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  • Thomas L. Thompson
    Dear Jean-Fabrice, It is interesting what you write and, as stated, I recognize what you mean. However, I wasn t at all thinking about footnotes when I wrote
    Message 1 of 5 , Nov 3, 2012
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      Dear Jean-Fabrice,
      It is interesting what you write and, as stated, I recognize what you mean. However, I wasn't at all thinking
      about footnotes when I wrote that it was 'very American'--as barren or empty as that is without any kind
      of clarification. Nor had I seen it as particularly negative, even as I would have begun such a work, which
      departs so much from the expected by making my starting point within scholarship somewhat clearer. But then,
      I studied in Tübingen under Kurt Galling. As it is, I have just begun reading and writing again as I am recovering
      from eye surgery and I was considering putting my thoughts into a few short paragraphs as I read through the
      book. Having read only the two introductions and just beginning to deal with the book itself, I was not really clear
      yet what the book wanted to do or what its genre and context was within the wide-ranging writing of ancient
      history over the past 40 years about Israel and Judah, history and tradition and I was trying to find a way of expressing
      my feelings of uncertainty. It read like a student textbook, but was not. When it did address the works of others,
      it was to acknowledge his using them. In doing so, he took their conclusions and added his own, but didn't seem
      to work with questions, but with a kind of model of how he was going to draw further conclusions. So far, the book
      reminds me very much of Norman Gottwald's Tribes of Yahweh; not because of footnotes, which Gottwald of course
      loved (!), but because of the implicit authorial voice. I don't know yet whether I will continue thinking this way,
      but I wanted to mark the expectation this awakened so that I could return to it. As a scholar, I have always lived on
      both sides of the Atlantic and have always found it very fruitful to be aware of the many typical differences that
      separates our scholarship traditions. As a former American, I must admit that in trying to understand an issue, what does
      not fit or what I didn't know before, ngages my interest. What is already known, however, doesn't interest me very much.
      From this side of the Atlantic, however, and as a Dane, I start with such questions and end best with several others.

      Thomas

      Thomas L. Thompson
      Professor emeritus, University of Copenhagen



      Professor Nardelli wrote:
      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 écrit 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 érudition 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
      outrancière opposant la science américaine à la Wissenschaft du Vieux
      Continent ; Powell est allé chercher loin ses exemples, et il se gausse
      de cas extrêmes, non sans oublier qu’il ne fit pas autrement dans son
      Homer and the Greek Alphabet (1991), travail tout alourdi de bourrage
      épigraphique servant à détourner l’attention des faiblesses de la thèse
      et à esquiver les difficultés contre lesquelles elle achoppe. Alius sic,
      alius uere sic ; je me berce de l’espoir d’avoir équipé de références
      dans le texte ou muni de notes bibliographiques celles, et celles-là
      seules, de mes affirmations qui ne relevaient pas de la banalité 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
      Université de Provence


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