Sunday, May 07, 2006

Optimal Classicism

via Godsbody, a nice discussion of contemporary classical studies:
"At Boston University, we have almost a hundred Classics majors now. There are far more than there were twenty years ago. I think there are a lot of reasons for it. In the humanities, there's been praise for critical theory and kind of non-literary enthusiasms in various departments, and that turns off students that are natural humanists because they want to read. They love to read and they love literature. So, they tend to gravitate away from English departments and other language departments toward Classics because this is real literature and very, very good literature. And, it's still taught as literature."
-Jeffrey Henderson

To make a token criticism, I am compelled by pedantry to remark that, strictly speaking, one cannot really gravitate away from a thing. Yet I applaud Professor Henderson's fearless slam of bad English departments and his implied endorsement of a hierarchy of literary worth. Among classicists there is a silly temptation to embrace an anti-elitist pose, which is of course fatal to the very definition of Classics. Fortunately this is a temptation easily resisted. A simple survey of many English department courses is often enough to drive a mediocre Latinist to total revulsion as he realizes his field's superiority in humanistic studies. The Western patrimony is safe so long as classicists use their elitist powers for good, and not for evil.

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