Storm over request for translated scholarship on Mithraism

E-mails sent amongst fellow Classicists in the last few days have cast a bad light on Classicists.

Followers who are subscibed to the “Listserv” list of Classics e-mail (see beliw) may be aware of a long list of messages to-and-fro about a variety of issues, mostly related to the Classical academia and language. It stemmed from a request from a postgraduate researcher for translated scholarship on Mithraism. Initial replies, which is likely to be interpreted as hostile, suggest that the pre-requisites for a Classicist is to know the ancient language.

This is followed by a mass of e-mails contributing to the debate over issues such as the knowledge of ancient languages, the knowledge of modern languages, anglophone dominance and Classics and cross-discipline support.

Some list members clearly felt that the e-mails were at best unhelpful, at worst hostile to the postgraduate whose request it was for translated scholarship. E-mails were sent to list members and a few privately to the postgraduate student.

The exchange of e-mails cast a shadow over the subject in terms of the varied perceptions of Classics by different Classicists, the issue of language and the use of communication to request help for a project. Moreover, the strong and belittling language was uncomforting. Yet a few members did come to defend the request of the postgraduate.

It is also important to pause, and to understand context when posting a reply, as co-operation is a sure way of furthering our subject. The context is a request of a postgraduate, any reply should at least be practically helpful before even the suggestion of the petitioner’s deficiency should even be considered. We at Classics Collective believe that all people hold firm believes, but it is nonetheless important to have an open and understanding mind and be ready to disagree politely. Sure an jolt or an earthquake releases tension, but at what cost?

Listserv Archives – March 2013 (Try heading such as “Addendum to above” and “Translated scholarship to Mithraism”:

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1 Response to Storm over request for translated scholarship on Mithraism

  1. Uncle Tom says:

    The initial comments were not wrong but could have been a tad premature since the query came from a self-identified graduate student. One should have said, “No, there are no translations of these works, you will have to sift through them in their original languages”. If the student’s reply were frustrated or flippant, then explain that you have to read foreign languages to be a scholar, the blunt truth having been invited.

    The student’s own response makes me think she is accustomed to the gold star culture, something which everyone knows is a problem, but which some to maybe most people nevertheless perpetuate.

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