Roman Literature and Its Contexts: Stephen Hinds

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His father spent his career as a university teacher of Greek and Latin classics at Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland. His mother and uncle both teach Latin in Irish high schools. His maternal grandfather took a degree in classics.

So it was perhaps not surprising when Stephen Hinds decided to carry on the tradition of what he calls a "hyper-classical family" and became a professor of classics himself--even married a classics professor, Catherine Connors.

While carrying on in his family members' footsteps, Hinds has broken new ground in the field with an innovative new book series called Roman Literature and Its Contexts, a project he initiated in 1990 with Denis Feeney of New College, Oxford, for Cambridge University Press.

The objective of the series is to return Roman literary studies to the mainstream of debate within the humanities, explains Hinds, who joined the faculty of the UW classics department in 1992. "We Romanists regularly explore critical and theoretical work produced by Renaissance and modern specialists. Now, we'd like to encourage them to read some of our stuff," he quips.

As of early 1997, four books in the series had been published, two more were in press, and three others were under contract. The series is charting new directions for critical work in the field. A review in the New England Classical Newsletter and Journal notes: "The series editors cannot be complimented too highly for the bold initiatives they have taken in sponsoring new critical perspectives in a field that, in the past, has been more resistant to such explorations."

Hinds's own contribution to the series is a book entitled Allusion and Intertext: Dynamics of Appropriation in Roman Poetry. His work on the volume was supported by a fellowship award from the National Endowment for the Humanities in 1994-95.

The format of the books is innovative in itself. They are short--each is no more than about 150 pages--and, unlike most works of classical scholarship, footnotes are minimal. They have a "sharp" visual design, are produced in paperback, and are priced low "to fit the graduate student pocket."

"They are designed as suggestive essays to stimulate debate," says Hinds. "The great majority of books on Roman literature are closely focused studies of a single author or a single literary work. With this series we want to encourage a new spaciousness in Roman studies--a better sense of how texts interact with each other and with the cultural contexts in which they were written," he explains. "We want to get a better sense, too, of how our modern perspectives color our view of a literature produced 2,000 years ago."

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