- The Gildersleeve Prize for the Best Article Published in the American Journal of Philology in 2014 Has Been Presented toWilliam Josiah Edwards Davis, University of Toronto Faculty of Law
for his contribution to scholarship in “Terence Interrupted: Literary Biography and the Reception of the Terentian Canon,” AJP 135.3:387–409.
Building on the serious and sophisticated attention that has been devoted to literary biography in recent years, Davis shows what can be elicited from the conflicting ancient accounts of Terence’s death. As others have argued, ancient scholarship found biography to be a useful receptacle for literary history and criticism. In Davis’ reading, the mutually incompatible accounts of Terence’s death yield insights into critical debates about the role of literature in republican Rome and the scholarly practices that underpinned it.
Terence’s prologues give us a lively sense of the literary debates of his own day, but his biographers, writing in the period when scripts became texts, asked a different set of questions. Did Terence die at sea, or in Arcadia, far from the sea? Was the destination of his final journey Greece, or Asia? Did he die in poverty and neglect, or was he returning to Rome with a literary treasure, a hundred and eight newly adapted Menandrian plays? And who wrote his plays, anyway? Davis analyses ancient responses to these and other questions, teasing out traces of the scholarly argument and cultural polemic surrounding Roman literature in the late second and first centuries BCE and thereby making sense of the questions themselves. Reading Terence’s biography against other literary biographies, for example, he shows how Terence’s fatal journey was exploited to establish a Terentian canon free of the authenticity problems that dogged the Plautine tradition. The story that Terence died in Ambracia, by contrast, pits him against another poet associated with Ambracia, Ennius, and stages their rivalry. Finally, Davis shows, in writing the death(s) of Terence, scholar-poets such as Porcius Licinus and Volcacius Sedigitus and others less well known now but cited by Suetonius or ancient scholiasts inscribed a role for the literary historian, too, as caretaker of the playwright’s literary legacy. By reading the contradictions in the biographical tradition against one another instead of trying to produce a historically plausible version by selection, Davis gives us access to the script, fragmentary but fascinating, of Terence’s earliest reception.
Judges for The Johns Hopkins University Press
Cynthia Damon (Chair) Andrew Ford Sara Myers
The Twenty-seventh Annual Gildersleeve Prize of $1,000 will be awarded for the best article to appear in the Journal in 2015. The Press would like to thank the members of the committee for their time and effort.
William M. Breichner
Johns Hopkins University Press [End Page 1]
Johns Hopkins University Press