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Who Killed Homer: The Demise of Classical Education and the Recovery of Greek Wisdom Paperback – April 1, 2001
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Why, at the end of the 20th century, should we give a hoot in the first place about a brutal, misogynist society that rose to greatness on the back of slaves? Because, they argue, it was the first place; for all the faults of ancient Greece, the seeds of what Western civilization is today were planted there. "What we mean by Greek wisdom," they explain, "is that at the very beginning of Western culture the Greeks provided a blueprint for an ordered and humane society that could transcend time and space, one whose spirit and core values could evolve, sustain, and drive political reform and social change for ages hence."
But Hanson and Heath are not content to simply make a fiery, articulate case for what's right about understanding this particular ancient civilization in a contemporary world where more and more non-Western societies openly seek to embrace the democratic spirit. They go on to launch a deliciously vituperative jeremiad on what's wrong with the priorities of those entrusted with passing on this wisdom. Classics departments, as portrayed in Who Killed Homer?, appear to be filled with politically correct, insecure footnote fawners who, steeped in minutiae, miss the Big Picture. Hanson and Heath have a plan, sure to raise the hackles of tenured professors, for reviving classical studies that emphasizes the importance of teaching, communicating, and popularizing over publishing arcane monographs in journals not even the writer's family will ever read, insisting that the alternative--the extinction of a vivid intellectual pursuit--borders on cultural suicide. --Jeff Silverman --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
But for those of you who are new to the debate, there may be some value in reading on. Victor Davis Hanson emerged on the scene in the early 1980s with a wonderful little book called �The Western Way of War: Infantry Battle in Classical Greece�. This readable, engaging tome was taken up by, among others, John Keegan who embraced some of the ideas and began to publicise them.
�Who Killed Homer� emerged much later. It is a brilliant polemic � a fact that is often missed by the critics who belabour Hanson with the charge of being too controversial � I think that was rather the point. Hanson wrote in despair and anger. He despaired of the state of education in our colleges and universities. And he has written an impassioned, polemical diatribe on the subject. As Stephen Ozment remarked, �this is a book for anyone who has loved or hated a college or university�.
Like Bernard Knox who as a young man lashed out at the excessive technicality of classical studies (after reading an extended study in a classical journal entitled �The Carrot in Ancient Greece�), Hanson is incensed at the dearth of true learning at universities. He would have us go back to general principals. He would have professors stop publishing and start TEACHING.
First and foremost, Hanson makes the case for Greek civilisation. However we get our Greek, he would say, we must get it. Western Culture, he says, is largely founded on Greek ideas, filtered through intervening civilisations and systems of thought. I despair of the school curriculum I see these days.Read more ›
The issue is relevant to everyone, on one of any number of levels: the importance of history, the value of translation, the psychological insights into ancient culture and therefore human nature, I can go on. Studying ancient languages,as a general exercise, can serve a valuable individual, and en masse cultural purpose in the pursuit of meaning and the construction of better ways of living for the present. It runs the gamut of educational value: as philosophy, as politcal science, as psychology. I think most people, at least in theory, would agree with this.
All the authors are saying is that the value of studying ancient languages is simply not being preserved by any particular stewards, as in centuries past. They are concentrating on Greek and Latin because those ancient languages are the key to understanding our Western culture. They are not saying that Chinese or South American ancient languages are less import PER SE, they are simply saying that Greek and Latin are the MOST RELEVANT languages to our Western culutre, whose values have influenced more and more cultures across the world. These values- democracy, equality, freedom, etc.- are taken for granted by my post-Vietnam generation, and so studying their roots may not seem very PRACTICAL.Read more ›
And Hanson and Heath confess that they don't believe that university Classics can be saved.
(Incidentally, the authors make it pretty clear that taking the Greeks seriously is antithetical -- and may be a good antidote -- to nonsensical multiculturalism. There is truth, there is virtue, and all things are not equal.)
Interestingly, this core is sandwiched between introductory chapters which set out the unique importance of the Greeks and also the history of Classical Studies, emphasizing the sometimes revolutionary contributions of amateur classicists and a closing chapter giving an introductory syllabus and commentary to aspiring amateur classicists, ten books by Greeks and ten books about Greeks. Hanson and Heath say they hope for another Homer, but they seem to be sending out a homing beacon to another Schliemann, Parry or Ventris.
Good for them. Their devastating scorched earth criticism and their fluent, accessible writing make this book a fun read as well as a compelling one.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I'm enjoying the book although I must say it was written by Classists for Classists. The two authors definitely have a grievance with the direction of their profession and pull no... Read morePublished 6 months ago by Mike Covell
Hanson has without a doubt become a polarizing figure in the 16 years since "Who Killed Homer?", but that does not take away from the strong critique of publish-or-perish... Read morePublished 12 months ago by Nathan P. Gilmour
I hate this book. As a classicist who works in a department of classics, I hate it because the accusations are far from groundless. Read morePublished 14 months ago by Fardarter
Eurocentric bias cloaked on the attack of the demise of classical education...While I agree that Greek history is valuable and has a lot to offer us in the present, the... Read morePublished 23 months ago by Daniel Santana
A very sharp intellectual discussion about the importance of the ancient greece. I loved the logic and the topic. Read morePublished on December 27, 2013 by Glenn
I spent 4 years studying Latin in high school in the 1970s and loved it, as did my brother and sister. We took Latin because our mother had loved it in the 1940s. Read morePublished on September 16, 2013 by Chana Siegel
Victor Hanson's polemic "Who Killed Homer?" is a convincing but exhausting explanation of why and how Classicists are ruining the teaching of Greek and why and how it should be... Read morePublished on January 19, 2013 by Doktor Faustus
It is unfortunate, if not surprising, that this book's hostile and hyperbolic claims are cloaked in engaging and clever rhetoric. Read morePublished on May 31, 2012 by K. DeBoer