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November 19, 1961 - Image 10

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1961-11-19
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Aristophanes RidesAgain

RESEARCH: lab vs. Classroom?

IT IS PROBABLY just as well that
nothing has ever come of Malcolm
Cowley's frivolous scheme for a literary
Dow-Jones service, which would quote via
ticker-tape daily estimates of the repu-
tations of celebrated writers. One sus-
pects, though, that if such a service did
exist, its tapes would reveal nowadays
that interest in the plays of Aristophanes
is faintly on the climb. Here in Ann Ar-
bor, anyway, recent trading has been
brisk. Wasn't it only last year that we
were treated to the heroic production of
the Greek master's Frogs in a campus
swimming-pool, complete with splashes
by the Michifish, Dionysian fandangos at
the pool-side by dancers who kept skid-
ding in wet footprints, and triple-flips-
by the Varsity diving team? Now this fall,
the University Press makes its bid. Over
the next three or four years, we are to be
offered the entire corpus of classic Greek
comedy: the eleven surviving plays of
Aristophanes and a newly rediscovered
chortler by Menander-all in nifty sepa-
rate volumes at four-fifty a throw (that's
$54 for the series, if the buyer can stick
with it). For Aristophanes, indeed, the
fictive Dow-Jones ticker must be stut-
tering a bit more favorably these days.
I confess that at first I was sorry to
hear that the Press was to devote its en-
ergies (and those of the general editor of
the series, William Arrowsmith) to Aris-
tophanes. For there already is, after all,
the splendid series of Aristophanes plays
done into the American by Dudley Fitts.
It has now extended to four volumes. And
translators as capable as Fitts and Ar-
rowswith are not so plentiful, I thought,
that we can afford to have both of them
working the same material. After reading
Arrowsmith's wonderful version of The
Satyricon, too, I'd hoped that he might
continue to widen my knothole view into
the world of Roman depravity, and put
into English a few more classics for those
of us too innocent of Latin to be cor-
But after a look at the first two Michi-
gan volumes of Aristophanes-The Birds,
Englished by Arrowsmith, and The Ach-
arnians, by Douglass Parker-I am struck
with a dumb dog-like admiration. For
page after page, both Parker and Arrow-
smith have achieved the near-impossible.
They have managed, more beautifully
than I could have dreamed, to make the

New Translations Revive
Plays of Greek Master

Greek playwrights Euripides and Aeschylus debate
in "The Frogs" of the University Players

-.. _.

RIDES AGAIN...........Page Two
By X. J. Kennedy
BOOM.... . .........Page Three
ByAHoward Abrams
WRITERS ..............Page Four
By James Gindin
THWARTS FUTURE ......Page Seven
By Susan Farrell
AND REVIEWS............Page Six
PROFILER...............Page Eight
A Daily Special Section
JUNGLE .........Page Teni
By Michael Olinick
DISILLUSIONS ......Page Twelve
By Judith Oppenheim
By James Hudson, Anne Mooney
and Wallace Wilson
ISLAND..............Page Fourteen
By Gerald Storch
VS. CLASSROOM? ......Page Fifteen
By Cynthia Neu
Editor: Faith Weinstein
PHOTO CREDITS: Cover: James Keson;
Page Two: University Players; Page
Three: top, Daily, bottom, Folklore
Society; Page Four: Daily; Page Five:
top, Harcourt, Brace & World, Inc.,
bottom, Daily; Page Six: Larry Ja-
cobs; Page Seven: University News
Service; Pages Eight and Nine:
James Keson; Page Ten: Daily; Page
Twelve: Daily; Page Thirteen: Doily;
Page Fourteen: Daily; Page Fifteen:



lines of Aristophanes taut, modern and
speakable. The result in each case is not
merely another translation, either, but a
fresh scholarly interpretation.
* * *
COMPARING translations is always
good nasty fun, and since both Fitts
and Arrowsmith have done The Birds, it
may be useful to set their two versions
side by side, in hopes of noticing differ-
ences in craftsmanship. Lacking Greek,
I dare only ask: is this poetry?
It is with the poetry of Aristophanes
that Arrowsmith sets himself to deal
primarily. "A prose Aristophanes," he
says in his introduction, "is . . . as much
a monstrosity as a limerick in prose
paraphrase." And accordingly, he adopts
for the play a free-wheeling fivestress
line that sprawls conveniently in and
out of blank verse. Arrowsmith thus in-
vites comparison with Fitts, who also
employs a kind of free blank verse, but
who sticks to his basic form, I think, more
narrowly. He challenges, too, the Ed-
wardian scholar Benjamin B. Rogers, who
versified the plays into jingly metres
borrowed from Longfellow and W. S.
Gilbert-versions marvelous for their ac-
curacy, I'm told, but certainly depressing
as poetry. And he rivals the late great
Gilbert Murray, who in old age pub-
lished a remarkably lively rendition of
The Birds from which, however, nearly
all the raunchy humor had been ex-
Never a man to call a bird a bird when
Aristophanes quite properly intends it to
be called a phallus, Arrowsmith 'frankly
conveys allusions which in the past only
the subtlest students of classic Greek
have been able to chortle over. Fitts is
no prude, either, but Arrowsmith-as his
introduction again reveals-has a unique
and delicate sense of the grace with
which good clean obscenity must be
rendered. There is nothing in his book
remotely comparable to a privvy-wall
scrawling, nor to the sort of teasing smut
we are all of us accustomed to, if we
look at the Jansen ads in the Ladies'
Home Journal. It is all kept deft and
capable of being performed in the open
air, as Aristophanes intended.
X. J. KENNEDY is an instruc.
for in the English department
whose poems have appeared lo-
cally in "Arbor" and "Genera-
tion." He won a major Hopwood
contest award in 1959. His first,
published volume of verse, "Nude
Descending a Staircase," which
was awarded the Lamont Prize for
Poetry, is reviewed in this maga-
zine. .

How radically diflerent are the inter-
pretations that Fitts and Arrowsmith
give to The Birds is evident from each
version's beginning. There are, you may,
recall, two human principals who quit
Athens and go petition the birds to ac-
cept them as allies, urging the birds to
blockade earth from heaven until both'
gods and men are forced into submis-
sion. Well, why do these two types quit
Athens in the first place? According to
Fitts, they do so to escape a wave of
McCarthyist hysteria: to clear out of an
Athens wracked by wartime suspicion,
where every man bears tales against his
neighbor. Arrowsmith, on the other hand,
views the central theme of the play as
"polypragmosune." This is not a new
miracle ingredient in toothpaste, but the
Athenians' term for that quality of rest-
less energy by which they believed their
culture to be animated. Like the protag-
onists of The Birds, Athenians felt them-
selves driven by this-force to high-reach-
ing and somewhat moonshiny endeavors:
like launching an expedition to Sicily, in
which it seemed probable that they'd get
the tar kicked out of them. Not merely a
positive force, the spirit of polypragmo-
sune drove men to meaningless busywork,
to a foolish craving for change and nov-
elty. In Birds, the protagonists gloriously
succeed. They become as gods. But Ar-
rowsmith's view is that their triumph is
an ironic one. The pie in the sky which
eventually they find just isn't there to be
eaten, is what I think Arrowsmith thinks
Aristophanes is getting at. How sad that
it isn't, and wouldn't the universe be
lovelier if it were. This difference in con-
cept of what the play is about makes a
difference all the way through both Fitts'
and Arrowsmith versions.'
* s *
IT WOULD be possible to go through
both versions, scoring a point now for
Fitts, now for, Arrowsmith, but it seems
to me that in the long run Arrowsmith's
dialogue is a few degrees crisper. In the
case of topical allusions, there isn't much
to be done except to omit, or else to foot-
note and hope for the best. (Nothing, of
course, will kill a joke faster than having
to look at a footnote to it.) Fitts does
either, but prefers to footnote. Arrow-
smith does either, but prefers to omit.
(I don't believe, by the way, that the
solution is to replace archaic allusions
with current ones, as the speech depart-
ment did with Frogs, which had refer-
ences to Castro and the Nixon-Kennedy
campaign. To hear Castro discussed in
an Athenian Hades isn't an. agreeable
shock of recognition. Arrowsmith for me
runs into this trap in Birds when he has
the leading protagonist marry, at the end,
a beauty queen named Miss Universe.
Fitts shrewdly avoids this.)
But where Arrowsmith run' into 'most

trouble is in his announced intention of
keeping the play's poetry. And if there's
any place in a Greek drama where the
translator as poet is most sorely tried,
this is (where else?) in the choruses. In
rendering these, Arrowsmith tends to
use extremely regular metres, often ably,
but at times much more mechanically
than Fitts, who is for my money the
better lyric poet. Where Arrowsmith
keeps everything in tidy Tennysonian
stanzas, Fitts feels free to use looser and
more variable ones, and gets-I am really
sticking my neck out here-a rather more
Greek-like sound to it. The rhythms, any-
way, are not the trite iambics into which
Arrowsmith so often dwells; they are
more often anapestic, and they sound
more like the fine versions of Sappho,
done recently by Mary Baird and the
Pindar of Richard Lattimore and Fitts'
own fine versions from the Greek An-
athology. Where Fitts has the chorus of
birds sing,
Joy of birds! In summer
the long thick sunlight
When the locust drones
in the trance of noontime:
Mad with sun we shout,
and the forest dances
Heavy with music.
-what do we get in Arrowsmith?
How blessed is our bread of Bird,
dressed in fluff and feather,
that, when hard winter holds the world,
wears no clothes whatever.
This is clever, but the effect is to reduce
many a lovely song to the level of the
competent light verse of Thomas Hood.
And it is in the comic songs that Arrow-
smith is happiest, as in this invocation to
the deities (a clear triumph over Fitts'
version, by -the way):
Again we raise
the hymn of praise
and pour the sacred wine.
With solemn rite
we now invite
the blessed gods to dine.
But don't all come-
perhaps just one,
and maybe then again,
there's not enough
(besides, it's tough),
so stay away. Amen.
The ideal strategy for future producers
of this play, I'd think, would be to use
the text of Arrowsmith but with few ex-
ceptions to replace his choral songs with
the versions by Dudley Fitts. Unfortu-
nately, the difficulties of computing roy-
alties will probably prevent this solution.
But certainly the shade of Aristophanes
is fortunate to have such sterling men at
work upon him. And so are we Americans.
Three Versions
Of Same Song
From 'The Birds'
Friend! sweet voice, whom above
All winged things we love,
Sharer of all that I sing,
My comrade, Nightingale dear,
You have come! You have come!
You are here
In clear vision before us,
Sweet melody on your wing,
And the flute's reawakening;
O living voice of the Spring,
Give the lead to our chorus!
-Gilbert Murray (1950)
o love,
Sweet nightingale,
musician of the Birds
Come and sing,
honey-throated one!
Come, 0 love,
flutist of the Spring,
accompany our song.
-William Arrowsmith (1961)
Tawnythroat, Partner
In song, dark
Muse, dearest of Birds,
Come, let the curving long

Line of your flutingV
Fall, sparklixg
Undersong to our words.
-Dudley Fitts (1957)


. University of Michigan was com-
prise(F of two professors and seven stu-
dents, one of the first purchases was for
a mineral collection from the New York.
Historical Museum to be used for research.
Since that $5,000 expenditure-the first
ever made for research - research has
played an increasingly important role at
the University, until total volume expen-
ditures for research in 1960-61 reached.
But the full impact of research cannot
be illustrated by statistics alone. When,
as is now the case, dozens of University
professors are involved in both teaching
and research projects, when there is more
and more opportunity to do research, and
when research has become an inheyent
part of the graduate program, many ques-
tions arise. Is research taking top scholars
out of classrooms and putting them into
the Survey Research Center or the Insti-
tute of Science and Technology-to the
detriment of the student body? Are the
graduate schools training researchers
rather than teachers? Is the University
heading toward being an exclusively grad-
uate-and research institution?
As the prestige of the physical sciences,
and more lately the social sciences, has
risen, more and more funds have been
made available to them. Although under
a long - established pattern University
philosophy faculty members were expected
to do research in their "spare moments,"
these new funds have enabled them to
devote more time to it without suffering
monetary penalties. Perhaps the most
significant development is that leaves
are now made possible by the increased
funds available, so that the professor can
devote all his time to a given project. In
addition, many members of the faculty
are no longer doing as much teaching as
they formerly did. The increasing num-
ber of dual telephone extensions listed
in the faculty directory, including both a
Haven Hall and research institute num-
ber, show that many who are teaching
are doing so on a part-time basis.
ing to Dean Roger W. Heyns of the
literary college, is that the University
wants people who will both teach and re-
search, and who will teach both graduates
and undergraduates. Salaries for research
and teaching are eqcual, and there are no
research professorships here, as there are
at many schools.

In spite of this policy, the research
boom still poses definite dangers for un-
dergraduates. First, as the prestige of
research and graduate teaching continues
to rise, the undergraduate may find that
he -is somewhat ignored. He may find,
especially if he is in a highly specialized
study area, that a single grant has en-
abled a large number of the University's
specialists in his particular field to take
leaves of absence simultaneously. The

lament of students may be heard each
term as they learn from the time schedule
that the professors who teach particular
advanced courses are "on leave."
This is not to say that faculty research
leaves act negatively upon the University,
for the findings and publications which
emerge from such projects reflect on the
faculty members and upon the University
they represent. In the long range, they
can be most advantageous in helping ob-
tam additional research funds and estab-
lishing the prestige of the University.
Also, the grants which are awarded for
such research cover salaries, and thus free
other funds for hiring additional staff
members. Since mobility in the faculty is
expected, a larger number of professors


can be employed to fill in monetary gaps
without an increase in cost.
THUS, THE GRADUATE student begins
to think in terms of research and
publication. As a graduate, the student
has already entered a profession-that
is, he has chosen his career.
After this research orientation, the
graduate student usually moves into
teaching, often without any training in
education. As a teacher, he must continue
to publish in order to keep his name
public and, in turn, he needs a teaching
position in order to have access to re-
search funds.
Thus there is a practical consideration
involved in his research training as a
graduate, since he will most likely have to
continue his research after. he enters the
academic field. In "many cases, also, re-
search and teaching can be combined to
augment each other, and the professor or
assistant can manage to do both well.
What then happens to the graduate
who only wants to teach? First, it is
difficult for him to get a job, especially
with a college or university which is in
the process of establishing itself, and
thus must put more emphasis on research
and publicationto keep faculty names in
the public eye and establish a reputation.
Second, if he does secure a position with-
out a sideline research stipulation, he will
often get the "dirty work" of teaching
the large introductory lecture courses.
At the root of these trends is the ten-
dency to evaluate professors and gradu-
ates on their research rather than on their
teaching. This has both the effect of mag-
nifying the place of-research and forcing
more research and publication on them.
* *.*
whether or not the University is head-
ing toward a complete research-graduate
orientation. Although the recent increased
emphasis on these two fields would seem
to make this concept logical, there are
many factors working against it. First, the
most practical, a graduate university
could not command the finances and sup-
port from the public which an under-
graduate campus could. Taxpayers and
alumni are concerned with giving an edu-
cation to their sons and daughters who
have recently graduated from high school
which would guarantee them better jobs.-
The attitude of the faculty toward such
a university must also be considered.
While a graduate - research university


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Are research laboratories like this changing the University's nature?


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