Subdisciplinary Monoculists: Seeing, They Do Not See...
Two examples, from 19th-century studies and from classics, will show that some humanists still must try harder to look through the eyes of other disciplines, at visual arts and at written texts, but also to avoid anachronism, in "reading" our objects of study. 1. Scholars of playwright Henrik Ibsen, particularly Norse ones, have looked everywhere but to the obvious for models of the co-protagonists in his final play, English title When We Dead Awaken (1899). Art history readily recognizes Auguste Rodin in sculptor "Arnold Rubek", and, with telling contrasts, that French sculptor's discarded model and pupil Camille Claudel in "A lady traveler" named "Irene" who had been Rubek's model — a model as model for a model! Established Ibsenists, however, by and large resist these commonplaces of their colleagues, although they are potentially helpful, even indispensable for fully understanding Ibsen's "epilogue" play. 2. There the stubbornness lies on one side. In an important area of classical studies, on the other hand, two disciplines talk past one another, failing to notice how what philologists regard anachronistically as (mere) "symbols" in Homeric and Archaic poetry and what archaeological art historians classify as (mere) "conventions" in 6th- and 5th-century vase-painting ought to be conjoined in treatment and so to reveal a lively and potent belief in real, immanent Olympian gods. These were objects not of theology but of faith and piety, such as historians of ancient religion have begun to fathom, and such as the "superstitious" Christian Middle Ages would have understood better than modern antiquarian scholars do, with notions of deity informed by Plato or Paul, Kant or Kierkegaard, Feuerbach or Freud, reluctant to believe [sic!] that classical Greeks could be so "primitive" as they were. Note: Illustrations to Part 2 will include vases in the Fitzwilliam Museum.
Keywords: Ancient Greece, Archaeology, Ibsen, Iconography, Religion (ancient Greek), Rodin, Vase-painting
Dr Victor Castellani
Associate Professor of Classics/Humanities, Department of Languages and Literatures, Division of Arts and Humanities, University of Denver