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Classics: Why It Matters

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For generations, the study of Greek and Latin was used to train the elites of the western world. Knowledge of classical culture, it was believed, produced more cultivated, creative individuals; Greece and Rome were seen as pinnacles of civilization, and the origins of western superiority over the rest of the world. Few today are willing to defend this elitist, sometimes ra For generations, the study of Greek and Latin was used to train the elites of the western world. Knowledge of classical culture, it was believed, produced more cultivated, creative individuals; Greece and Rome were seen as pinnacles of civilization, and the origins of western superiority over the rest of the world. Few today are willing to defend this elitist, sometimes racist, vision of the importance of classics, and it is no longer considered essential education for politicians and professionals. Shouldn't classics then be obsolete? Far from it. As Neville Morley shows, the ancients are as influential today as they ever have been, and we ignore them at our peril. Not only do they have much to teach us about the past, but they can offer important lessons for the complex cultural, social and political worlds of the present. Introducing Polity's Why It Matters series: In these short and lively books, world-leading thinkers make the case for the importance of their subjects and aim to inspire a new generation of students.


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For generations, the study of Greek and Latin was used to train the elites of the western world. Knowledge of classical culture, it was believed, produced more cultivated, creative individuals; Greece and Rome were seen as pinnacles of civilization, and the origins of western superiority over the rest of the world. Few today are willing to defend this elitist, sometimes ra For generations, the study of Greek and Latin was used to train the elites of the western world. Knowledge of classical culture, it was believed, produced more cultivated, creative individuals; Greece and Rome were seen as pinnacles of civilization, and the origins of western superiority over the rest of the world. Few today are willing to defend this elitist, sometimes racist, vision of the importance of classics, and it is no longer considered essential education for politicians and professionals. Shouldn't classics then be obsolete? Far from it. As Neville Morley shows, the ancients are as influential today as they ever have been, and we ignore them at our peril. Not only do they have much to teach us about the past, but they can offer important lessons for the complex cultural, social and political worlds of the present. Introducing Polity's Why It Matters series: In these short and lively books, world-leading thinkers make the case for the importance of their subjects and aim to inspire a new generation of students.

30 review for Classics: Why It Matters

  1. 4 out of 5

    Phil

    This little book has been creating a bit of a stir out there in the small Classics community, especially in Britain. That is, of course, why I decided I should read it. Well, that and the fact that I'm fast approach the start of a new academic year. Morley's essay focuses on whether Classics is important today. In doing so, he takes on some of the nastier skeletons in the Classical closet- classism, racism- which continue to have resonances today. But he also constructs a vision of the study of This little book has been creating a bit of a stir out there in the small Classics community, especially in Britain. That is, of course, why I decided I should read it. Well, that and the fact that I'm fast approach the start of a new academic year. Morley's essay focuses on whether Classics is important today. In doing so, he takes on some of the nastier skeletons in the Classical closet- classism, racism- which continue to have resonances today. But he also constructs a vision of the study of the classics which, I think, combines a respect for the tradition, but is realistic that classicists don't control the classical inheritance. He looks at the various justifications for the study of the Greek and Roman classics, challenges them and still comes out hopeful for the utility of the discipline. That is an achievement in itself. Of course, this book has been criticized by some as not really reflecting classics, but really just being a historians view. That is probably why I like the book so much, but, for those who see the philological method as the essence of classics as a discipline, the criticism is correct, as Morley acknowledges in his Afterword. Like the author, I wouldn't challenge philology's place in the classics universe, but I do question whether it can alone determine any discussion on the relevance of classics. For those who care about the survival of classics, this is a must-read and an uncommon one. It has a distinctly leftward lean (another reason why I like it) and is one of the best progressive attempts to defend classics that I've seen. In this particular era, this is an important counter-point to the more conservative readings of more recent years.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Murtaza

    Anyone who can say that they have had a classical education should count themselves lucky. Most modern education is primarily utilitarian and vocational in nature, whereas the purpose of a classical education is aimed solely at cultivating ones mind and soul. This book is really a more of a long essay on the continued importance of classical education, as well as a reckoning with the misuse of the field over the years. Despite their elevated nature, classical knowledge and culture (by which we u Anyone who can say that they have had a classical education should count themselves lucky. Most modern education is primarily utilitarian and vocational in nature, whereas the purpose of a classical education is aimed solely at cultivating ones mind and soul. This book is really a more of a long essay on the continued importance of classical education, as well as a reckoning with the misuse of the field over the years. Despite their elevated nature, classical knowledge and culture (by which we usually refer to ancient Greek and Roman) have been over time employed by fascists and others to try and aggrandize their modern projects by linking them to an idealized past. Morley is admirably honest about the misuses of his field, but humbly makes the case that there is still something to learn from classical societies even if they don't really resemble the virtuous kingdoms that we tend to picture. Knowledge of the classics is something that has a lot of prestige in our society and has often served as a marker of class privilege. For those who have not had the benefit of a classical education, we can be grateful to those intellectuals, such as Arthur Herman, Edward Feser, Will Durant and many others who have taken the trouble of bringing the pearls of classical thought down to earth for the edification of the masses. I'm going to continue trying to piece together as much of a classical education as I can in the time I have. Whereas this book may not be for everyone it is certainly helpful to those looking to understand the merits and implications of the classics today.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Ryan Denson

    This short but enjoyable book provides an excellent overview for the field of classics and its broad applications. It is divided up into four chapters. The first tackles the general history of classics as a academic discipline and the reception classical antiquity throughout the ages. The subsequent chapters each deal with possible ways that studying ancient world is useful for understanding the past, present, and future. Morley discusses some of the tough issues about the history of the field t This short but enjoyable book provides an excellent overview for the field of classics and its broad applications. It is divided up into four chapters. The first tackles the general history of classics as a academic discipline and the reception classical antiquity throughout the ages. The subsequent chapters each deal with possible ways that studying ancient world is useful for understanding the past, present, and future. Morley discusses some of the tough issues about the history of the field that classicists are often reluctant to bring up. Classics is a field with a disreputable past as ideas mined from the ancient world have often been misattributed to support colonial, misogynistic, and racist agendas. Unfortunately, much of this continues among the alt-right who champion the classical world as the height of “Western Civilization.” While classics at large has turned away from such fallacious ideas, it is crucial to recognize and understand that the reception of classics was once used in this sordid way. Another particularly good part of the book is the final chapter on the utility of classics for the future. Morley shows that classics, and history in general, can be useful for considering the future by means of comparison. Rather than subscribing to a silly idolization of a certain era as some sort of golden age that we should attempt to replicate, or falling victim to the old hackney notion that one can “predict” the future by knowing history, Morley highlights a more adaptive and flexible approach. By being able to understand that events and societies are different to our own, we can seek to changes and improvements for the future on a selective basis. That is, the comparative aspect to previous era is what allows us to see the potential flaws in our own times. Overall, this is a great read that most classicists, especially the younger generation, will enjoy immensely. It portrays a thoroughly progressive and thoughtful stance on the classics discipline. I hope that more people outside of the field will read this as well. It certainly would help clear up many of the popular misconceptions about this discipline.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Edvald

    I finished a BA in classics last year and then decided to study anthropology instead because classics left me doubting whether I was actually doing anything important and with a feeling that it has been studied for too long for me to contribute anything. From time to other, I read some stuff on classics to see if I feel like returning. While I love classical antiquity and still enjoy reading about it, this is the first book in a long time that made me seriously consider going back to classics fo I finished a BA in classics last year and then decided to study anthropology instead because classics left me doubting whether I was actually doing anything important and with a feeling that it has been studied for too long for me to contribute anything. From time to other, I read some stuff on classics to see if I feel like returning. While I love classical antiquity and still enjoy reading about it, this is the first book in a long time that made me seriously consider going back to classics for a research degree. Morley persuasively argues for the fruitfulness of continuing classical studies and the role classicists can play in society. Especially his argument that those who study antiquity know that things have been different, and that we can use ancient sources to imagine ways to improve society, left me feeling hopeful about the future of the discipline. A good sprinkling of references to contemporary research also left me curious, especially about cognitive science approaches to the rise of Christianity in Late Antiquity. A good read, both for those who have studied it and those who have a vague idea that there is something called classics.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Daniel

    Un libro breve y preciso. Un autor que habla desde una sinceridad sin artificios sobre el estado del mundo clásico en el mundo académico y fuera de él. Bastante necesario para entender, por fin, que ni son la piedra angular del universo, ni son conceptos desechables. Morley, aunque centrado en el mundo clásico, nos ofrece la revisión de unos principios muy interesantes: la multidisciplinariedad, las fértiles interpretaciones, los usos políticos, la invención de lo clásico, en fin, lo flexible de Un libro breve y preciso. Un autor que habla desde una sinceridad sin artificios sobre el estado del mundo clásico en el mundo académico y fuera de él. Bastante necesario para entender, por fin, que ni son la piedra angular del universo, ni son conceptos desechables. Morley, aunque centrado en el mundo clásico, nos ofrece la revisión de unos principios muy interesantes: la multidisciplinariedad, las fértiles interpretaciones, los usos políticos, la invención de lo clásico, en fin, lo flexible de la cultura. Respecto al tema, uno de los mejores textos que he leído por la falta de soberbia al hacerlo, por la humildad que desprende un tema que suele atraer los argumentos más rancios imaginables. Sin duda Morley se ha ganado mi confianza, y estoy muy de acuerdo en muchísimos de sus puntos sobre cómo se ha entendido el pasado, más que cómo se ha de entender, que son objetivos distintos.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Rodney Jones

    More confused than enlightened By the end of this book I concluded that Professor Morley did think that 'classics mattered' but was less sure why he had come to that conclusion. I found myself too often floundering in the midst of extremely long convoluted sentences. I have usually found that good ideas (perhaps the best ideas?) can be stated quite simply and without distracting parenthesised asides. I admit to being one of those 'traditionalists' who does not think it unreasonable that someone se More confused than enlightened By the end of this book I concluded that Professor Morley did think that 'classics mattered' but was less sure why he had come to that conclusion. I found myself too often floundering in the midst of extremely long convoluted sentences. I have usually found that good ideas (perhaps the best ideas?) can be stated quite simply and without distracting parenthesised asides. I admit to being one of those 'traditionalists' who does not think it unreasonable that someone seeking to study the Mediterranean ancient civilisations should equip themselves with an adequate command of Greek and Latin. After all, we expect particle physicists to have more than a passing acquaintance with mathematics.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Hilary Meng

    评论古典学当今面临的困境及其起源,乃至未来可能的出路何在,这样的问题不仅关乎古典学学科自身存在的意义,而且也和当下社会文化运动之下的审视与反思紧密相联,给出合理的回答,在各种意义上绝非易事。既然古代语言以及与之相关的古代文献,已经不再是我们获取知识最为重要乃至唯一的来源,而古典学本身又在使用其他学科的方法和结论,那么古典学作为独立的一门学科,意义和价值又在哪里?古典学的问题远非仅只学术本身,同时也是一个文化和社会问题。一种根本性的区分在于大众的古典和作为专门研究的古典学:古典化的过程本身是选择和接受的过程,每一代的古典学术则都受到同时代社会和文化思潮的影响,进而不断扩充问题、材料、方法乃至工具的范畴;从后一种意义上讲,古典学的可能出路就在于面向可能性开放, 为不同的可能性提供素材和方向。

  8. 4 out of 5

    María

    Ensayo crítico sobre cómo se estudia el mundo clásico. De obligada lectura para cualquiera que quiera dedicarse a la investigación y docencia de aquellas materias relacionadas con las Humanidades.

  9. 5 out of 5

    storytime-reviews

    Neville Morley has interesting discussions on social media about classics and its place in the past, present and future, so I was immediately drawn to this book, and finally got around to reading it. As Morley points out, there are certainly classicists, particularly philologists that will disagree with his arguments, and even believe he wishes to ‘bury’ classics. But that is far from the case, and a pivotal position of this book is his assertion that in order for classics to survive, we must con Neville Morley has interesting discussions on social media about classics and its place in the past, present and future, so I was immediately drawn to this book, and finally got around to reading it. As Morley points out, there are certainly classicists, particularly philologists that will disagree with his arguments, and even believe he wishes to ‘bury’ classics. But that is far from the case, and a pivotal position of this book is his assertion that in order for classics to survive, we must confront its problematic aspects and thoughtfully engage with them. The traditions of classical scholarship and all that encompasses is well established and critiqued in Classics: Why It Matters. Yet, these opinions are shown alongside the endless possibilities of what studying classics and being a classicist can mean – from the importance of accurate knowledge of the past precisely because the past matters, to what it might mean for our future. Morley allows the reader to reflect on the significance of classics, and demonstrates how knowledge of the classics has shaped our world, in both positive and negative ways. He also acknowledges the ways in which current scholars are constructing a new vision of classics.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Steve

  11. 4 out of 5

    Ellie Mackin Roberts

  12. 5 out of 5

    Devin

  13. 5 out of 5

    izaro

  14. 4 out of 5

    Amelia

  15. 4 out of 5

    Darcy

  16. 5 out of 5

    Jonathan A

  17. 5 out of 5

    Catherine Muñoz Arango

  18. 4 out of 5

    Littleanna

  19. 5 out of 5

    Katie

  20. 5 out of 5

    Irishgav

  21. 4 out of 5

    Clarabs65

  22. 5 out of 5

    andrea

  23. 4 out of 5

    Daniel

  24. 5 out of 5

    Daniel Bennett

  25. 5 out of 5

    Daniel Maxwell

  26. 4 out of 5

    Eviña Infante

  27. 5 out of 5

    Neus

  28. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

  29. 4 out of 5

    Paz

  30. 5 out of 5

    Milo

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