Scholia Reviews ns 12 (2003) 13.
Christopher Stray, Classics in 19th and 20th Century Cambridge: Curriculum, Culture and Community. Cambridge: Cambridge Philological Society Supplementary Volume no. 24, 1999. Pp. xii + 176. ISBN ISBN 0-906014-23-9. UK£22.50, US$54.00.
Mary Beard, The Invention of Jane Harrison. Cambridge, Mass. and London: Harvard University Press, 2000. Pp. xiii + 229. ISBN 0-674-00212-1. UK£24.95.
Department of Religious Studies, Classics and Philosophy, University of Zimbabwe
Two recent volumes on Cambridge Classics and Classicists may be reviewed together. Both are largely concerned with the last quarter of the nineteenth and the first decades of the twentieth century. This was a period of great social change. The rise of the working classes, the emancipation of women, and the upheavals of the First World War changed the face of England. Classics, the way it was viewed and the way it was taught, was not untouched by these larger issues, and the content of Classics increased dramatically with the archaeological discoveries during this period, at Knossos, Olympia and elsewhere. Some of the personalities of the time -- Richard Jebb, J. E. B. Mayor, J. W. Mackail, Francis Cornford, Gilbert Murray, Arthur Evans, James Frazer, Henry Sidgwick, Jane Harrison -- are still well-known names. The two books under review complement each other in their treatment of both the period and the personalities.
The essays in the first volume are based on papers read at a Cambridge Philological Society seminar held at Newnham College on 25 May 1996. There are eight essays, nineteen illustrations, nine pages of bibliography (p. 166-74) and an index.
Chapter 1, 'The First Century of the Classical Tripos[] (1822-1922): High Culture and the Politics of Curriculum' (p. 1-14), by Christopher Stray represents 'the first attempt to survey in any detail the organised study of Classics in Cambridge' (p. 1). The period under discussion is the one in which the Cambridge form of Classics teaching took its distinctive shape. Stray considers three stages, which he calls 'Sequential Subordination 1822-1854', 'Autonomy and Plurality 1854-1879' and 'Liberal Learning 1879-1911'. He considers the factors that led to the establishment of the Tripos in 1822, including among other things the expansion of reformed public schools, the conservative reaction to the French Enlightenment, and the role of the Established Church. In this period a student could read Classics only after he had passed Maths at a high level. A series of Royal Commissions introduced a number of changes. In 1854 the Classics Tripos was detached from Maths, and a number of new Honours courses were subsequently introduced. The third stage saw the introduction of a voluntary Part II of the Tripos offering options in literature, philosophy, history and comparative philology after the entirely linguistic and literary Part I. This period also saw the rise of issues such as compulsory Greek, the admission of women, and academic life as a full-time, long-term career, whereas until that time it was a stepping-stone to the Church and celibacy was a requirement. It was also in this period that archaeology became an option for the Tripos, the Museum of Classical Archaeology was established, and the tradition of the Greek play was introduced.
In brief, this chapter raises the same question one may ask of the title of the book. It is so very Cambridge-specific. It consciously sets itself within two traditions of academic writing: the writing by specialists of the history of their own subject, and the history of an institution by its own members (p. xi). Is it of interest to one who does not belong to that institution? If the reader is a Classicist (of any specialization) the answer is yes. This chapter raises many questions that are still with us, not least of which are: What is Classics? What all does it include? The choices that have to be made, between arts and sciences for example, as well as between areas within classics; depth of knowledge versus breadth; curriculum reform; mixed-ability classes; the examination process; administrative structures; competition; intellectual integrity; insufficient finances -- this all has a remarkably modern ring, yet all are issues that faced Classics in Cambridge in the late nineteenth century. The repercussions of how those issues were resolved are still with us.
Chapter 2, 'Henry Sidgwick, Cambridge Classics, and the Study of Ancient Philosophy: The Decisive Years (1866-1869)' by Robert B. Todd (pp. 15-26), looks at one specific case. Sidgwick, who took a first in the Classics Tripos and 'seemed marked as a future Regius Professor of Greek' (p. 17) turned instead to the Moral Sciences. Ancient Philosophy was not regarded as an identifiable sub-discipline in 1866; Plato and Aristotle were read for their style, not their thought. Sidgwick was concerned with the issues of his own day, felt the need for modern rather than ancient philosophy, and issued a whole series of pamphlets concerned with academic reform. The almost total segregation of general and ancient philosophy for decades can be attributed to Sidgwick, according to Todd.
The Greek play has been a Cambridge tradition since 1882. Pat Easterling surveys 'The Early Years of the Cambridge Greek Play 1882-1912' in Chapter 3 (pp. 27- 48). The records of the Greek Play Committee, housed in the University library, include, in addition to the minutes and correspondence, photos, programmes, posters, reviews, magazine articles, tape recordings and copies of all published work associated with the play. The ten included in this chapter give a sample of actors, scenery, and programmes -- Rupert Brook as the Herald in the Eumenides in 1906 (fig. 10, p. 43) is one. An appendix lists all the plays, from Ajax in 1882 to The Trojan Women in 1998.
Easterling traces the context of the play, both as a Cambridge institution and within the tradition of Greek plays elsewhere. There is a long section on the first production, with comments on the progressive attitude to Classics that it implied; the 'extremely close attention to archaeological detail combined with a cheerful readiness to mix periods' (p. 35); the lectures that preceded it. The Greek play became fashionable; Easterling considers the reaction of both the élite and not-so-élite, and the repercussions in the fields of fashion and music as the Greek Play became a tradition, fashionable and fun. Understandably the tradition lapsed during the First World War. Although it was resumed, it changed with the changing world, 'always liable to suffer as well as to profit from its continuing success as an institution' (p. 46).
The founding of the first colleges for women, Girton (1861) and Newnham (1871), introduced women to the Classical Tripos. In Chapter 4, 'Women and the Classical Tripos 1861-1914' (pp. 49-70), Claire Breay discussed the disadvantages the first female students faced, since most girls' schools offered less Latin than the boys' schools, and no Greek. Breay looks at the teaching of women, first by Fellows from the men's colleges, and then by women lecturers within the new women's colleges. By 1881 a system of inter- collegiate lectures for men was established, and the women could join in. Increasingly elementary work was done by women lecturers in the college, with the more advanced supervision being undertaken by men from men's colleges. With the appointment of Jane Harrison, Newnham became more like the men's colleges, since Harrison concentrated on research and writing, rather than on teaching, and became a leader in the 'revolution in archaeological scholarship' (p. 61).
In a series of tables (pp. 64-69) Breay assesses women's achievements in the Tripos. She concludes that while women were still at a disadvantage in Part I, they exploited the new Part II, especially the archaeology element, to succeed within the existing male-created system.
Chapter 5 is entitled 'Nothing but Gibberish and Shibboleths? The Compulsory Greek Debate 1870-1919' (pp. 71-94). In this chapter Judith Raphaely considers 'The Question' that was heatedly debated, in the press and elsewhere, from 1870 until 1919 -- should Greek remain a practical requirement for anyone seeking admission to the University? With two tables, three contemporary cartoons (figs. 14-16), three poems (or pieces of doggerel) and several letters to the papers to illustrate her point, Raphaely shows 'that the Compulsory Greek debates were much more than a narrowly Cambridge issue. This is the story of a power-struggle to determine who should determine the agenda for education, and of a remarkable failure to understand the unfamiliar' (p. 77). It involved the schools, the Established Church, the monarchy, the armed services, the government -- and questions of educational principles. Some of these, like reforms concerned with thoroughness and choice, are still with us, although the Greek question was for all practical purposes settled by the First World War.
'The Invention (and Re-Invention) of 'Group D': An Archaeology of the Classical Tripos, 1879-1984' is the title of Chapter 6 (pp. 95-134) by Mary Beard. It is divided (by analogy to the Tripos itself) into six sections. Section A: 'Irrelevance will be Penalised' starts by looking at some of the question papers that were written in Group D (Archaeology) in the 1890's, both the questions and the instructions. The theme raised here underlies the rest of the chapter, namely 'the simultaneous familiarity and strangeness of Cambridge classics a hundred, even fifty years ago . . . we shall find 'our' problems were 'their' problems too' (p. 99). Beard admits (p. 104) 'This paper, then, is an essay in (very) local history; a shameless exercise in curiosity about what classics at Cambridge used to be like'. Is it of interest to anyone outside? Beard's reply is that 'the way Classics chose to define itself in the 1870's had major implications for the definition of English Classics as a whole' as 'the decisions taken in Cambridge in 1879 were instrumental in ensuring that (twentieth century ) 'classics' in this country (i.e. England) would be very different from 'classics' in the rest of Western Europe'. Those traditions were to merge in South Africa, and Classicists in this country (South Africa) will also find that 'their' problems are still 'our' problems.
Section B: 'Tripos Reform' follows in somewhat greater detail than Chapter One the changes made to the Tripos up till 1879. Section C: 'The Origins of D' considers why archaeology became part of the Classics Tripos, the personalities, finances and policies behind it, and the new Museum which supported it. Beard points out that at the beginning religion was part of this; myth, ritual, the visual arts, culture (both material and 'daily life') were taught together, and that the most radical contributions to the 'anthropology' of the ancient world made in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries arose from precisely this mix.
Section D: 'Jackson's Last Stand' traces the next round of reform to the Tripos, where Part II became compulsory instead of optional, in 1918. Section E: 'Exit religion' points out that there was no religious element in Group D after 1918, and Section F adds that Roman Law, established as Group F in 1967, was abolished in 1983. 'Group X: Bringing it all home. . .' discusses the new Group introduced in the 1980's, Group X (Interdisciplinary), and suggests that at its root is still the old mix of myth, ritual and visual arts that was part of the original Group D.
Chapter 7 (pp. 135-56) deals with 'Winifred Lamb and the Fitzwilliam Museum', by David W. J. Gill. Lamb was a member of Newnham who had completed the Tripos in 1917. In 1920 she was appointed Honorary Keeper of Greek Antiquities at the Fitzwilliam Museum, and in her time there, until 1958, helped to transform the collection 'into one of the most significant in Britain outside London and Oxford' (p. 135). She was heavily involved in archaeological field work in Greece and Turkey, displayed and published the collections at the Fitzwilliam (including two fascicles on the Greek pottery), and was responsible for the creation of a Prehistoric and Archaic Gallery. Her main contribution was however in the field of acquisitions. She personally made substantial donations, and persuaded her relatives and friends to put their money into developing the collections of the Fitzwilliam. This chapter has separate sections dealing with Lamb's role in the prehistoric and archaic displays, Greek and Roman bronzes, Greek pottery, Classical gems and jewellery, Etruscan and Italian antiquities, and other acquisitions and loans. There are also sections on Lamb as benefactor, post-war commitments, and Lamb's legacy, leading to the conclusion that 'without Lamb's association with the Fitzwilliam, the Museum's holdings of Greek and Etruscan antiquities would have been much the poorer' (p. 156).
In a joint paper that forms Chapter 8 (p. 157-65), John Crook and Joyce Reynolds consider 'The Cambridge Greek and Latin Book Club: A Brief Antiphonal Account, with an Appendix'. The earliest record of the book club is dated 1909, but it may have begun earlier; its final meeting was held in 1993, 'when its remaining liquid assets were consumed' (p. 164). The records include the list of rules, audited accounts, a small file of correspondence, and a record of books circulated. The Greek and Latin book club is seen within the setting of other similar clubs; each member 'put in' a book, which circulated among members and was auctioned at the end of the year, when the publisher would eventually receive payment. In the early days this served almost as an inspection copy. The books 'put in' were generally ones which it was helpful to check for their appropriateness for students, and so for college libraries; 'all members therefore had an interest in seeing almost all the books and not only those related to a particular specialisation' (p. 161), although most would be skimmed, not read. Using three years (1910, 1930 and 1970) as samples, this paper considers briefly the categories of books 'put in' and the member who read them; an appendix lists the members who bought books in these years. The club provided a 'source of cohesion and the sense of belonging' (p. 163) and served as a focus of Faculty activity in the days when there was no physical Faculty (only colleges). Also Classics was 'a more intellectually unified subject', in an era when 'administration was minimal, assessment non-existent, University examining relatively infrequent for any individual, graduate students thin on the ground. There was therefore time to read, to see Classics as a whole . . .' (p. 64, happy days!). Books were not discussed; the club was a community celebrating its own existence and so defining itself against the rest of the world -- a sentiment that effectively sums up not only the book club but the whole of this volume.
The second book, is also 'a book about Classics written by a classicist' (p. xii), based on Beard's Jane Ellen Harrison Memorial Lecture at Newnham College in 1996.
The chapters in this book are named for titles of other works. For example, Chapter 1, 'Prolegomena' (pp. 1-13), is named for Harrison's best known work, Prolegomena to the Study of Greek Religion (Cambridge 1903).
Jane Harrison was born in 1850. This book, however, begins with her death in 1928, or more accurately, with Gilbert Murray's eulogy at the first Jane Ellen Harrison Memorial Lecture on 27 October 1928. Beard sees Murray's lecture as 'one of the founding texts of the story -- perhaps better the myth -- of Jane Harrison (p. 3). He concentrated on her role as student of ancient religion, ignoring her early career (1874-79) as one of the earliest students at Newnham (founded in 1871), as lecturer in London, traveler and archaeologist. Beard aims to show how Harrison herself, Murray and others created an 'image', and how a different 'image' emerges if earlier sources are consulted. Central to her argument is the role of Eugene (Mrs Arthur) Strong.
The title of Chapter 2 (pp. 14-29), 'Mrs. Arthur Strong: Apotheosis and Afterlife', again is a reference to a book. Mrs. Arthur Strong, née Eugene Sellers, like Harrison, was one of the first generation of women students at Cambridge (p. 18). She came up in 1879 to read Classics at Girton, and left with a 3/3 in 1882. After a year teaching in Scotland she moved to London where she lectured at the British Museum on topics in Classical Archaeology which she learned during many visits abroad, at the hands of the 'state-of-the-art German archaeologists of the day' (p. 20). She was responsible for translating much of the German scholarship into English, published an edition of Pliny's chapters on art, and frequented Italian art galleries in the company of Bernard Berenson and Mary Castello (later Mrs. Berenson), enthusiastically identifying painters by the method recently formulated by Morelli. She applied the same method of analysing minute details of form and style to ancient sculpture, some fifteen years before John Beazley started doing it with Greek vase-painting.
In 1897 she married Arthur Strong, who died in 1904. In 1909 she moved to Rome where she was Art Director and Librarian of the British School in Rome, a position she held until 1925, after which she continued to live in Rome until her death in 1943, just days before the Germans entered the city. By this time she was `loaded with honorary degrees' (p. 28), had been one of the first women to be made a Fellow of the Society of Antiquarians, had been decorated with gold medals by the British Academy and the city of Rome, and been made a CBE.
She had published prolifically, including two major works. Roman Sculpture from Augustus to Constantine (London 1907) was the first ever history of Roman sculpture in English, and Apotheosis and Afterlife (London 1915), which gives its name to this chapter, `explored the relationship between the visual arts and Roman ideologies of the afterlife and the deification of its emperor' (p. 27).
Chapter 3 'Unanimism' (pp. 30-36), the title of Harrison's book of 1913, pulls together some of the similarities between Harrison and Strong who were almost contemporaries as students at Cambridge, who both taught, lectured at the British Museum, were influenced by the same German archaeologists, had a similar circle of acquaintances, and both tried to show the continuum between the visual arts, archaeology and the cultural anthropology of the ancient world. However, the published work of each contains very little acknowledgement of the work of the other, and biographies of both create the impression that they were barely acquainted. A major part of the book is devoted to sleuth work to show that they were indeed very well acquainted. Beard reflects on `why Harrison and Sellers have been so comprehensively written out of each other's narratives' (p. 35) and concludes that `One of the reasons that Sellers has been effaced from Harrison's (written) life is that a number of people (Harrison herself included) did not want her there' (p. 36).
Chapter 4, 'Myths of the Odyssey in Art and Literature' (pp. 37-53), the title of Harrison's first book, published in 1882, finds evidence for them taking part in 1883 in the same production of The Tale of Troy, a lavish production in Greek with sets by Leighton, attended by high society including Gladstone.
Chapter 5, 'Introductory Studies in Greek Art' (pp. 54-84), the title of Harrison's second book, published in 1885, looks at a different kind of performance -- Harrison's lectures on Greek art and archaeology, in a darkened room with up-to-the-minute lantern slides and sound effects, 'in packed series held throughout London and notable one-off occasions all over the country' (p. 54) , with as many as 1600 people attending. Beard finds evidence that much of the time Sellers 'was effectively Harrison's secretary, business manager and (eager) publicist' (p. 60). They were companions and friends; both travelled in Greece in 1888 and Beard unearths some old photos which might prove that they were there together. They even at one stage shared a house. Inevitably Beard raises the question of the nature of their relationship. Chapter 6, 'Alpha and Omega' (pp. 85-97), examines the possible causes of the 'terrific bust-up' they reportedly had, dated to November 1891, after which they were written out of each other's lives. The next chapters consider how our understanding of Harrison and Sellers as ancient historians and art historians may be influenced 'if we try to write them in again' (p. 97).
Chapter 7, 'Ancient Art and Ritual' (pp. 98-108), is perhaps the most interesting, focussing on the methodology of Harrison's private teaching for the University Extension Society in the late 1880's and 1890's by the then new method of problem photographs. A few of these 'tests' survive; they include the Bluebeard pediment, discovered in 1888-1889. As Beard says, 'This scrap of paper with its faded photos is a rare document in the history of scholarship. It takes us beyond the published syllabus, directly to the task set for the pupil by the teacher . . .' (p. 104). Harrison was teaching interpretation, method and argument; underlying the exercises 'is the idea that visual imagery is embedded in the cultural and religious history of the ancient world; that "art" is inseparable from the semiotics of ancient culture in its widest sense, and that there were skills of visual interpretation to be learned' (p. 104). Beard maintains that Strong did for Rome what Harrison did for Greece, and that Strong's work shares features with Harrison's precisely because they were pupil and teacher.
Chapter 8, 'Hellas at Cambridge' (pp. 109-28), looks at Cambridge Ritualism. While accepting the influence contemporaries such as Harrison, J. G. Frazer, A. B. Cook, G. Murray, F. Cornford and others had on each other, Beard rejects the concept of a formal group of Ritualists, claiming that Ritualism 'has become a thriving scholarly industry' (p. 113). This, she feels, has defined the way biographers have approached Harrison, trying to define her career in terms of Ritualism. Beard emphasises that Harrison's very first book already shows the 'distinctive hallmarks of her later work: an interest in the history and development of myth, and a commitment to seeing visual images as a medium for the construction of myth' (p. 121). Beard puts Harrison's work not only in the context of her friends, but also of her Faculty, specifically the Archaeology section of the Classics Tripos at Cambridge. First introduced in 1883, and taught by Harrison on her return to Cambridge from London in 1898, it included history of art, history of religion, special sites, antiquities of everyday life as well as a general paper. Beard contends that it was this distinctively British understanding of archaeology that framed Harrison's work, that 'Harrison the Archaeologist captures the historical specificity of her work so much better than Harrison the Ritualist' (p. 128).
Chapter 8, 'Pandora's Box' (pp. 129-60), looks at the archival material, specifically twenty-five boxes of 'Harrison papers' in the Archives of Newnham College, Cambridge, which provide most of the raw material for the life of Harrison. Beard points out that although some letters were written by Harrison, none of this was assembled or bequeathed by her; she burnt her papers when she left Cambridge, and the present collection comprises donations from friends, colleagues and pupils. Beard sees this collection as the creation of two women, Jessie Stewart and Hope Mirrlees, both close friends of Harrison. Most of the papers, says Beard, 'are less concerned with Harrison herself than with the construction of "Jane Harrison" as a biographical subject and with competing claims to authority over her memory' (p. 130). Beard considers their own stories, their agendas and the model each offers. Stewart's Jane Ellen Harrison: A Portrait from Letters was published in 1959; Mirrlees dominates the archives, and what Beard calls the Mirrlees' model, though unpublished, became the influential one.
Contemporaries like Virginia Woolf saw Harrison and Mirrlees as a 'Sapphic' couple (p. 154); Beard is more circumspect in drawing conclusions about private lives. She does suggest however that Mirrlees' version seems to chart Harrison's 'emotional progress through life', often with her male colleagues, to a haven of happiness with Mirrlees herself. The result, according to Beard, is that the "intellectual" history of Ritualism has become inextricably connected with Harrison's perceived need for passionate intellectual friendships and 'her role as Woman at the center (sic) of the (male) Group' (p. 158). Both are inadequate models, she feels, for understanding Harrison's intellectual development. A further result is that since this is Mirrlees' version of Harrison's life, there is no part for Eugene Strong.
Chapter 10, 'Epilegomena' (pp. 161-63), a reference to Harrison's Epilegomena to the Study of Greek Religion published in 1921, pulls the threads together. Harrison was seen in different ways by her contemporaries and considered as not really important enough for a biography for decades after her death; the current perspective of her as the most important woman Classicist ever came about mainly through the continued efforts of two pupils and others who had a vested interest -- the 'invention' of Jane Harrison. In the final analysis, Beard feels that the difference between Harrison and Strong was that Eugene Strong, greatly celebrated during her life, had no pupils trying to promote her.
There are brief lives of Harrison and of Strong (pp. 165-67), notes (pp. 169-215), archival sources, bibliography and index (pp. 217-29) and several photos. The font is large and easy to read. I found the style less easy; I did not find the repeated 'as we have seen' or 'as we shall see' useful, and would have preferred it if the frequent parentheses had been in the body of the text, though I admit this is personal taste. More pertinent is the question of what interest this book holds for (the many?) readers who are not part of the growth industry surrounding Harrison, and who are therefore not directly affected by Beard's warning that there are other, more pertinent ways of explaining her works than as a Ritualist. One question that this book tries to answer, namely 'what determines winners and losers in the race for (posthumous) academic fame' (p. 13), I find forced, especially since for me at least Strong is more familiar than Harrison. Were Harrison and Strong really competing for posthumous renown? Or is this contest really among the present generation?
The interest for me lies in Beard's depiction of the cultural and scholarly world of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. She provides fascinating insights into the way later practices and perspectives were formed. One sees the snob value of Classics on the one hand, and on the other its popularisation, and 'movements' of the late twentieth century, like gender issues, can be seen in embryonic form much earlier.
Beard's book is number fourteen in the series Revealing Antiquity which was 'designed to illuminate new approaches to the culture of the ancient Greeks and Romans in a form that would be both exciting to the general reader and rewarding to professional scholars'(p. vii). I passed it on to a friend who has a degree in Classics but is not a professional scholar. Her comment? 'The first part is interesting but the lady is trying too hard to make a book out of it'.
I was left wondering, with regard to both books, how important the Cambridge factor was in getting them published. Would a publisher be interested in changes to the curriculum in a third-world country at the beginning of the twenty-first century, or for that matter, would readers in Cambridge care to read about their colleagues elsewhere? Perhaps Revealing Antiquity would like to consider works by Classicists writing about their own specialisations, predecessors and institutions -- from Africa?
[] Originally the name given in the sixteenth century to the three-legged stool used by the bachelor who queried students for the BA, Tripos was used for the man himself, then his speeches, then the facetious verses printed on the back of the list of successful candidates, and eventually for the examination itself.