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Post "Classical" Literature?

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Post "Classical" Literature?

Postby Scribo » Fri Mar 22, 2013 3:12 pm

I've had to put "Classical" in quotation marks due to the oddly ephemeral nature of the term. Taken strictly everything before and after the Augustans in Latin is either pre/post classical. Likewise non Athenian Greek literature from when the Macedonians come south.

Yet Greek literature, great Greek literature, would be continuously produced under both the Macedonians and the Romans (under which labels I include the Byzantines, obviously) and Latin would later become a European lingua franca. Basically I'm curious as to how many people here read "later" literature in our target languages, yet still connected with the Greeks and Romans.

On the Latin side we can say up to Fortunatus and on the Greek...well that's harder, let's talk more generally here about Julian, Prokopios, the Digenes Akritas sagas and so on as you well. This is a rough boundary, but meant to be in place before people start discussing Newton's Latin. Basically, I mean literature in either Latin or Greek under Hellenic or Roman polities.
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Re: Post "Classical" Literature?

Postby daivid » Fri Mar 22, 2013 9:14 pm

Scribo wrote:I've had to put "Classical" in quotation marks due to the oddly ephemeral nature of the term. Taken strictly everything before and after the Augustans in Latin is either pre/post classical. Likewise non Athenian Greek literature from when the Macedonians come south.

Yet Greek literature, great Greek literature, would be continuously produced under both the Macedonians and the Romans (under which labels I include the Byzantines, obviously) and Latin would later become a European lingua franca. Basically I'm curious as to how many people here read "later" literature in our target languages, yet still connected with the Greeks and Romans.
.


The two writers that I actually posses are Loeb editions of Strabo and Polybios though I confess that, as I'm still learning, I still mainly read the English side and only dip into the Greek side now and then. Early Greek novels are also on my list of reading and these are mostly quite late (unless you count Xenophon's piece on Cyrus) . So I guess that puts me with at least a toe in the post classical era.

I notice you have been careful to avoid answering your own question. ;-)
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Re: Post "Classical" Literature?

Postby Scribo » Sat Mar 23, 2013 12:12 am

That's because my own answer would be shameful. I mean its doubly hard for me in that I specialise in the archaic stuff, I barely touch Tragedy nowadays. Whilst if we stick to Hellenistic Greek stuff and early Imperial I'd do respectably well...go beyond that into properly Imperial and I'd probably do quite bad.

With Latin its the same...love the early stuff, hate Virgil...do a lot around the Neronians and the Flavians but then sort of...stop. I only rarely ever look at that sort of stuff.

Funny, they force us to read a lot as students but as you progress you never really go back to stuff so far from your area, which is a shame. I'm just curious. Knowing textkit you're going to get someone coming in and trying to convince us how glorious Nonnos is or why we need to read Claudianus (save us!) or Fortunatus daily. I just wanted to see some unpopular stuff come up that we can use as recommendations.
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Re: Post "Classical" Literature?

Postby Markos » Sat Mar 23, 2013 5:43 am

Scribo: Basically I'm curious as to how many people here read "later" literature in our target languages, yet still connected with the Greeks and Romans.


Well, as I think you know, right now I am very much into the Byzantine paraphrasers of Homer, Michael. Psellos and Theodorus Gaza, who wrote in the 11th and 15th centuries. But they both write in a style which seems to me very much at home in the first century.

I'd love to dip into some true medieval Greek, if anyone has a recommendation for something that is good and not too difficult.

I'd also like to add my appreciation for Jeff and daivid and others for creating this new sub-forum. :D
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Re: Post "Classical" Literature?

Postby Scribo » Sat Mar 23, 2013 11:01 am

Well I definitely think people like Psellos, Planoudis etc count, I mean they were writing in the Roman Empire before the final fall in 1453, Atticising, and countering Classical subjects. The latter's translation of the Heroides is considered a classic in its own right.

There's quite a range of stuff in medieval Greek. There's an entire genre of hagiography I've never even looked at, Hymnic poetry reminiscent of old Roman panegyrics and works on the history of the church by men like Sophoklis. I'd actually say the most interested would be the lengthier prose stuff...Prokopios on imperial scandals, Anna Komnene on the crusades. In terms of poetry the Akritic songs are amazing. If you don't mind the anti-Christian stance Julian II wrote some good stuff. Then there are people like Chrysostomos...but again, Atticising.
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Re: Post "Classical" Literature?

Postby pster » Sat Mar 23, 2013 11:33 am

Scribo wrote:
Funny, they force us to read a lot as students but as you progress you never really go back to stuff so far from your area, which is a shame.


It is even more of a shame for those curious about more than just classics. That is why some serious people leave academia. Professionalization and specialization are serious problems with the humanities as practiced now, completely antithetical to the breadth that is essential to the very idea of the humanities. They are virulent cancers that have done enormous damage. Senior faculty will admit this away from the campus after a couple of glasses of wine.
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Re: Post "Classical" Literature?

Postby Scribo » Sat Mar 23, 2013 11:56 am

pster wrote:
Scribo wrote:
Funny, they force us to read a lot as students but as you progress you never really go back to stuff so far from your area, which is a shame.


It is even more of a shame for those curious about more than just classics. That is why some serious people leave academia. Professionalization and specialization are serious problems with the humanities as practiced now, completely antithetical to the breadth that is essential to the very idea of the humanities. They are virulent cancers that have done enormous damage. Senior faculty will admit this away from the campus after a couple of glasses of wine.


Ha well that's another debate, not one I'm keen on really since tempers can flare. I definitely think specialization is a very good thing indeed, let's face it...these subjects are really complex and we have very short lifespans. Gone, thankfully, are the days when a single banker would write a commentary on the entirety of the Iliad. We need specialists in Homer, Greek Religion etc even though there is always overlap. Luckily there is a lot of interdisciplinary stuff and knowledge accumulates as one ages, even as it starts to go out of date. One couldn't possibly develop the same level of knowledge in both Homer and, say, Menander. Or rather, one could...but the level would be paltry overall.

There is, of course, a difference between speciality and interest. I mean just because something is your speciality doesn't mean you can't, and shouldn't, have interest in other areas. I do quite like bits of Japanese and Italian literatures, I read a lot of Sanskrit, I just know enough to know that I don't know enough to comment/work on these areas. This is a cultural thing though, people need to learn to read beyond set curricula. Plus I also think reading broadly discourages certain.... chauvinistic sentiments that Classicists in particular hold.
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Re: Post "Classical" Literature?

Postby pster » Sat Mar 23, 2013 12:34 pm

I'm not contending that some specialization is a bad thing. I have no problem if somebody wants to focus on a particular thing for a long time, even a lifetime. But for every such person, there is another person whose curiosity is broader yet cannot follow it because her only viable career path requires specialization. And while the banker's tome might only be good for laughs, there are a hundreds of thousands of specialzed articles and tomes out there that are equally good for laughs. I see old friends from grad school still writing articles on subjects that we more or less exhausted in seminars two decades ago. Sure you can move the sofa 2 inches to the left and it looks a little better. But let's not kid ourselves that they are doing anything important or even very interesting. The banker's tome is probably far more spirited and readable.

The problem is specialization is nearly 100%. That is what is completely unjustifiable. We are not talking about 50% analysis, 50% synthesis. We are talking about a crude scientistic mindset's century long impact on the humanities. We are really just gesturing at this whole issue. The problems that flow from it are huge. For example, it is one big reason why the humanities are not taken seriously in the "culture" at large. What does he know? He just works on Sanskrit. What does she know? She just works on early modern epistemology. Not surprisingly, we are led around by idiot economists. They after all are the specialists!
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Re: Post "Classical" Literature?

Postby daivid » Sat Mar 23, 2013 1:52 pm

pster wrote: The banker's tome is probably far more spirited and readable.


Just who is this banker?
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Re: Post "Classical" Literature?

Postby Scribo » Sat Mar 23, 2013 2:19 pm

Oh great I didn't post my reply...I could have sworn I did...

In summary form, then: I still disagree, specialisation is what makes Classics palatable and we don't have enough of it. I'm talking about skillsets. I'm not going to pick on the US system here since that would be too facile, just to say that we're in a time where gradschoolers have no textual editing, no metrical or other philological skills whatsoever. This is a bad thing. Especially since there are so, so, many interesting topics to be breached which require a lot of technical skill.

I gave the example of Greek Religion, which has progressed from relying on Plato and Tragedy to winning over specialists who would go onto use a whole vast swathe of evidence: archaeological, epigraphic, non standard texts, technical treatises as well as philology, lexicography and even anthropology and the social sciences. We're actually broaching the ancient Greek mindset, adapting paradigms, not just assuming they're like slightly less refined versions of ourselves as per the Victorians. All this stuff from specialisation.

Now if you mean that focus can be too narrow, I do agree, in that we're still focusing on the same texts, same assumptions, same ideas so very often. We spend far too much time on far too small a sample. This is problematic and if you have a solution fair enough, but this part of the system and isn't going to go away. I've railed against it, my tutors have...anyone knowing doing philosophy, tragedy or Thucydides etc has.

The problem is this, we need specialisation, we don't have enough. This is the only way to have a good chance at understanding the past. We need to make a twofold separation here. 1) Study done for "their sake" that is making the past "talk" and 2) study done for our sake, consolatio philosophiae, the humanistic strain and so on and so forth. As it stands, the discipline is producing people who can't understand a thing.

daivid wrote:
pster wrote: The banker's tome is probably far more spirited and readable.


Just who is this banker?


Actually there have been several doctors, bankers, lawyers etc producing that sort of thing. Many Classicists (of the idiotic kind) refer to this as the golden age. Which is odd, the work back then was shoddy and superficial. What they mean to say is, it was a time when they could earn a damn good wage, had societal respect, came from a certain background. I've no time for them, the standards have became higher and in many ways the accessibility of the subject has never been broader. Sure, less people overall (dubious) may know Latin and Greek now...but people from more and more disparate backgrounds are now getting involved. Its one of the reasons I'm so ardently interested in the textkit project.
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Re: Post "Classical" Literature?

Postby pster » Sat Mar 23, 2013 3:00 pm

Well, we're probably talking past each other now. I'm not speaking about issues specific to classics, but rather broader issues facing the humanities as a whole. But for the record, among the senior faculty that I referenced at the outset were several Oxbridge chairs in and around classics. Before it was my position, it was theirs that the humanities were dead and that specialization and professionalization had killed them. And yes, the view is certainly that of study done for our sake. But I won't derail your thread any more. :)
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Re: Post "Classical" Literature?

Postby Scribo » Sat Mar 23, 2013 3:29 pm

pster wrote:Well, we're probably talking past each other now. I'm not speaking about issues specific to classics, but rather broader issues facing the humanities as a whole. But for the record, among the senior faculty that I referenced at the outset were several Oxbridge chairs in and around classics. Before it was my position, it was theirs that the humanities were dead and that specialization and professionalization had killed them. And yes, the view is certainly that of study done for our sake. But I won't derail your thread any more. :)


Pfft don't worry about derailing, its interesting and kind of related when you start realising the mental boxes we put ourselves in. I can only really talk about the Classics, honestly I'm not so critical of other Humanities subjects simply because they seem to get a better grasp of things. Or rather, they're less ideologically fraught.

But there is definitely a distinction to be made for study of our sake and their sake. Btw, this is a very crude distinction, so if anyone has a better one...fire away. Also I think I'm mixing up technicality and specialisation? In which case are you familiar with Sheldon Pollock's joke that there are more chairs/faculties in interdisciplinary studies than normal departments? How is that for over specialised... :lol:

I'm also scared of going too broad, are you familiar with the work of Davis Hanson? typical right wing American claptrap. Anyway in one his joint books about the death of classics (duh duh duh!!! watch out!) he laments that new PhD's don't know enough, across a broad spectrum (he also complains they can't "think like Greeks" by which he means right wind Americans) because they can't answer questions like "when did Homer write"; "why did the Mycenaean palaces fall" etc. We laughed, because this is a man so out of touch with scholarship he doesn't realise why these questions are so damn difficult. Unless you ascribe to a shallow Wikipedia viewpoint in which case of course you know! Its all so simple! Anyway its a pair of hilarious books which you'll love. Unless you're a woman, a homosexual, a liberal, or actually well versed in the ancient world.

I agree with your overall thrust, that we need to read more generally which is kind of the point of this thread, for our own sake. You'd be surprised at the times I've heard someone tell me, with pride, that they only read Classics. Like...what the hell?
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Re: Post "Classical" Literature?

Postby pster » Sat Mar 23, 2013 4:30 pm

I haven't read Hanson and judging from what you said I won't be reading him. Scrib, you seem to be embarking on a long and distinguished career in classics. I wish you the best of luck. But if that is the case, then I'm probably the very last person you should be talking to! :lol:
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Re: Post "Classical" Literature?

Postby Scribo » Sat Mar 23, 2013 4:59 pm

pster wrote:I haven't read Hanson and judging from what you said I won't be reading him. Scrib, you seem to be embarking on a long and distinguished career in classics. I wish you the best of luck. But if that is the case, then I'm probably the very last person you should be talking to! :lol:


No, I'm going to jump off the boat eventually in order to go into something slightly more lucrative, but related, so I don't have to deal with 90% of academics. Also non Classicists are the best people to talk to. They labour out of love, are interesting, stop you from being hemmed in to a discipline etc.
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Re: Post "Classical" Literature?

Postby Caecilius » Sun Mar 31, 2013 5:13 am

If I may resurrect this thread - albeit only a week or so having passed - it's an interesting case. To be fair, even when it comes to translations (and here I'm speaking of Latin) it's rare to find very much on non 'standard' Latin texts. I've been interested in Apuleius recently, if only to attempt something reasonable without venturing into Caesar/Livy-esque content, but there aren't enormous numbers of translations or commentaries on him (although one on Metamorphoses did recently come out a year or two ago). He might count as one of the 'classical' writers, but to what extent, if Latin wasn't his first language and so forth? Are we dealing then with 'tainted' Latin, a kind of foreign one perhaps differing syntactically or simply stylistically, as with the medieval texts, say? I don't know. You could make the same case for Horace in regards to his eastern-influenced vocabulary; or even, to some extent, some of the Augustan writers. Perhaps the natural relative shortage of sources doesn't and never will permit us to form an idea of a 'classical standard'. It is rather interesting to reflect upon, in any case.
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Re: Post "Classical" Literature?

Postby daivid » Sun Mar 31, 2013 11:19 am

Caecilius wrote: He might count as one of the 'classical' writers, but to what extent, if Latin wasn't his first language and so forth? Are we dealing then with 'tainted' Latin, a kind of foreign one perhaps differing syntactically or simply stylistically, as with the medieval texts, say? .


The thing that makes me uncomfortable with later Greek writers is that they are attempting, so I'm led to believe, in a language, Classical Attic, that was no longer spoken. Good writing should IMO aim to represent the spoken language. But perhaps my impression that there was a sharp split between the everyday speech and the literary language of their writings is wrong. People switch registers, so I ask - did the later writers who revived the Attic style on occasion chat in this dialect among some of their friends while they spoke more normally among circles where such would be regarded as pretentious? Are we even able to answer such questions?
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Re: Post "Classical" Literature?

Postby Scribo » Sun Mar 31, 2013 1:31 pm

Ah interesting question Daivid. Basically, the discussions tend to be problematised thanks to the very recent problem in modern Greek, diglossia. E.g you had a seriously Atticised dialect and a more natural one. Because of this discussions of the past tend to be tainted. For example you get those people acquainting the different registers in the past, the late Roman Attic revival and the modern problem as the same thing. Which is...ludicrous to the extreme.

Generally though we can say that not all later Greek was consciously Atticised. The Christian tradition remained pretty close to the spoken style (Byzantine hymns) and there was quite a lot of literature recording in more or less the spoken variety of Greek(s).

Also, if you want to get technical, you can work out a lot about the Greek of the time by the "mistakes" in the puristic Greek, impossible phonological combinations, odd semantic usage, sentence structure. A lot of this stuff matches up with what one finds in the living record. Basically, they wrote one way and spoke another. Horrock's "History of the Greek Language and Its Speakers" has some interesting stuff on this period but not much.
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Re: Post "Classical" Literature?

Postby daivid » Sun Mar 31, 2013 3:52 pm

Scribo wrote:Ah interesting question Daivid. Basically, the discussions tend to be problematised thanks to the very recent problem in modern Greek, diglossia. E.g you had a seriously Atticised dialect and a more natural one. Because of this discussions of the past tend to be tainted. For example you get those people acquainting the different registers in the past, the late Roman Attic revival and the modern problem as the same thing. Which is...ludicrous to the extreme.


Sorry can you expand that. What do you mean by the " modern problem"?

Scribo wrote:Also, if you want to get technical, you can work out a lot about the Greek of the time by the "mistakes" in the puristic Greek, impossible phonological combinations, odd semantic usage, sentence structure.

So in a sense, for us, they are not so much mistakes as evidence as to what was really going on.
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Re: Post "Classical" Literature?

Postby daivid » Sun Mar 31, 2013 4:28 pm

Scribo wrote:. Because of this discussions of the past tend to be tainted. For example you get those people acquainting the different registers in the past, the late Roman Attic revival and the modern problem as the same thing. Which is...ludicrous to the extreme.

With the knowledge gained from a quick read of the wikipedia article on Katharevousa I begin to suspect that when you say "ludicrous" it is because the difference between Katharevousa and the spoken language of modern Greece is far greater than between Attic and Koine. Am I on the right track?
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Re: Post "Classical" Literature?

Postby Scribo » Sun Mar 31, 2013 5:18 pm

daivid wrote:
Scribo wrote:. Because of this discussions of the past tend to be tainted. For example you get those people acquainting the different registers in the past, the late Roman Attic revival and the modern problem as the same thing. Which is...ludicrous to the extreme.

With the knowledge gained from a quick read of the wikipedia article on Katharevousa I begin to suspect that when you say "ludicrous" it is because the difference between Katharevousa and the spoken language of modern Greece is far greater than between Attic and Koine. Am I on the right track?


Sort of. I mean Katherevousa was obviously spoken as Dimotiki was and modern standard Greek is a mix of the two. But yes, it was deliberately obfuscating in the introduction of long outdated grammatical forms, orthography rendered absolutely insane in speech thanks to changes in phonology. I mean seriously, emeis (we) and umeis (you plr) are rendered the exact same /imis/ and yet people were encouraged to use these forms. Yet the overall differences weren't quite as large as Attic > Koine, besides the obvious Atticising pastiche.

One of the problems was the massive ideological baggage each side took. The purists felt that in order to regain Greece's glory one must speak as they did, as closely as possible (Katherevousa really was a very poor approximation though!) whereas the Naturalists believed that a language ought to be the natural expression of how people spoke and felt. There were idiots on both sides when it came to prescriptivist linguistics but the latter one out.

This was what? 60/70 years ago? Ironically some of my friends in the Scientific universities still get screwed over by the fact that some of their textbooks are highly puristic and old fashioned. Its an interesting legacy, but a slightly different problem from the conscious imitation of the medievals.

In Byzantium this was literary imitation, often well done, a sort of code amongst the elites which has been likened to the usage of Sanskrit in south Asia. Katherevousa was an attempt to control the speech of a people. A whole people. As Orwell et all taught us, when you can restrict and mess with a persons language, you can mess with their thoughts.
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Re: Post "Classical" Literature?

Postby Paul Derouda » Sun Mar 31, 2013 9:31 pm

Interesting discussion on specialization, one in which I have little personal experience myself. Can't help dropping in though...
Scribo wrote:In summary form, then: I still disagree, specialisation is what makes Classics palatable and we don't have enough of it. I'm talking about skillsets. I'm not going to pick on the US system here since that would be too facile, just to say that we're in a time where gradschoolers have no textual editing, no metrical or other philological skills whatsoever. This is a bad thing. Especially since there are so, so, many interesting topics to be breached which require a lot of technical skill.

Maybe one of the reasons for a lack of technical skills is that Latin and Greek are now longer taught to kids like before, and the first years at university are spent teaching basic grammar stuff? My intuition is that all this specialization and scientific progress has led to a situation where the average student or scholars has a much profounder "general culture" than before, but just isn't as fluent in the languages. I mean I started English at age 11 and I can read it as if I were native (though when I write, not mention speak, English, I never manage to say exactly what I want). I started Greek about 8 years ago at 24 and I never, ever hope to attain any real fluency. Maybe if I could read several hours of Greek every day, maybe then I could after many years of work. But I have to work, I have a family, a social life (well, less and less...;)). My guess would be that one of the basic problems is that it's hard to attain true fluency when you start a language around age 20 when you go to university. It's possible, but difficult especially if it's a dead language; and how are you supposed to learn metrical skills etc. if you're still learning the basics.

Anyway, that's my guess about what might be one important problem in the field of classics. I have absolutely no personal experience to back this up.
Actually there have been several doctors, bankers, lawyers etc producing that sort of thing.

This is exactly my ecological niche! I'm dreaming maybe one day I'll be able to produce something... Don't expect a comprehensive up-to-date commentary of the Iliad or anything like that though. You can guess which one of the above is the trade I'm in... ;)
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Re: Post "Classical" Literature?

Postby Scribo » Sun Mar 31, 2013 10:20 pm

Well not having Latin or Greek before university is a problem, sure, but its only part of it. Its seriously not as large a problem as people make out. Places like textkit prove that rapid acquisition of grammar and syntaxis is quite possible. Its just...the focus of courses are changing for many reasons, among them the dread "f" word (fiscal). In the long run, one can't complain. If it all ends up being soft literary readings and reception studies...well as long as blind Homer is still being read I guess.

Contributing: I don't see why not, it's just that people aren't mental enough to take on huuge projects like the entirety of Homer without a team behind them. Ha I'm disinclined to guess :P

You make some good points about the difficulty in picking up the more technical bits without oodles of time. You're right it needs time, but then there are a lot of good free resources nowadays too.
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Re: Post "Classical" Literature?

Postby Markos » Mon Apr 01, 2013 8:34 pm

My guess would be that one of the basic problems is that it's hard to attain true fluency when you start a language around age 20 when you go to university.


It's absolutely true that nothing would be more helpful in learning Greek than to start it when you are about 10 or 12. I took just a few years of French in Middle School and High School, and I never really kept up with it, but 30 years later I can still read French. I realize that French is much easier than Greek, but when you learn something at that age it goes deep in your brain and you never forget it.

The ability to learn, like youth itself, is wasted on the youth.
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Re: Post "Classical" Literature?

Postby Paul Derouda » Thu Apr 04, 2013 9:22 pm

Scribo wrote:If it all ends up being soft literary readings and reception studies...well as long as blind Homer is still being read I guess.

Contributing: I don't see why not, it's just that people aren't mental enough to take on huuge projects like the entirety of Homer without a team behind them. Ha I'm disinclined to guess :P

Heh, I sort of like you sincerity on "soft literary readings and reception studies"... As for me, what I'm thinking of in the first place is "low-weight" stuff like translation. The current Homer translations in Finnish are so idiosyncratic that almost anything would be an improvement, for example.

Markos wrote:The ability to learn, like youth itself, is wasted on the youth.

:)
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