A.B. magna cum laude Harvard 1925; Ph.D. Harvard 1933; D. Litt. (hon.) Harvard, 1968
Assist. to assoc. prof. classics, Harvard, 1933-1942; Eliot Professor of Greek Literature, 1942-1976; Master of Eliot House, Harvard, 1941-1968; George Eastman visiting professor, Oxford University, 1954-1955
“Quo modo poetae epici graeci heroas sententias fabulas moribus publicis accommodaverint” (Harvard, 1933)
“Corinth in the Middle Ages,” Speculum (1932) 477-99; “Milton and Horace,” HSCP 48 (1937) 29-73; “Euripides and Thucydides,” HSCP 49 (1938) 23-68 “The Origins of Thucydides' Style,” HSCP50 (1939) 35-84; “The Unity of Thucydides' History,” in Athenian Studies presented to W. S. Ferguson (Cambridge, MA, 1940) 255-97; Thucydides (Cambridge, MA, 1942; 2nd printing, 1947) REVS: CW XXXVI 1943 281-282 Lord | CJ XL 1945 432-435 Schoder | AJPh 1944 181-185 McGregor | CPh 1944 57-59 Cochrane | LEC 1946 302 Vanneste | Lychnos 1946-1947 382-383 Rudberg | CR 1947 15-17 Gomme | EHR 1947 239-240 Heichelheim | Gnomon XXVII 1955 145-154 Patzer; Harvard University Committee on the Objectives of a General Education in a Free Society,General Education in a Free Society (Cambridge, MA, 1945); “The Date of Paean 6 and Nemean 7,” HSCP 60 (1951) 61-80; Pindar and Aeschylus Martin Classical Lectures XIV (Cambridge, MA, 1955) REVS: Hermathena LXXXVIII 1956 105-107 Stanford | Phoenix XI 1957 176-178 McKay | Mnemosyne X 1957 72-73 van Groningen | CJ LIII 1957 95-96 Vermeule | AC XXVI 1957 188-189 des Places | RPh XXXI 1957 286 Humbert | AJPh LXXVIII 1957 440-444 Solmsen | CR N.S. VII 1957 18-19 Rose | CP LIII 1958 36-39 Blaiklock; “Pindar and the Persian Invasion,” HSCP 63 (1958) 121-32; Four Stages of Greek Thought, Harry Camp Lectures 1965 (Stanford, 1966) REVS: CW LIX 1966 307 Combellack | CR XVIII 1968 75-77 Baldry | JHS LXXXVIII 1968 192 Bicknell | CB XLIV 1967-1968 13-14 Rexine | RSF XXIII 1968 87-89 Dore | AAHG XXII 1969 212-213 Heubeck; “Politics and Early Attic Tragedy,” HSCP 71 (1966) 1-13; Three Essays on Thucydides (Cambridge, 1967) REVS: CB XLIV 1967 14-15 Horner | CPh LXII 1967 295 Sprague | CJ LXIII 1967 133-134 Best | CB XLIV 1967 13-14 Rexine | Lychnos 1969-1970 409-411 Palm; “Pindar's Beginnings,” in The Poetic Tradition. Essays on Greek, Latin, and English Poetry, ed. D.C. Allen & H.T. Rowell (Baltimore, 1968) 3-26; Homer's Odyssey, (Cambridge, MA, 1978) REVS: CW LXXIII 1979 51-52 Austin | G&R XXVII 1980 84 Arnott | Phoenix XXXIV 1980 277-278 Tsagarakis | TLS LXXIX 1980 43 Pembroke | CompLit XXXIII 1981 87-90 Combellack; “Sappho's Circumstances,” in Arktouros. Hellenic Studies Presented to Bernard M. W. Knox on the Occasion of his 65th Birthday, ed. G.W. Bowersock, W. Burkert & M.C.J. Putnam (Berlin, 1979) 33-39.
Mr. Finley (as we called him; hereafter JHF) seemed a Homeric god to his devoted followers. He would appear suddenly before you in your room, or in Harvard Square, or on the playing fields, to instill strength and courage (menos) into you, to inspire you to perform deeds of excellence (aristeia). In Eliot House, in the Master's lodging, he would give advice about choice of career that was drawn out, with a few leading questions, from deep within yourself. Thus X discovered that he wanted to be a lawyer, not a doctor; Y, an administrator, not a professor. "It doesn't matter," JHF would say in his aphoristic way, "whether you're a poet or a squire. What matters is whether you're a saint or an egotist." He was himself a poet turned squire, a brilliant and sensitive classical scholar-teacher who put enormous time, thought, energy, and devotion into being Master of Eliot House. Was he ever bitter about the road(s) not taken, the books not written, the recognition given to other, less interesting people? He joked, with self-deprecating humor, about how, contrary to his expectations, his chosen literary genre had turned out to be the letter of recommendation. Certainly, he was disappointed when Nathan Pusey, not he, was chosen out of the finalists to be President of Harvard. I remember that day. We were sad for him but did not know what to say. That early evening, I happened to be standing outside Eliot House when JHF emerged with unusual equipment: "I'm going fishing," he said in a quizzical tone, implying, among other things, that there was more to life than Harvard. His life was indeed rich and many-sided, and he was -- but had sometimes to remind himself to be -- very grateful. In his Victory Odes, which I read with JHF in a Greek tutorial as dazzling, in its way, as his famous lectures to hundreds of students in Humanities 2, Pindar constantly stresses the moral necessity of gratitude, the rejection of self-consuming bitterness, envy, and wishes for things beyond human reach, as he celebrates the "god-given brilliance" that rarely but wonderfully lights up human life. Certainly, JHF put much personal feeling and experience into his empathetic teaching and writing about Pindar (as also about Thucydides, and Aeschylus, and Homer: his love of his wife Magdalena surfaces in an admiring tribute to Penelope in the Odyssey). His mind resonated to Pindar's. He appreciated, as few have, the intensity and depth of Pindar's highly compressed metaphorical style and mythical thought. But even more, I think, he was constantly relearning from Pindar, even as he taught or wrote, the physical, mental, moral and spiritual discipline by which true excellence (aretē) is achieved and the "god-given brilliance" of life is rightly and fully celebrated.
NYTimes 14 June 1995; G. Nagy, et al., Harvard University Gazette 25 May 2000
AUTHORKenneth J. Reckford