Aristophanes: Acharnians and Knights
Edited and translated by Jeffrey J. Henderson '68 H'94
Loeb Classical Library, Harvard University Press
F or more than two decades, Jeffrey Henderson '68 (who graduated with highest honors in classics) has been internationally the most active and esteemed scholar in the field of Greek Old Comedy. He has previously published five books on Aristophanes, including that pathbreaker The Maculate Muse, the definitive edition of Lysistrata in Greek for the Clarendon Press, and several volumes of translations. He now joins those who, for almost a century now, have made the Loeb Classical Library the most extensive and widely known series of classical authors in the English-speaking world.
Most people agree that some things get better as they get older: red wine, certain cheeses, even some stories. But not jokes. What scholar, then, would choose to spend his energy blowing twenty-four hundred years' worth of dust off ancient Greek comedies? First, only a scholar in whose value system humor has a prominent place, and perhaps it is this trait that especially distinguishes Henderson among great classicists. But a sense of humor is not enough. While the modern reader of other kinds of ancient literature, such as epic, lyric, and tragedy, may be fascinated even if he or she knows little about the religious and social context of the work, the impact of ancient comedy resides in the specific: in the fun of verbal expressions, the caricature of public figures, and the perversion of social customs. Consequently, the translator must be an expert in Greek culture, and Henderson is that, too.
Knowing that fun presupposes immediacy, he refused to encumber his earlier translation of Acharnians for the Focus Library with the conventional host of footnotes to elicit a belated laugh. Instead, he opted for a freer translation. Thus one character's name, "Born from Two Gods," hinting at a humorous explanation for the man's superhuman speed, Henderson renders "Godson." Ecbatana, a fabled city in the East, becomes "Eldorado." For the reader who has no knowledge of Greek and who (Athena forbid!) is reading the comedy for entertainment rather than for instruction, this solution is both intelligible and enjoyable.
Other readers can now turn to the Loeb series, where they will find a distinctly more conservative version of Acharnians. Intended for a more scholarly audience, the Loeb translation is remarkably literal; it is in prose, accompanied by more footnotes to explain the jokes. But this version too is full of vitality and wit.
(Focus Library) "My greetings, dear Boeotian, eater of spam."
(Loeb Library) "Welcome, my baguette-eating Boeotian!"
In addition to the brilliance of its translation, Henderson's Loeb is a landmark in two further ways: Henderson has freshly edited the Greek text (a task requiring Alpine scholarship), and he has provided introductions finer than those found in any other translations (except his own elsewhere). The introductions are especially notable for the crisp clarity with which they examine the crucial political and social functions of Aristophanes's comedies in the life of fifth-century Athenian democracy.
The liberating energy of Aristophanes's genius has been at work also in our age, and Henderson has been doing the most to let that energy flow.
--Carolin Hahnemann, assistant professor of classics, and William E. McCulloh, John B. McCoy-Banc One Distinguished Teaching Professor of Classics
Creating Histories: Oral Narratives and the Politics of History-Making
by Wendy F. Singer
Oxford University Press
W hen we were all in grade school, history was presented to us as a singular time stream of recorded events most usually (if not exclusively) pertaining to "great" developments and ideas. It was a stream of facts; there was a history of the world, which commenced with the written word and concluded as a peculiarly Euro-American record. Associate Professor of History Wendy Singer's book is a profound demonstration of the inadequacy of those notions, not only because it deals with Indian history in a way that is at once local, regional, national, and global but also because it is as much about how history is made as it is about peasant movements and their relationship to the construction of an Indian polity in the first half of this century. It challenges the reader to think closely about the relationship between orality and literacy, powerfully demonstrating how local narratives influenced the ways that events were transformed in the process of becoming historical records.
As Singer weaves oral narratives of memory and archival records with the realities of current events, history becomes not just the stuff of the past but also the frame of the present. If written accounts are based on opportunistically culled and processed oral narratives, oral reflection by the literate on written accounts "represents a critical commodity." History becomes a multivocal process as opposed to a monolithic thing, a process for recounting the past in ways that are variously useful to the present. In that light, Singer discusses the way narrative memories about social movements of the 1930s (e.g., the Tinkonma movement for agrarian reform) reflect recent electoral issues (ongoing agrarian conflict in the Bihar region.) Thus, oral histories speak concurrently to the past, the present, and perhaps the future, disclosing not only changes over time but the meaning of those changes in the context of the narration.
Also of interest is the way that written and oral histories are contrasted as accounts. Where the goal of the written record is often to freeze a moment in essence, the goal of oral history is to mold the moment contextually. Thus, while a written account is meant to be left as a singular, stable, documented truth (even if it is driven by the hegemonic interests of writers in a political milieu), oral narratives present themselves as possessed of multiple and fluid meanings that emerge in the context of the telling (i.e., taking into account the audience, the purpose of the gathering, the goal of the narrator, and so on). As creators of histories, such narrators are mediators who not only describe a particular past but who negotiate its continued relevance for an audience. Ultimately, she says, "oral narratives demonstrate that the struggle of women and men for control over their lives in the 1930s has been incorporated into a continuing battle for control of their own histories." As people recount the 1930s struggles for agrarian reform, for social reform, for nationalism, they tell us simultaneously about their perception of the world around them now and their hopes for the world that is still to come.
For those interested in India, this book will offer a unique and compelling view of the active role of the peasantry in the shaping of a nation. For the reader with theoretical interests, the work usefully refines, critiques, and/or builds upon ideas of such diverse thinkers as Jacques Derrida, Jack Goody, Walter Ong, and Victor Turner. Students of anthropology will be pleased to see a historian capable of sophisticated collection and use of ethnographic data. Finally, the general readership will appreciate not only some revision of their notion of history and its production but also the clear prose that characterizes Singer's crisp and thoughtful argument.
--David N. Suggs, associate professor of anthropology
How to Get to Heaven without Going to Church
by Rev. William "Bil" Aulenbach Jr. '54
Creative Ventures, Dana Point, California
P erhaps a subtitle for this book could be, "Heaven is too important to leave in the hands of the theologians." The author, "Father Bil" Aulenbach '54, has woven his experiences as a Marine officer, director of a twenty-five-hundred-member youth congregation, drug-rehabilitation counselor, runaway shelter and clinic founder, "PK" (that is, "preacher's kid"), and priest for thirty-five years in the Episcopal Church into a self-help guide, designed to "make people think and talk about their faith."
His target audience ranges from the curious about Christianity to those feeling disconnected, those who see Christianity, its doctrines and practices, as so complex and forbidding that they stop looking to the institutional church as a help, hope, or haven. His goal is a pastoral one, to present a simple gospel of salvation by faith alone (his is a strongly Pauline reading of Christianity, filtered through Reformation Protestantism). He wants to show that it can be exciting to live as a Christian, and that for the weary Christian a renewed connection to the "Higher Power" can be made when a critical distance from organizational religion, the religion of guilt and unbending doctrine, is achieved.
Step by step, through twelve chapters, Aulenbach sets out a blueprint for building this house, a sort of Habitat for Humanity's spirit, set amidst the "jungle" of our modern, chaotic "separations": 1) beginning with his reading of what life really is; 2) the poor, but charismatic Jewish peasant with a strong message of love; 3) and 4) God and the Holy Spirit in nontraditional guise; 5) "Evil" and the Devil, the reverse of what it means to "Live"; 6) the place of the Bible, as an inspiration along with other books; 7) death (daily and final); 8) the "how to" of the Good News; 9) love and atonement (at-one-ment); 10) prayer, and a suggested technique for this centering act, using the simple sign of the cross; 11) the role of the church in the Church, not an elitist doctrine of an "ecclesiola in ecclesia" but an attitude of how to be a lovely community instead of a dead edifice; and 12) a summation in guidelines on how to love ourselves, our neighbors, and Creation (his other name for God, which employs ancient metaphors of the Christian mystics, such as John Scotus Erigena).
He sets out in a conversational, often humorous storytelling style to explore practical ways in which Christians can function better, more joyously in daily living, ways in which guilt will concern them only thirty seconds at most. His checklists and interactive exercises function much like a self-directed spiritual retreat. One of his strategies is to challenge longstanding beliefs as a way to create new ways to view faith. In an appendix, "Obscene Words and Phrases," some readers might be startled to find listed such words as "Christmas" (a fourth-century addition to Christianity) or "God": "A cross between Santa Claus, a Master Puppeteer, and a Benevolent Dictator." These are some of the "dearest idols" that he wishes to smash, since he believes they have obscured or replaced the biblical challenge of faith alone. In the same effort, he rejects the necessity of doctrines such as the Virgin Birth, infant baptism, the ultimate authority of the Bible, and images of a sexless Jesus.
These are issues commonplace within theological circles, but Aulenbach's book is not a work of theology, church history, or biblical studies. His steps into these areas sometimes go astray: the King James Bible was not published in 1621; Constantine did not create the festival of Christmas; Roman Catholics do not give priority to the Missal over the Bible; and theologians have not defined Purgatory as a "neutral" space (check out Dante or C.S. Lewis).
Where I think Aulenbach makes a real contribution is in his thoughtful, nuanced redefinition and linkage of the concepts of Trinity, Baptism, and Resurrection. It is a "Creation" theology in which he sees God as the source and sum of Creation, Jesus's divinity present as the most Creative human, and the Holy Spirit as Creativity within each of us. Baptism for him is not some ritualistic act, open to superstitious fears (as in the fears for an unbaptized infant voiced by a parishioner at the opening of this book), but as a way of becoming connected directly to Creation, to have Creativity flow through us, as a way of forgiveness, as a reminder of the eternal nature of our individuality and uniqueness. To these he links the expanded notion of Resurrection: "The power of the Resurrection is not in what actually [italics his] happened on that first Easter (because no one really knows). Its power lies in what the very idea of Resurrection can do to a person, a group, or a community [italics his]." His illustration is a personal one from the resurrection of a moribund church near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, into which the creative ministry of his own father breathed new life. His aim, then, is not to intellectualize the idea of Resurrection, but "to do" Resurrection.
In this he finds hope even for the church. But it must be the "Good Church": A "Bad-News" church will try to take control of your life and tell you how to think, has lots of laws or rules, labels people, centers its teachings on the Bible rather than on Jesus and love, believes its way is the only way, puts church before Church, and gives only token offerings to the hurting world. A "Good-News" church talks a lot about love, accepts people the way they are, and goes out into the real world, loving every speck of it. In this, Aulenbach provides hope for even the hippopotamus-like institutional church, to use T.S. Eliot's image, finally and gloriously to take wing.
--Royal W. Rhodes, professor of religion
The Rooster Palace
by Jeffrey G. Kelly '69
Adirondack Empire, Saratoga Springs, New York
I n May 1997, fifty thousand followers of the Naxalbari Movement from Bihar, West Bengal, and Andhar Pradesh came together to celebrate the thirtieth anniversary of the movement, which was born in West Bengal in 1967. Despite intense repression, the Naxalites continued to believe in the idea of armed struggle against feudalism in society.
The Naxalite movement thirty years later was also on the mind of Jeffrey Kelly '68, whose journal record of his two-month sojourn in Calcutta, India, shortly after his graduation from Kenyon, became the basis for his novel, The Rooster Palace.
Like many of his generation, Kelly was possessed by wanderlust and a sense of adventure following graduation from college. After working for one year in Harlem, New York, as an elementary-school teacher with the Urban Teacher Corps and then hitchhiking throughout North America, he booked freighter passage from Los Angeles, California, to Calcutta.
With a high lottery number in the draft and a growing antipathy to the war in Vietnam, the book's main character and narrator, Jack Hamilton, is introduced lying in a canvas cot in Calcutta and reminiscing about his last semester at Kenyon as a fraternity member and football player. Hamilton is, however, quickly caught up in the turbulent life of the city.
The novel adeptly captures the sensory overload of the teeming streets of Calcutta, "where people behaved like herds of animals, restless and alert for change." Led by a fourteen-year-old beggar-child-turned-guide, Hamilton is introduced to the Rooster Palace located in the center of Native Town, a place reserved for the Indians who revered ritual, strong beliefs, and everlasting festivals.
In Native Town, Hamilton meets Annapurna, a young Indian woman who turns out to be a native American. Their love story is entwined with the story of Nandalla, a Naxalite revolutionary.
Kelly has made his home in the Adirondack Mountain region of New York since 1976, where he has worked as a newspaper reporter, magazine publisher, and editor of Adirondack Life magazine. He now lives with his wife, artist Linda Smythe, and their sons, Spencer and Faber, in Saratoga Springs, New York. Smythe designed the book's cover and created all the chapter illustrations.
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