The Oldest Dead White European Males: And Other Reflections on the Classics

The Oldest Dead White European Males: And Other Reflections on the Classics

5.0 1
by Bernard Knox
     
 

In this illuminating book, Bernard Knox raises questions both fundamental and timely: Should the ancient Greeks - "the oldest dead white European males " - and all they stand for be kept alive in our collective memory? Is their legacy at all relevant to the way we live now? Multiculturalism and its accompanying reevaluation of Western history and culture have brought… See more details below

Overview

In this illuminating book, Bernard Knox raises questions both fundamental and timely: Should the ancient Greeks - "the oldest dead white European males " - and all they stand for be kept alive in our collective memory? Is their legacy at all relevant to the way we live now? Multiculturalism and its accompanying reevaluation of Western history and culture have brought with them a heightened sense of the strangeness - the "otherness" - of the Greeks. Modern scholarship has relentlessly exposed the blind adoration of earlier generations and concentrated, in Knox's words, on "the dark underside of what the Victorians hailed as the Greek Miracle." So much of what the Greeks were and did seems, today, positively alien at best. (In the title essay Knox explores the ritual of sacrifice, the Greek sense of self, the institution of slavery, and the inferior position of women in Greek society.). Yet for all their flaws, the ancient Greeks literally invented philosophy, the theater, the concept of a national literature, competitive athletics, political theory, rhetoric and oratory, biology, zoology, atomic theory - one could go on. And through the Sophists they invented the very idea of the humanities, a group of studies that came into being "as an education for democracy, a training in free citizenship." We cannot simply discard what the recent critical examination of the ancient Greeks has unearthed. But we cannot at the same time forget - and Bernard Knox brings his immense learning and crystalline prose to bear in helping all of us remember - their astonishing originality, their central importance, and all that we have learned (and continue to learn) from them.

Read More

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In three erudite essays originally delivered as lectures, Knox stresses the relevance of the ancient Greeks (the ``dead white males'' of the title) to the modern world. Former director of Harvard's Center for Hellenic Studies, Knox ( The Norton Book of Classical Literature ) defends the modern teaching of the humanities as ``an education for democracy.'' While acknowledging the inferior status of women in ancient Greek society, he argues that women were a formidable presence in the household, and he finds in Greek epics, poetry and drama a wealth of assertive, active females. Knox portrays the Sophists, who taught rhetoric and poetry, as ``the first professors of the humanities.'' It was the Sophists, not Socrates, who ``brought theory down from the skies,'' he insists. He closes with an account of his year-long stay in Greece, where he found living ties between the country's ancient and contemporary language and culture. (Apr.)
Library Journal
The Norton Book of Classical Literature. Norton. Mar. 1993. c.868p. ed. by Bernard Knox. index. |ISBN 0-393-03426-7. $29.95. LIT Noted classicist Knox renders an important service with these two books. His edited anthology of Greek and Latin literature in translation includes many important lyric poets and historians not readily available in such a format. Especially welcome is the large selection of Latin literature from Lucretius to St. Augustine, including a number of odes and satires by Horace. The Oldest Dead White European Males brings together three recent lectures by Knox and serves as a kind of preface to his anthology. Here he argues for the relevance, continuity, and even radicalism of classical literature, contrary to those who see it as a bastion of political conformity or an ivory tower. A welcome contribution to the current debate over the humanities.-- T.L. Cooksey, Armstrong State Coll., Savannah, Ga.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780393034929
Publisher:
Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date:
04/01/1993
Pages:
144
Product dimensions:
5.65(w) x 8.54(h) x 0.68(d)

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network

     

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >