How to Be a Good Classicist Under a Bad Emperor
Donna Zuckerberg
51652

have you ever argued that we should study Classics because those who do not study history are doomed to repeat it? Or because Greece and Rome are important to study because they are at the foundation of Western civilization and culture?

I have, and I do, and the truth is, I still believe those things. While my specialty is in canonical texts of a different nature (i.e. Shakespeare), I can say with absolute certainty that an understanding of the Classics has helped me better understand how Shakespeare and his contemporaries interacted with the Classics, and that, in turn, helps inform my approaches to Shakespeare and the Classics, and how we can continue to make them meaningful.

To extend the metaphor, foundations are what you build on, and periodically inspect for damage that may have resulted from being built on shaky ground, and repair as necessary. And if Classics have suffered in the modern academe, it is because that damage has for too long sat unaddressed.

I apologize if I’m misreading what you’re suggesting in step 1, but to what degree do we need to set aside our own beliefs in foundational or canonical texts just because someone we find repugnant has a superficially similar belief? Do you think it’s possible to believe in the importance of these works as foundations of Western civ and culture, while also being able to interrogate what all that means?

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