We are told at the outset, and reminded later on, that the debate is about rights, not right and wrong. Yet tendentiously, Lambropoulos appropriates for the Skeptics (the "goodies") all the positive qualities of academic inquiry (open-mindedness; productivity; methodological rigor), while attributing to the Empiricists (the "baddies ") all the negative ones (personal, even private, confessions; biographical impressionism; repressive abuse of authority and power). One is reminded of similar tendencies among militant feminists; but I will not belabor the point, since no-one could accuse Lambropoulos, with his exclusive use of the masculine pronoun, of that particular Journal of Modern Greek Studies, Volume 7, 1989. 41 42 Margaret Alexiou excess. More to the point, we are told in peremptory tones that any attempt to steer a middle ground between these camps marks a failure of intellectual honesty and scientific integrity, and will be doomed as "hodge-podge" or "chutzpah" (although "bricolage" is apparently okay). If the debate is about rights, rather than right or wrong, then I claim some right to the middle ground. Not to satisfy my bourgeois liberal conscience, nor to reach an easy compromise (as Lenin said, a revolution is not a tea-party), but to ensure that a plurality of voices and a diversity of skills are carried over into the 21st century, and because I think I can justifiably claim to represent the "missing generation " noted by Lambropoulos between the Empiricists and Skeptics. To date, I have taken up a clear and consistent stance in favor of listening to, and promoting the research and careers of, those younger scholars who have challenged the establishment, sometimes at the risk of my own reputation and certainly at the cost of displeasing some séniores in the field. Doubtless that is an irrelevant historical-biographical detail, as is also my personal but profound experience of welcoming post-structuralist approaches as a liberation from the ghost of an authoritarian Marxism, only to realize that the new totalitarianism of literary theory far exceeds the old one in its propensity to insult individuals, both living and dead. Can one seriously accuse Bowersock, Keeley, Papastavrou and Sherrard of ineffectual personal indulgence in their scholarship, ignoring their (very different) contributions to modern Greek studies and to other major fields, while failing to mention the self-indulgence of such texts on the other side of the fence as Julia Kristeva's Stabat Mater, which juxtaposes a re-hash of Marina Warner's Alone of All Her Sex: The Myth and Cult of the Virgin Mary (1977) with stream-of-consciousness effusions on the joys of giving birth to a healthy son? One could go to cite others (Cixous, Irigaray) as further examples of excessive indulgence, but I refrain from doing so: some forms of personalized expression are in; others are out. But...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-3265
Print ISSN
0738-1727
Pages
pp. 41-43
Launched on MUSE
2010-06-24
Open Access
No
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