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Commentary Peter Bien For the two camps he describes, Lambropoulos supplies three sets of rubrics: philology and theory, explication and interpretation, empiricism and skepticism. Of these, he favors the last. My own favorite is an additional set that he mentions in passing: integration and problematicism . When I think of my training in the Graduate Faculties at Columbia in the late 1950s, I realize that it was empiricist in nature, devoted to explication and even to philology in the old sense (establishment of "correct" texts). But what all that masked—something I did not realize at the time—was a training to preserve some vestige of an integrated world in a problematic one. At Dartmouth, this translated into the interminable discussions we endured in departmental meetings regarding the nature of the English curriculum in general and of Freshman Composition in particular. For decades we prided ourselves on our use of Milton's Paradise Lost as the main text to teach writing (imagine!). Had not the same course originally employed the Bible, Shakespeare, and Milton? Now we were nobly fighting to retain this Miltonic vestige, which, conveying Biblical material in poetry as grand as Shakespeare's, would make students appreciate that they were the inheritors of an integrated world-view that mixed Hellenism, Hebraism, the new science, Christianity (in its Protestant variety), and devotion to political freedom in precisely the right amounts. As for the overall curriculum, if we did not maintain the great tradition manifested through the giants of English literature, who else would defend students from the disintegrated world that threatened them on all sides? My training, in effect, and the world-view of my department (until the late 1960s and the early 1970s shocked us into modernity), was a 19th century one. This now strikes me as extremely strange, since the 20th century was already half elapsed before I entered graduate school, and since—in philosophy, the religious avant garde, psychology , anthropology, linguistics, etc.—the skepticism that Lambropoulos describes was hardly a recent phenomenon in the 1950s but had become orthodoxy long before. As for the general public, at least Journal of Modern Greek Studies, Volume 7, 1989. 45 46 Peter Bien in Europe, problematicism was seared into their consciousness by the first World War. So it is hardly a surprise to encounter a voice calling for a nonempiricist , non-integrationist approach to modern Greek studies. The only surprise is that this call comes so late—indeed, on the eve of the 21st century! Regarding the cause of the delay, I do not think that Lambropoulos is right when he complains about the alleged power of the empiricist hegemony in our field. It is true that some charges of fadism have been slung at the "young Turks"; but I do not see any coordinated campaign by the old guard (which presumably includes myself) to silence them. Their delayed appearance is better explained, in my opinion, by (a) the general time-lag that seems to apply to everything in modern Greek vis-à -vis trends in western Europe (usually about 25-35 years), (b) the administrative convenience that has wedded most modern Greek programs in literature and language to existing departments of classics, and (c) the fact that until recently most of us who professed modern Greek were either retooled classicists or lit-crit types of a vintage guaranteeing that our training was of the same empiricist/integrationist variety that I experienced at Columbia. If the skeptics were not vocal earlier, the reason is that they did not exist. Thus, far from agreeing with Lambropoulos about any power bloc entrenched in its position and refusing to budge, I would cite the rapidity and ease with which the theorists and problematicists— once they appeared—have gained access to the Journal of Modern Greek Studies, the Executive Committee of MGSA, and academic positions of importance. (I am speaking about the United States only.) Let me add, since we are now celebrating MGSA's 20th anniversary , that those of us who framed the Association's constitution were motivated by the wish that MGSA would never become either the projection of a single dominant personality or the province of a self-perpetuating clique. We wanted...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-3265
Print ISSN
0738-1727
Pages
pp. 45-47
Launched on MUSE
2010-06-24
Open Access
No
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