Jack Mitchell

American Journal of Philology 136.3 (Fall 2015), pp. 469-502.

Abstract. Literary performance in the form of expressive reading aloud was central to Greco-Roman cultural transmission; scholars have described its role both in education and in ancient scholarship. Noting parallels in the terminology, objectives, and criteria for literary performance among the Techne Grammatike of Dionysius Thrax, scholia to canonical works, the Colloquia, and the scholia to the Techne, I argue that the scholia to canonical works reflect a performance culture in the Imperial period that included the ancient schoolroom, and that the dynamics of literary performance in the ancient schoolroom may therefore help to solve the question of whether references to performance style and audience response in the scholia to canonical works were intended to guide real performances or, instead, they were meant simply describe an ideal performance by The Poet. I conclude that this is a false distinction for the schoolroom setting, since student performances were strongly conditioned by ideas of the historical origins of genre.

Classical Journal 110.3 (2015), pp. 333-355.

Abstract: Most acts of literary quotation in Suetonius are ironical reflections by emperor-characters on the burdens of imperial rule, deployed at transitional moments in the biographies. Consideration of literary performance traditions in Suetonius’ society, from the classroom to the recitatio to the acroamata at dinner parties, allows us to understand these transitional quotations as moments in which Suetonius’ listener is invited to sympathize with the emperor-character as a fellow enthusiast for literature. The biography of Nero reverses this scheme, as Nero’s quotations bathetically distance him from the listener.

Translation and Literature, 24 (2015), pp. 1-22.

Abstract: WIlliam Morris' translation of the Aeneid, from 1875, is among the strangest translations ever made, either of Virgil or by Morris. Its fondness for archaism has prompted scathing censure in the 20th century, even though contemporary reviews were quite receptive; it is now little read. I suggest, however, that Morris' aims in translating Virgil thus are both understandable and admirable, if we read the translation in light of his ongoing work at illumination, and in particular his design and supervision of an illuminated Aeneid (handwritten in Latin), abandoned just before this translation was undertaken. These illuminated books, the outgrowth of Morris' fervent belief in the physicality of literature, deliberately blend many eras of the Aeneid's reception (Trojan, Roman, Dark Age, medieval, Elizabethan), and it is in this same spirit of historical synthesis — of earnest postmodernism avant la lettre — that we ought to accept Morris' peculiar translation.

Translation and Literature, 22 (2013), pp. 149-166.

Abstract: The long-standing problem of how to translate compound epithets ("rosy-fingered Dawn" etc.) is fundamentally a problem of literary culture: since these epithets were culturally embedded, how can we translate them if we cannot recreate the culture that produced and appreciated them? Bacchylides 17 ("Theseus' Dive") is a case in point: the traditionality of its epithets is easily established, contrasting especially with the novelties of Timotheus. A solution is perhaps to be found in the attitude towards the making and translation of epithets of Gerard Manley Hopkins, the proto-modernist Victorian poet. In his notes on Homer, he views the effect of epithets as being subjective, as lying in the effect they have on a reader in context; this "inscape" of the epithet is the proper object of translation.

In A Californian Hymn to Homer, ed. by Timothy Pepper (2010).

Abstract: The figure of Theoclymenus the mantis (soothsayer) is a problematic one in the Odyssey: he appears out of nowhere, is systematically dismissed and/or disbelieved by everyone he encounters, and finally steals centre stage with an apocalyptic prophecy to the Suitors out of left field. Parallels in profession and technique between the rhapsode-aoidos and the mantis of archaic Greece suggest that Theoclymenus is so malleable a figure precisely because he stands for the rhapsodic tradition itself within the narrative, able to comment scathingly on the folly of those characters who disrespect that tradition.