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CLASSICAL DOLDRUMS

NO WRITER ATTRIBUTED

The view that the Classics here have existed in an intellectual vacuum for a long time is inescapable. For instance, the impression that the lectures in Greek 12 one the history of Classical Greek literature are in their third generation, having passed more or less unchanged from Goodwin to Smyth to Jackson, is generally held and supinely accepted. Whether this is literally so or not, the attitude indicated shows the abject respect for established thought and the consequent stultification which now paralyzes the department. Surely Goodwin has not had the last word to say on this subject, and the class receives from its lecturer a shop-worn tradition instead of an active attempt to forge valuations and conceptions in contemporary terms.

Most of the older members of the department have over-emphasized the capitalization of the Classics, making them into a remote land in which they have sort of monopoly of exploitation. The notion that there can be any connection of thought between the Classical age and modern times has received little attention from them, and only a few of the younger men have corrected this by viewing the Classics as literature and putting it into terms other than second-hand nineteenth century "appreciation.' The department might be described as piling on Ossa of inherited Classical scholarship on a Pelion of lack-lustre emotion and getting, as the Giants in the legend did, exactly nowhere.

It is not simply their unenergetic point of view, their professional instead of artistic preoccupation, their lack of a theory on the value of the Classics for which one must blame the department. Some of the techniques now in use can also be criticized. A course for beginners in Latin, the need for which has been neglected, ostrich-fashion, should be given. The department must face the unpleasant fact that, partly by vigorously preserving the Classical tradition, the Division must itself assume the burden of elementary instruction. The fact that there are more students this year in Greek, where such a course is given, than there are in Latin forcibly illustrates the necessity for this step.

The Classics, suffering from a decline in the number who are fortunate enough to know the ancient languages, would receive no harm if a course were given with reading in English translation, although this certainly would be a blow to the dignity of moribund classicism. Yet this might in the end be beneficial. It would make the present low state of the classics plain even to those who occupy commanding positions in its Ivory Tower, and by dispelling false pride based on illusions of grandeur, stimulate them to new thought on how best to use the unquestionable values that are still in the Classics.

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