The Virgil Encyclopedia


Abstract


The preliminary specimen of the Enciclopedia virgiliana (hereafter EV) bears the date 1982; thirty-two years later the Virgil Encyclopedia (hereafter VE) arrives (2014 is the printed date; the volumes reached me - just - in the previous year.) Younger readers, or those less professionally advanced, are now not expected to be able to read either Latin (it is all translated) or any modern European languages (for very little of the bibliography cited is not in English). But it is above all in the choice and level of the contributors that there is most change from EV to VE: VE has indeed recruited British, Catalan, Irish, Dutch, Italian, German, Belgian, Greek and French contributors, though I have not checked the list systematically. But whereas EV tried really quite hard to recruit systematically an international team of established scholars (I recall being given the article 'Anacronismi' to write, to see if I was any good), inclining only to favour rather too much the younger members of the editor's department (Genova), and very rarely admitting Virgilians not yet entered upon their first established job, VE, on the contrary, despite pious assertions at p. lxv, includes a dozen graduate students in the first hundred contributors listed, has invited contributions from many not in established academic posts, and has ranged widely, at least for Virgil himself and for earlier texts, outside the respected classics departments of major universities. That is not an automatic disqualification: I have not myself taught in a university for over twenty-five years, but hope my publications are qualification enough. There is, though, a serious point to be made. Informed readers are likely to share the reviewer's reactions of surprise and dismay at many points in the list of contributors, while users might expect to find that the article(s) they are consulting are by established specialists in the field. That is often not so, and cases of inadequate coverage by inexperienced contributors will be cited. Non-specialist users of VE need to be able to trust what they read, and in certain areas it will emerge that the basis for such trust seems not to exist. I am inevitably familiar with the prosopography of Virgilian studies since 1967 and have a fair sense of how the work behind VE was divided and assigned. But how the work of less expert contributors was checked, corrected, supervised, edited remains less clear, and I am worried about the volume of minor errors and omissions recorded on my first encounters with VE. (No-one ventured to improve Ziolkowski's deplorable idiom 'dissatisfaction from German culture' [p. 1360]; and why was 'antiquarianism' assigned to E. Fantham? Not an area in which she has shown interest, and the one item in her bibliography is not on an antiquarian topic.) But it must be said that R. F. Thomas in person has toiled nobly (e.g., 'metre', 'life of Virgil'); I did find one very weak article from his pen ('Corythus'; see below), but that is quite atypical and his contributions are at very least quite respectable and sometimes tinged with the distinction his readers have come to expect. Readers of VE will need to learn what readers of £Vhave had to establish: whose articles they may read with confidence.

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