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  • The Harvard Vergil:Memoir of The Black Sheep
  • Hans-Peter Stahl

The influence the Harvard School has had on my scholarship? Among the questions you ask, this is a challenging one indeed, Professor Hejduk, and it comes at an (in)opportune time: I have recently published a monograph on the Aeneid (Stahl 2016, subtitled a Recovery Study), which along its way is widely critical of the Harvard School. The book is not written for short-distance readers who pick decontextualized passages, scenes, and "verbal echoes" for their "reading," but it pays attention to the artifice's long-distance organization (the existence of which it has lately been fashionable to deny, with "desiderated" results). So one might of course, with equal justification, ask your question also the other way around. The long-range answer there, I'm afraid, would probably be, to use a Harvard School code word, "disturbing."

Considering the long gestation period of my book over many decades and the guiding track it lays on the Latin side of my scholarship, [End Page 108] it appears appropriate to fill in some pertinent autobiographical details with which its history is interwoven. Well, my first acquaintance with Harvard was a rather cheerful affair. I was fortunate in being awarded a Junior Fellowship at the Center for Hellenic Studies. When, in the fall of 1961, I arrived from Germany in Washington, D.C., I found that there was no Center for Hellenic Studies, at least not as a physical entity. Instead, there was an almost empty house on Whitehaven Street, N.W., whose owner, a Mr. Paul Mellon (said to be a sponsor), resided next door.1 There was no permanent director (Bernard Knox was taking a year off), but a young scholar (a Latinist, working on Vergil!), Michael C. J. Putnam, was filling the position in Knox's absence. And, there was only one single book in the house—a mystery story.2

However, when I mentioned my return ticket to Germany, the never-failing Michael quickly arranged for me a trip to Harvard and Elliot House, where I both could explain to John Finley my reservations about his prognosticating Thucydides (the enthusiastic young [New Deal?] democrat turning conservative with age), and in two weeks' time went through the Thucydidean holdings of Widener Library (my work had just reached the point where I needed a vast amount of secondary literature)—and cut a deal with the helpful but wary librarians: they would always send me the next package of literature before I had returned its predecessor. So I would always have a sufficient supply at hand in D.C. It worked out splendidly, and I could work through my bibliography faster than I had ever hoped.

The cheerful Junior Fellows proved a more than lively group, especially when, under Michael's helpful instructions, playing croquet. The peacocks in the adjacent gardens of the British Embassy uttered loud screams whenever a mallet hit the ball. Soon there came a request from the Embassy, transmitted via the Mellon residence, please not to play [End Page 109] croquet during nighttime (under floodlights). Discussions were similarly vivid: I recall Anna Morpurgo's and Garry Wills's lively disagreements on Sophocles' Antigone; Kenneth Reckford and myself hotly discussing Euripides (we both intended writing a monograph on this author, but neither of us ever got around to it); and the ever-joking Doug Parker writing epitaphs on each Fellow (mine went somewhat like this: while walking on a glacier immersed in Classen-Steup, I stumbled into a ravine. It ended: "Maybe/I see/Hans-Peter/später").

Michael invited visitors for us, among them Wendell Clausen from Harvard, and, for me specifically, Adam Parry. The two of us discussed Thucydides. I do not remember whether we also touched upon Adam's "Two Voices" theory on the Aeneid. (Almost a decade later, upon reading my Thucydides, Adam would persuade me to join the Classics Department at Yale.)

All the while, Michael Putnam was working on his Aeneid book. I myself had studied Vergil under a reinstated Nazi professor (by then a conservative democrat; his writings of the 1930s are largely suppressed in his Gesammelte Schriften); also, I had...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1558-9234
Print ISSN
0009-8418
Pages
pp. 108-115
Launched on MUSE
2017-11-06
Open Access
No
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