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Commentary David Holton Modern Greek Studies: A Mythical CrisL· The 20th anniversary of the MGSA is indeed an occasion for celebration ; out of the isolated and uncoordinated activities of a handful of researchers and teachers has grown an internationally respected learned society, a wealth of scholarly activity and publication, flourishing university and college programs, and a worldwide network of institutional and personal contacts. None of this should be underestimated : indeed European neohellenists might look to the MGSA as a model and an inspiration for their own efforts to found a comparable association on this side of the Atlantic. It is therefore particularly regrettable that Lambropoulos should accompany his congratulations with a savage, and gratuitously insulting, attack on several of those very people who came together in 1967 to take the first steps that led to the creation of the MGSA. This is not to say that we can be complacent about the state of our subject at the end of the 1980s: the shortcomings of many of the "standard" tools for research and teaching and the vast gaps that remain to be filled are obvious to any critical observer. But Lambropoulos' paper presents a distorted account of the recent past, and a misguided view of the present and future needs of our discipline. In the brief space allotted to me I propose to challenge some of his assumptions and conclusions. Undoubtedly the last two decades or so have seen a substantial growth in modern Greek studies, in terms of university programs, research activity, publication (both in books and journals), and conferences and seminars where scholars can come together to exchange ideas. Credit for much of this must be given to an older generation of scholars, whose unsung and unstinting efforts at last began to pay off, paving the way for their younger successors. Lambropoulos falls into the trap of recognizing only one form of contribution to the field: that of initiating or cultivating a direction or approach which students discussed, followed or revised (I am paraphrasing the words which he uses in his attack on seven named "representatives of empiricism"). Journal of Modern Greek Studies, Volume 7, 1989. 49 50 David Holton Some of those he names have in fact made invaluable and lasting contributions to the field of modern Greek (and Byzantine) studies. Their contributions have taken many forms, including university teaching, the encouragement of younger scholars and the wider promotion of the subject. To take one example, the late Stavros Papastavrou taught modern Greek (and classics) at Cambridge for nearly 30 years. Among research students whose doctorates he supervised were Margaret Alexiou, Roderick Beaton, Nassos Vayenas and Alfred Vincent, all of them now established in university posts. AU four bear witness in the published forms of their theses to the encouragement and support they received from him. Research, publication, and the initiation of new approaches are by no means the only yardsticks with which to judge an individual's contribution to scholarly endeavor. All these theses, ranging in subject matter from folk poetry to the Cretan Renaissance and Seferis, were completed in the 1970s, a decade in which, according to Lambropoulos, "almost nothing of importance or consequence . . . happened in modern Greek studies." On the contrary, I would suggest that during the 1970s, and indeed from the end of the preceding decade, a great deal was happening in our field. The foundation of the MGSA is certainly one factor, but we should also note the establishment of periodicals like Mandatoforos, Byzantine and Modern Greek Studies, Scandinavian Studies in Modern Greek, Folia Neohellenica, and Neo-Hellenika, enabling the growing number of younger scholars to find an outlet for their work. To dismiss all this as the exercise of "power strategies" by the old guard is at variance with the facts. If much of the published material could be characterized as empirical, this is merely because so much basic work still remained (and remains) to be done. The growth of the 1970s did, however, create a climate in which those who wished to experiment with newer critical approaches were able to do so. That they have done so, with some success, underlines the falsity of the argument that the exponents of...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-3265
Print ISSN
0738-1727
Pages
pp. 49-52
Launched on MUSE
2010-06-24
Open Access
No
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