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

Overview

“No one carries his learning more gracefully than Knox. That is because he does not, like so many scholars, seal it off from the rest of life. Ancient and current wisdom communicate through him.” —Garry Wills
Should the ancient Greeks—"the oldest dead white European males"—be kept alive in our collective memory? Why study them at all if, by passing their destructive ideas to the Romans and eventually to the rest of Europe, they may ultimately be responsible for much of what’s wrong with American society? In this ...

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Overview

“No one carries his learning more gracefully than Knox. That is because he does not, like so many scholars, seal it off from the rest of life. Ancient and current wisdom communicate through him.” —Garry Wills
Should the ancient Greeks—"the oldest dead white European males"—be kept alive in our collective memory? Why study them at all if, by passing their destructive ideas to the Romans and eventually to the rest of Europe, they may ultimately be responsible for much of what’s wrong with American society? In this “supremely lucid and elegant” book (The New Yorker), Bernard Knox poses and answers such fundamental questions, helping us to remember the astonishing originality of the ancient Greeks and all that we have learned—and continue to learn—from them.

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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.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780393312331
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 5/1/1991
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 148
  • Sales rank: 1,065,859
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 0.40 (d)

Table of Contents

Foreword 11
1 The Oldest Dead White European Males 25
2 The Walls of Thebes 69
3 The Continuity of Greek Culture 107
Notes on Sources 131
Index 137
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