All Scholars

KNAUER, Georg Nicolaus

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  • Date of Birth: February 26, 1926
  • Born City: Hamburg
  • Born State/Country: Germany
  • Parents: Georg A. & Ilse M. Groothoff K.
  • Married: Elfriede Regina Overhoff, 3 August 1951
  • Education:

    Ph.D., U. Hamburg, 1952.

  • Dissertation:

    "Psalmenzitate in Augustins Konfessionen," 1955, 2nd ed. as Three Studies, 1987; Die Aeneis und Homer, 1964; 2nd ed., 1979

  • Professional Experience:

    Research asst., Thesaurus Linguae Latinae, Munich, 1952-4; asst. Freie U., Berlin, 1954-61; privatdozent, 1961-4; asso. prof. 1964-6; prof. 1966-74; prof. classical studies, U. of Pennsylvania, 1975-88; chair 1978-9, 1980-2, 1985-8; British Council Scholar, U. of London, 1957-8; Guggenheim fell., 1979-80; NEH fell., 1984-5; resident Rockefeller Found., Bellagio Study and Conf. Ctr., Como, Italy, 1989;  vis. prof. Yale, 1965-6; Nellie Wallace lectr., Oxford, 1969; men. IAS (Princeton) 1973-4; vis. prof. Columbia, 1976; men. Notgemeinschaft für eine freie Universität, Berlin, 1969-90; men. Bund Freiheit der Wissenschaft, Bonn, 1970-2018; Herzog August Bibliothek fell., 1991, 1997, 2002, 2006, 2007, 2008; vis. scholar, AAR, 1979-80, 1990, 1997, 2003, 2005, 2007, 2008; resident in Classics, 1985.

  • Publications:

    “Sarabara,” Glotta 33 (1954) 100-18; Psalmenzitate in Augustins Konfessionen. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck und Ruprecht, 1955; REVS.: REL(1955) 425-7 Courcelle | REA(1956) 423-6 Deléani | Deutsche Literaturzeitung für Kritik der internationalen Wissenschaft(1957) 99-101 Fischer | CR(1957) 81 Greenslade | ThRev(1957) 16 Lausberg | Zeitschrift für Kirchengeschichte(1957) 374-6 Lorenz | Nouvelle Revue Théologique (1956) 763 Martin | Vigiliae Christianae(1958) 52-4 Mohrmann | Zeitschrift für Katholische Theologie(1956) 242 Rahner | Revue bénédictine(1957) 103 | Gnomon(1956) 395-7 Schäfer | Mnemosyne(1956) 283 Sizoo | MH(1957) 252 Theiler | Verbum Domini(1959) 63-4 Vaccari | Gymnasium (1959) 65-6 Zepf  | RPh31 (1957) 156 Ernout; “Peregrinatio animae(Zur Frage der Einheit der augustinischen Konfessionen).” Hermes LXXXV (1957): 216-48; Die Aeneis und Homer. Studien zur poetischen Technik Virgils mit Listen der Homerzitate in der Aeneis. Hypomnemata; VII. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck und Ruprecht, 1964. REVS.: Gnomon(1965) 687-90 Clarke | CW(1965) 91-2 Coulter | Athenaeum, (1965) 472-475 Cova | Latomus(1965) 667-71 Miniconi | LEC(1965) 329 Walbrecq | Gymnasium (1967) 470-473 Buchheit | GöttingischeGelehrte Anzeigen (1970) 79-94 Buchheit | Paideia(1967) 350-4 Grilli | CR(1967) 158-61 Hardie | Mnemosyne(1967) 352-3 Hovingh |  ZPh (1968) 628-32 Kahl Furthmann | RPhil(1969) 356 | CJ(1966) 276-8 Reinke |  LAC (1971) 262-4 Tordeur | CP (1967) 225-7 Williams; “Vergil's Aeneidand Homer,” GRBS 5(1964) 61-84. “Vergil and Homer,” ANRW31.2 (1981) 870-918.

  • Notes:

    Georg Nicolaus Knauer’s long life and career were distinguished by high scholarly achievement and enriched by extensive travel and many friendships. He was also deeply involved in political controversies that were the result of two tragic events that affected so many Germans of his generation: the rise of National Socialism in their youth and the division of Germany into two separate states in their maturity.

    In 1944 Nico, as his friends knew him, was drafted into the Wehrmacht and dispatched to the Eastern front at a time when the German defense against the Red Army of the USSR was starting to collapse. Very soon after his arrival, he was almost killed by a land mine, which destroyed most of his right leg. That he even survived is remarkable enough, but his relentless refusal to let this injury limit his activities is in some ways even more so.

    After the war, Knauer studied at Hamburg with Ernst Zinn (1910-90), the classicist who also produced that generation’s standard edition of Rilke’s complete works. Knauer’s doctoral thesis laid the methodological foundations of his subsequent work. 

    His youthful experience of National Socialism convinced him that, after the end of World War II, it was of the utmost importance that European and, especially, German society be on the alert against any possible recrudescence of similar pathologies. Understandably, he initially expected that the likeliest threat would be from the political right; but his experience of Cold War realities in a divided Germany, and especially in occupied Berlin, convinced him that there was a more imminent danger from the left. Like many other German professors, he found it impossible to teach in the supercharged ideological atmosphere of the late sixties and early seventies. In response, he became one of the founding members and leaders of the Emergency Organization for a Free University (Notgemeinschaft für eine freie Universität) and the Freedom of Science Federation (Bund Freiheit der Wissenschaft). Ultimately, the volatile political situation caused Knauer to move to the U.S. and to leave political action, though not strong political beliefs and opinions, behind.

    He is best known for the book that began as his 1961 Habilitationsschrift on Virgil’s imitation of Homer in the Aeneid, which was published as Die Aeneis und Homer in1964.  After more than half a century, Nico’s this work remains one of the most frequently cited books in the field of Classics, and it enjoys what will probably be a permanent place in bibliographies of Virgil and Latin literary studies generally. Despite an approach that looks back to the nineteenth century rather than forward to the twenty-first, the book was in many ways ahead of its time, not only in its firm commitment to the study of what is now called intertextual relations as a fundamental and immensely creative component of classical Latin poetics, but also in its anticipation of contemporary reception studies. This is especially evident in its first chapter, which traces the growing familiarity with Homer in the early modern period through the gradual discovery by generations of Vergilian commentators on Homer’s extensive and detailed influence on their poet.

    Knauer’s wife, known as Kezia, was a classical archaeologist who became an expert in an astoundingly wide variety of subjects, chiefly the Silk Road as a vector of culture between East Asia and the ancient Mediterranean basin. As a result, Nico and Kezia spent decades traveling together, he in search of humanist translations and commentaries on Homer (the bulk of them preserved in unpublished manuscripts in European libraries, large and small), she in pursuit of information about all aspects of trade, religion, art and architecture, and especially textiles, in the Middle East, Central Asia, and East Asia. Together, Nico and Kezia were among the last foreigners to visit freely countries like Afghanistan (where they photographed the now-destroyed Buddhas of Bamyan) between the time when that country’s war with the Soviet Union ended and the American war against the Taliban and Isis began. When the improbable Karakoram highway between Pakistan and Xinjiang province in China was completed, they were on a bus there a few months later, rolling past washouts at high altitudes. They were genuinely indefatigable.

    Knauer’s personal habits were ascetic and sybaritic in approximately equal measure. When he was hot on the trail of new evidence or the solution to an old problem, he would work long hours in the library without a break, sustaining himself with nothing but occasional spoonfuls of freeze-dried coffee crystals. When he felt he had the time for a proper lunch, he made it an occasion, usually enjoying the company of just one friend at a time, always with a carafe of white wine within reach. The dinner parties that he and Kezia hosted from time to time in their high-rise apartment, filled with books and overlooking Philadelphia’s Fairmount Park, were memorable events. Knauer always cut a dashing figure, with his bow ties (many of them made by Kezia from fabrics collected during their travels), his beret, his scarf (a souvenir from a visiting stint at Corpus Christi College, Oxford), and his silver-handled walking stick. He drove his red VW Golf, specially outfitted to accommodate his injury, like a Formula 1 racer. His Penn students were in awe of both his personal and his intellectual style, recognizing that, through him, they had some contact with scholars like Eduard Fraenkel (1888-1970), Bruno Snell (1896-1986), Otto Skutsch (1906-90), and many other great names from long ago and far away. He felt keenly the responsibility to pass on what his teachers had given him, insisting that the entire point of our work is to serve “the next generation,” one of his favorite and most often repeated phrases.

    At the time of his death, Nico had been working for years on a vast project to catalogue and contextualize commentaries on and translations of the works of Homer from antiquity to the Renaissance. Although he was not able to see the project through to publication, he left it very close to completion, along with a substantial archive of research materials on which it is based.  

  • Sources:

    WhAm 63 (2009) 2694-5.

  • Author: Joseph Farrell