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14568Re: SV: [ANE-2] New Book by Daniel Fleming

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  • Jean-Fabrice Nardelli
    Nov 3, 2012
      Dear Thomas,

      would you mind clarifying what you meant by "very American book" ?
      There has been a few ripples, recently, as to the use of the divide
      'American' versus 'European' in Classical scholarship, with respect to
      the amount of footnoting and the breadth of vision displayed, of which I
      should like to inform / remind the list. I remarked (Aristarchus
      antibarbus, pp. LIX-LX note ***********) : � B. B. Powell �crit de la
      riche collection d�articles de J. N. Bremmer Greek Religion and Culture,
      the Bible, and the Ancient Near East, Leyde & Boston, 2008, qu�elle
      parade son �rudition secondaire (BMCR 2009. 01.13, ad finem : � the
      too-abundant notes are also an unpleasant feature, as if Bremmer were
      playing a parlor game when the reader wants to learn something about the
      ancient world. A footnote should lead the reader to a source worth
      exploring, or verify a point of contention. Too many of these notes, to
      obscure journals or even such languages as Polish, do neither. I doubt
      we need a footnote to prove that Gladstone was busy in December, 1872
      (p. 101) or that Greek poets could be given to exaggeration (p. 176), or
      seven citations to verify that Codrus dressed as a woodworker when he
      killed himself (p. 180). (...) But Bremmer writes in a European
      tradition that admires such behavior �). Passons sur la dichotomie
      outranci�re opposant la science am�ricaine � la Wissenschaft du Vieux
      Continent ; Powell est all� chercher loin ses exemples, et il se gausse
      de cas extr�mes, non sans oublier qu�il ne fit pas autrement dans son
      Homer and the Greek Alphabet (1991), travail tout alourdi de bourrage
      �pigraphique servant � d�tourner l�attention des faiblesses de la th�se
      et � esquiver les difficult�s contre lesquelles elle achoppe. Alius sic,
      alius uere sic ; je me berce de l�espoir d�avoir �quip� de r�f�rences
      dans le texte ou muni de notes bibliographiques celles, et celles-l�
      seules, de mes affirmations qui ne relevaient pas de la banalit� pour
      quiconque a quelque connaissance du sujet qui m�occupe. � Compare H. S.
      Versnel, Coping with the Gods. Wayward Readings in Greek Theology
      (Leiden & Boston, 2011), pp. 18-19 : � in a review of a recent book of a
      compatriot of mine, whose craving for footnotes is one of the few things
      we share, the critic frontally censures the �too-abundant notes as an
      unpleasant feature�, giving a few deterring examples. In his view �a
      footnote should lead the reader to a source worth exploring, or verify a
      point of contention.� And he explains the author�s aberrant preference
      for the footnote: �But the author writes in a European tradition that
      admires such behavior.� (...) Such critical assessments baffle me. How
      can notes, more particularly endnotes, obscure the main text? And what
      about �a European tradition� as proposed by the first reviewer? Did he
      ever cast a glance into the early scriptures of the �Paris school� ? I
      well remember that at least one of my incentives to give rather free
      rein to the footnote was the shocking observation of the dearth of
      them�and the near total lack of references to non-French literature�in
      these French works. For other conceivable motives, some of which I
      recognize, I refer the reader to the highly amusing studies of Steve
      Nimis and Antony Grafton. �Giving an intellectual context for one�s
      argument, referring the reader to further or contrary discussions on the
      subject, giving credit to predecessors� strikes me as a suitable generic
      summary of the major functions of the footnote, especially since it
      leaves the author sufficient room for his own interpretation of these
      options. Relevancy moreover is a highly individual concept. However,
      imposing restrictive directives on what a footnote should/must/ought to
      offer is in my view a pedantic hobby. � I, for one, find it quite barren
      to oppose US scholarship to European Wissenschaft, even if by the latter
      one understands the good old, German-Swiss tradition of Classical studies.

      All the best,
      J.-F. Nardelli
      Universit� de Provence

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