Thursday, August 28, 2014


Response: Allan on Hunink on Allan. Response to 2014.08.25

Response by William Allan, University College, Oxford (

Version at BMCR home site

I am grateful to
Vincent Hunink for his kind words on my Classical Literature: A Very Short Introduction. However, it is clear from the first couple of paragraphs of his discussion that he is reviewing the book as though it were a textbook intended for classroom use. I would like to clarify that this is
not the purpose of the Very Short Introduction series, which is aimed at the general reader. The review is therefore based on a misunderstanding.

One might recommend the book in preparation for a Classics degree, but its target audience is people who may have only vaguely heard of Homer or Virgil and want to dip their toe further. The book makes no claim to be, or to replace, a serious textbook (such as Rutherford’s, which he compares
it to).

One final point: the reviewer names several authors that are not covered. One could name 500 more: again, it is a VSI with a strict limit of 125 pages of text. As regards my selection, there are several separate VSIs on ancient philosophy and Christianity, so my remit was explicitly not to
duplicate those.


  1. Prof. Allan underlines an important distinction which classical scholars often fail to make: between publications intended for students and scholars, and those aimed at general readers. As Vice-President for Outreach of the Society for Classical Studies, I am actively working to encourage the second variety and to make people "inside" the discipline of Classics aware of the value of reaching out to the broader audience.

    Mary-Kay Gamel,

  2. It is unfair to assess this "short introduction"--part of a distinguished series whose contributors also include Mary Beard, John Henderson and Helen Morales--as if it were a "volume" designed for the Latin and Greek university classroom: it represents a a form of "outreach" writing of which few classicists (including myself) are capable. Mikron biblion, mega kalon!
    Judith P Hallett


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