Monday, September 6, 2010

Who Killed Homer? Chapter Two: The Idea of Greekness

"I detest that man, who hides one thing in his heart, and speaks forth another." -Homer, Illiad

Classicists avoid the generalist term "Greek" for 3 reasons: p.21-24
1. they don't want to share admiration for dead Greeks with the naive idolatry of 19th century England
(don't want to be associated with colonialist, racist, sexist, imperialist society, anger at dead white men)
2. rise of social sciences and their dominance of the university curriculum
"the abstract idea of Greekness, and the argument that this unique vision of a relatively small population influenced all of modern culture, directly challenges most recent anthropological dogma" p.23
3. they don't want to labeled as naive or obtuse
"Most destructive of the unified idea of Greekness has been the increasing academic avoidance of anything general, broad, & all-inclusive." p.24

"The Greek way of looking at the world- what we call Greek wisdom- offers a vision of human nature and the place of man in the world unique to the preindustrial Mediterranean and central to all subsequent Western thought." p.25

"For the Victorians, Greek wisdom often provided the society at large the very tools to start the long quest to ameliorate the evils of the West in the great age of reform- open debate, national inquiry, free dissent, suppression of religious interference, moral and ethical questioning, and spiritual exuberance." p.25

"... culture, not race, as the real significance of Greekness." p.26

"Classicists should be proud, not ashamed, of the Victorians. Without their work we would now have no dictionaries, texts, or inscriptions of the Greek language- nor any fundamentally sound interpretations to nuance, adapt, reject, and steal as our own in each ensuing generation." p.26

"Something explains why an American or German who now picks up the Medea or Thucydides' history immediately recognizes something modern, if not resonant with his own culutral experience, in a way not true of Aztec sacrifice, Chinese poetry, the Koran, or hieroglyphics. That something- race not culture- is a very unusual tradition that begins with the Greeks and persists with us today." p.27

"If Greece is cultural fabrication of a privileged elite, then the random detritus uncovered beneath their earth is an uncanny part of the conspiracy." p.27

Word Study: effluvium, nihilism, epigraphy, puerile, encomium, anthropomorphism, chimera


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