Classics@9: Defense Mechanisms in Interdisciplinary Approaches to Classical Studies and Beyond

Edited by Carol Gilligan, Leonard Muellner, and Gregory Nagy

The title of this issue is inspired by the work of Anna Freud, though not all of the editors can claim expertise in her work. What the editors do have in common is a strong interest in interdisciplinary approaches to Classical studies, and it is this interest that fuels the agenda of this issue of Classics@.

Nowadays people speak of “defense mechanisms” as both negative and positive forms of behavior: examples of negative forms are denial, repression, acting out, projection, rationalization, intellectualization, while one of the few positive forms is assertion, a way of responding that takes the middle ground between aggressive and passive. In the spirit of this positive form of assertion and in both technical and non-technical senses of the expression “defense mechanisms,” the present issue of Classics@ has been given its title.

The aim is to publish online research papers and essays in Classics and in other disciplines, related or unrelated, that explore strategies where the primary purpose is to defend assertively rather than attack. The justification is straightforward: discoveries and discovery procedures in research require and deserve a reasoned defense.

The challenge is, how to be assertive in defending one’s research when it comes under attack? The editors recognize that a good defense against attack requires a judicious blend of being assertive while not giving offense. But such a defense does not come naturally in the discipline of what is generally known as Classical scholarship, or in other disciplines with which the editors are acquainted. It seems that most disciplines tolerate many different ways of attacking the work of others but support precious few ways of defending one’s own work.

The fact that the word “defensive” brings with it a negative connotation in contemporary English is a symptom of the difficulties we all face in defending ourselves, with the result that attacks all too often go unchallenged. Even if a defense is attempted, another difficulty inherent in most academic disciplines today is the normally long delay between authoring and publication: the attack stands for a long time before the defense can be made public. Delay augments the authority of an unanswered attack. Recognizing these difficulties, the editors of this issue of Classics@ hope to promote the development of more effective ways to defend one’s own research without being either offensive or defensive.

The papers in the issue "Defense Mechanisms" are presented as attempts at exploring various strategies of argumentation. The editors earnestly hope that more research papers and essays will be included in this same issue, since they sense that the variety of available strategies in argumentation is vast. A metaphor that comes to mind is the variety of defensive moves available to the player of the black pieces in countering the moves made by the player of the white pieces at the beginning of a game of chess.

Those who wish to submit papers are encouraged to send them to the Executive Editors of Classics@, Professors Casey Dué Hackney (casey@chs.harvard.edu) and Mary Ebbott (ebbott@chs.harvard.edu).

Contents

Carol Gilligan, "Looking Back to Look Forward: Revisiting In a Different Voice."

Leonard Muellner, "Homeric Anger Revisited."

Gregory Nagy, "Diachrony and the Case of Aesop."