Classics

Review: Grene, Of Farming and Classics

February 1, 2007
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Review: Grene, Of Farming and Classics

Yesterday’s New York Sun carried a review of David Grene’s Of Farming and Classics: a Memoir that made a few insightful remarks about the atypical synthesis of classical literature and farming that lies at the heart of Grene’s autobiography. Writing for the Sun, reviewer Victor Hanson notes that in bringing together the disparate worlds of farming and classics Grene places himself in closer proximity to the world of the ancient Greeks than one might think. Hanson writes: “Nine out of 10 ancient Greeks were rural people. The majority of them were farmers. And that truth is reflected in many of Homer’s similes in his Iliad and Odyssey, Hesiod’s Works and Days, Aristophanes’ Acharnians, or the vast treatises of Theophrastus, where so often Greek thought is expressed through the life of agriculture.” Thus, Hanson’s review notes that Of Farming and Classics delivers to a modern audience several vital lessons embedded in an ancient synthesis of farming and philology: “First is the symbiosis between the life of contemplation and action—and just how it is that hard physical and dirty work offers real value in rediscovering nature, bringing with it a certain pragmatism that permeates reading and thinking.… Second, Grene reminds us of . . .

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Dublin Theatre in the 1920s and ’30s

January 26, 2007
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Dublin Theatre in the 1920s and ’30s

David Grene (1913–2002) taught classics for many years at the University of Chicago. He was a founding member of the Committee on Social Thought and coedited The Complete Greek Tragedies. Six months of every year, though, he worked his farm in Ireland. This is an excerpt about how his interest in theatre developed, from Of Farming and Classics: A Memoir. Until the age of eleven, my only experience of the theater was at the yearly Christmas pantomime, to which our whole family always went. These are not pantomimes in the strict sense of dumb show, but a traditional form of comic entertainment put on at Christmastime. The greatest of them in my time was the one done year after year at the Gaiety under the leadership of Jimmy O’Dea and Maureen Potter. These were a wonderful pair of genuinely amusing comedians, and they ran the show to suit themselves. But prior to them, it was not like that. Most of the theaters in Dublin (the Gaiety, Royal, Queen’s, and Olympia) put on a separate pantomime every year. Each pantomime was sketchily based on a folk story—Cinderella, Jack and the Beanstalk, Dick Whittington, or others—and there was an intermittent effort to . . .

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Learning Greek and Latin in Dublin Schools

January 23, 2007
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Learning Greek and Latin in Dublin Schools

David Grene (1913–2002) taught classics for many years at the University of Chicago. He was a founding member of the Committee on Social Thought and coedited The Complete Greek Tragedies. Six months of every year, though, he worked his farm in Ireland. This is an excerpt about his early education from Of Farming and Classics: A Memoir. The school my parents chose for me was St. Stephen’s Green and was essentially one of these small private Protestant schools. It was not a boarding school, but otherwise the atmosphere was very like that described by George Orwell in Such, Such Were the Joys. The fees in the bigger private schools like High School or St. Andrew’s (where I went toward the end of my schooldays) were certainly rather less than in a place like St. Stephen’s Green, and both varieties cost far more than what my parents should have sensibly entertained as possible for them. I believe that the smaller schools were associated with a more explicit version of gentlemanliness. In the larger private schools quite a few of the pupils came from what was very nearly working class. Anyway, my parents decided that the small and exclusive Stephen’s Green was . . .

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Honors Classics at Trinity College

January 19, 2007
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Honors Classics at Trinity College

David Grene (1913–2002) taught classics for many years at the University of Chicago. He was a founding member of the Committee on Social Thought and coedited The Complete Greek Tragedies. Six months of every year, though, he worked his farm in Ireland. This is an excerpt about his university education from Of Farming and Classics: A Memoir. The men who taught Honors Classics in Trinity College had enough of the unusual and exotic to furnish a mysterious element to our education. They were nearly all of the recognizable British eccentric type, something grown much rarer since. There were five or six of them lecturing, or teaching if one preferred that title, and at least three of them—the seniors of the group—combined a well-deserved reputation for scholarship, backed up by a fair amount of scholarly publication, with a remoteness from ordinary life, and manifest loneliness, and very notably an inability to act or speak or dress like any normal members of their class and kind. There was J. G. Smyly, one of the leading papyrologists of his day. Literary and other texts in Greek were preserved on papyrus for many hundreds of years before people came to use the expensive calfskin . . .

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Press release: Bartsch, The Mirror of the Self

July 12, 2006
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Press release: Bartsch, The Mirror of the Self

Lustful Stoics, moral hypocrisy, divided selves—on Shadi Bartsch’s sexy and philosophical journey through classical notions of selfhood, we encounter all of these, plus much more. Exploring the links among vision, sexuality, and self-knowledge in the ancient world, Bartsch argues here that this unexpected ménage á trois has much to teach us about how the ancients understood what it meant to be a person. Read the press release. . . .

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Review: Allen, Talking to Strangers

April 25, 2006
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Review: Allen, Talking to Strangers

The Boston Review recently reviewed Danielle Allen’s Talking to Strangers: Anxieties of Citizenship since Brown v. Board of Education. From the review by Nick Bromell: "Allen understands that democracy originates in the subjective dimension of everyday life, and she focuses on what she calls our ‘habit of citizenship’—the ways we often unconsciously regard and interact with fellow citizens…. focus on race is entirely appropriate." "Don’t talk to strangers" is the advice long given to children by parents of all classes and races. Today it has blossomed into a fundamental precept of civic education, reflecting interracial distrust, personal and political alienation, and a profound suspicion of others. In Talking to Strangers, a powerful and eloquent essay, Danielle Allen, a 2002 MacArthur Fellow, takes this maxim back to Little Rock, rooting out the seeds of distrust to replace them with "a citizenship of political friendship." Read an excerpt and interview with the author. . . .

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