Resource Review: Handbook for Classical Research

October 19, 2010

The Classics Department recently purchased David M. Schaps, Handbook for Classical Research (Routledge, 2010) for the Alexander Room collection.

Illustration of book coverThis book serves as an introduction to Classical Studies research and  its various subfields.  It seems designed to accompany a proseminar for beginning graduate students, the sort of once-a-week, one credit hour seminar that many departments (UGA included) hold for new graduate students in their first semester.  As such it is useful – oftentimes graduate proseminars are a mixture of broad and narrow topics, more dictated by the research interests of departmental faculty than guided by a comprehensive approach to introducing the various sub-disciplines of Classics and the quirks of their research methods and research resources (topics include such diverse things as approaching research questions and understanding the notations used to describe coins).  This useful content  is organized well.  There are 30 chapters, divided into 4 sections (a table of contents is available at the Worldcat page, linked above under the title), so one could cover 2-3 topics a week in a 15-week proseminar.

The book has an unusually personal and chatty ‘voice’ that did not work very well for this reader.  It is not the sort of book many would want to sit down and read straight through, but neither is it really designed as a reference work to be kept on the shelf and consulted at need.  (Although each chapter has a section on “Major Resources”, the author explicitly notes that his coverage of bibliography will not be comprehensive, and recommends Fred W. Jenkins, Classical Studies: A Guide to the Reference Literature (Libraries Unlimited, 2006) as a bibliographic resource, as do I.)  This erstwhile classical archaeologist did a bit of eye-rolling at the sub-head beginning Chapter 10, “Classics Is Almost Entirely Literature,” although archaeology is covered reasonably well (one can always quibble the most about one’s own topic of expertise!)

The book is listed at $130 in hardcover, and $37.95 in paperback.  I would recommend it more for someone organizing a graduate proseminar in Classics than attending one; libraries with graduate Classics departments will rightly purchase it.  If you are a Classics grad student short on funds, I would purchase Jenkins (citation above, listed at $60 but available used for under $20, make sure you get the 2006 edition, not the 1996) over this volume.  (If you are a Classics grad student with too much money, please take your classmates out to dinner.)

I have not found any reviews of this work yet, although there was some discussion of the book on the list-serv Classics-L (search the archives for “schaps handbook” and you’ll find a few comments).  If you know of reviews, please link or cite in comments.

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