TOO, Yun Lee,
The Idea of Ancient Literary Criticism.
Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1998. IX,326p. Original blue gilt titled cloth with dust wrps. Nice copy. ‘Too’s first chapters proffers a reading of Hesiod and Aristophanes, focusing on the Hesiodic king’s judicial role in civl cases. (…) In Chapters 2 and 3, Too examines Plato’s ‘Republic’ and Aristotle’s ‘Poetics’ and the extensive connections between them. (…) Chapter 4, an especially valuable portion of the book, turns to Alexandria - a crucial site for Too’s analysis because of the work of canonization (especially under Aristophanes and Aristarchus) that occurred there. Too shows ingeniously how Vitruvius’ wonderful story of Aristophanes’ selections as head librarian mirrors the Contest of Hesiod and Homer. (…) Chapter 4 also reminds us of how deep are the roots of both orientalism and our fascination with Greek culture. (…) Turning now to Rome, chapter 5 looks ar Augustan and early imperial Roman writers, in such a way as to sketch a continuum from archaic Greece to the Roman period. (…) In chapter 6 we come to Quintilian and the treatise ‘On the Sublime’ ascribed to Longinus. (…) Too urges that Longinus’ work not be dissociated from its original context, which was clearly rhetorical , and that the notion of the sublime should thus retain its sociopolitical applicability. (…) Chapter 7 demonstrates how the classical models of criticism are transmogrified in the writings of Augustine: (…) Too’s analysis of Augustine, if accepted, offers a fresh understanding of the familiar demarcation between the ‘mediaeval’ and the ‘classical’. In chapter 8 - to which everything preceding might be read as prolegomena - Too offers a number of provocative observations about criticism today. (…). Provocatively again, she turns to the internet as the embodiment of ‘ultimate democratization’, and a a potential serious challenge to critical history (because the ways in which it creates and circulates discourse seem to defy regulation and control). (…) A certain amount of Too’s work, as she would doubtless agree, had already been done by such critics as Michel Foucault, Stanley Fish, Dominick LaCapra, Glenn Most, and Shadi Bartsch. What is new (and important) about Too’s book is that it applies such modes of consideration, in sustained, fashion, to over a thousand years’ worth of ancient texts, problematizing the notion of criticism itself in order to discern what such a category reveals about both ancient and modern texts. Moreover, the undertaking of any project of such intellectual scope has a certain panache to it. A lesser scholar might well have quailed at the proposition. Too’s volume is erudite, thoughtful, and born of a felicitous conception. Clearly not meant to be the last word on the subject, it might serve Too (and others) as a springboard for further investigation.’ (JOHN T. KIRBY in American Journal of Philology, 2001, pp.265-68).