ISAW Professor Claire Bubb receives the 2023 Charles J. Goodwin Award of Merit

By Lahenza Lamour

The C. J. Goodwin Award of Merit Committee recently announced that one of the three winners of this year's Charles J. Goodwin Award of Merit is Claire Bubb, ISAW's Assistant Professor of Classical Literature and Science. The Goodwin Awards honor outstanding contributions to classical scholarship by members of the Society. 

Claire Bubb’s remarkable Dissection in Classical Antiquity does much more than merely present a history of what can be said about dissection as a medical and epideictic practice in antiquity, though it will become the standard of such history for a long time to come. Rather, Bubb allows readers to see why this subject should matter to anyone interested in Graeco-Roman culture; some may find the subject of the book difficult or uncomfortable, but no one interested in classical antiquity should ignore it. Much about ancient dissection and its public display can otherwise seem foreign and ‘other’ that in following Bubb’s story through from earliest evidence in the Hippocratics to the height of the Roman empire we learn a great deal about the moral assumptions upon which Graeco-Roman culture was based. Bubb’s book puts dissection, and to some extent anatomy more generally, into the mainstream of classical scholarship, in part by opening up a large body of texts to new critical examination. Along the way, an often overlooked aspect of street life all over the Mediterranean is vividly imagined.

At the heart of the book lies a very impressive philological and medical command of the evidence from art, papyri and medical texts. Galen is never far away, both because of the extensiveness of what Galen reveals about his own practices and because he is inevitably the principal source for the medical practitioners and much of the medical practice which preceded him. Bubb makes illuminating use of the whole Galenic corpus, and both the main text and the footnotes reveal enviable command of Galen’s often very difficult Greek. The book is thus a significant contribution to Galenic studies, as well as to the history of dissection. Bubb is always concerned to set Galenic texts within their social, performative and agonistic contexts; the book teaches readers much about the social and commercial history of imperial Rome and the hierarchies which governed elite behaviour, as well as attitudes towards, and the traffic in, animals. Galen’s persistent concern with engaging his audience and readership and with how they are to regard his claims means that there is also much here about the use and circulation of written texts which can be extrapolated to non-medical literary forms.

Not the least of this book’s virtues is the panache and clarity with which it is written; no one can fail to admire the lucid style of Bubb’s splendid writing. For many reasons, the C. J. Goodwin Award of Merit Committee are pleased to honor Claire Bubb’s Dissection in Classical Antiquity with the Goodwin Award of Merit.