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  • The Gildersleeve Prize Winner for 2008
  • William M. Breichner, Journals Publisher

The Gildersleeve Prize for the Best Article Published in the American Journal of Philology in 2008 Has Been Presented to

Judith Fletcher

Wilfrid Laurier University

for her contribution to scholarship in "A Trickster's Oath in the Homeric Hymn to Hermes," in AJP 129, no.1:19–46.

By considering thoroughly and persuasively the sequence of oaths offered or performed in the Homeric Hymn to Hermes, Fletcher demonstrates how the process of the maturation of the god and his incorporation into the family of Olympian gods reflects contradictory sides of Hermes' nature: his association, on the one hand, with communication in general and especially commerce and diplomacy, and his patronage, on the other hand, of lies and deceptive oaths. Oaths featured in other Homeric hymns also establish the roles of the honored god, but this article shows that the Hymn to Hermes features subtle differences from the standard pattern and self-reflexively represents the young god acquiring his powers by enacting them in the narrative. Fletcher analyzes Hermes' verbal interactions against the patterns of various cultural and ritual practices, including ritualized friendship, rites of passage involving theft of cattle, oaths marking the maturation of youthful heroes entering into adult life, and the ephebic oaths of young citizens who come of age. Her argument draws skillfully on a range of approaches in classical studies as well as on anthropology (e.g., Herzfeld's Poetics of Manhood) and the databank of 3,000 oaths compiled in the Nottingham Oath Project. Fletcher writes with clarity and economy and in this article offers an attractive view that effectively counters the widespread dissatisfaction felt by many previous scholars who have studied the structure and narrative of this hymn.

Judges for The Johns Hopkins University Press

Elaine Fantham, Chair     Donald J. Mastronarde     David Porter

The Twenty-first Annual Gildersleeve Prize of $1,000 will be awarded for the best article to appear in the Journal in 2009. The Press would like to thank the members of the committee for their time and effort.

William M. Breichner, Journals Publisher
The Johns Hopkins University Press


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