Why the Classics?

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alauda
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Why the Classics?

Post by alauda » Fri Sep 08, 2006 11:34 pm

Forgive me if I'm a bit long winded, but I really can't see how I could eliminate one single word from the following without significantly altering my intent or meaning.

As an artist, I have some interest in staying abreast of the various new and old art theories to be found, and one day not too long ago, I decided that I would re-study Postmodernism but do so in greater depth, seeking the original writings of the main theorists rather than just read quotes as I had done.

But this post is NOT about postmodern art theory. Postmodern theoretical writing is more than a bit of a bore, and Postmodernism itself is artistically rather passé already. It's just that in the course of studying *that* I came across this:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metanarrative

<quote>

A metanarrative can include any grand, all-encompassing story,
classic text, or archetypal account of the historical
record. They can also provide a framework upon which an
individual's own experiences and thoughts may be ordered. These
grand, all-encompassing stories are typically characterized by
some form of 'transcendent and universal truth' in addition to an
evolutionary tale of human existence (a story with a beginning,
middle and an end). The majority of metanarratives tend to be
relatively optimistic in their visions for humankind, some verge
on utopian, but different schools of thought offer very different
accounts. [edit]

Examples of metanarratives

* Many Christians believe that human existence is innately
sinful but offered redemption and eternal peace in heaven -
thus representing a belief in a universal rule and a telos
for humankind. See also Universal History.

* The Enlightenment theorists believed that rational thought,
allied to scientific reasoning, would lead inevitably
toward moral, social and ethical progress.

* Marxists believe that human existence is alienated from its
species being, although capable of realizing its full
potential through collective, democratic organization.

* Freudian theory holds that human history is a narrative of
the repression of libidinal desires.

* An uncritical belief in the free market is a belief that
through humanity's acquisition of wealth all who work hard
and are afforded the right opportunities will succeed
materially.

* Categorical and definitive periodizations of history, such
as the Fall of the Roman Empire, are rejected by
Postmodernism. Other periodization schemes include the Dark
Ages and Renaissance.

</quote>

I recommend the full article, but the above should give you a rough idea of the term. Yet the reason I'm posting this here is that it seems that among those who post to Textkit forums, though there are widely varying motives for studying, there is yet an implicit REJECTION of post-modern cynicism. This, by the way, is a different demographic than I find (with noteable exceptions) at American universities in which a cynically smug and oh so postmodern superiority over the ancients is an unearned but constant presumption among the faculty and upper division students.

Thoughts?

Just off the top of my head (sort of answering my own post :\ ) I've mentally cataloged other's motivations.

For example, for many, the holy grail of Greek is the New Testament, and so there is a strong Christian base here.

For some, like me, the study of ancient peoples and languages, particularly the peoples and languages of Greece and Rome is artistically inspiring.

For others, the motivation might be more scientific or anthropological. Universal patterns of behavior and useful wisdoms can be known.

Perhaps some find themselves moving forward on the basis of a purely intellectual challenge.

I am very, very curious in particular as to the full spectrum of motivations which bring others here to study the classics.

Salve,

Alauda
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Post by nostos » Sat Sep 09, 2006 1:15 am

'Why', said the Dodo, 'the best way to explain it is to do it.'
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Post by bellum paxque » Sat Sep 09, 2006 1:31 am

For me personally, I study Latin because I like working with syntax and I'm fascinated by mythology and literature. However, I share postmodernists distrust of metanarratives and am hesitant to suscribe to easy historical demarcations.

Also, though I was brought up as a Christian, my faith over the past five years (since the end of high school) has continued to weaken and atrophy until now I can say that I no longer hold any key Christian beliefs. Nevertheless, I am still fascinated with the religion as mythology/metanarrative. That is, it still exerts a tremendous emotional and nostalgic sway over me. It still moves me, though I don't believe in it.

Maybe I love these metanarratives for what they are: not for what I once thought them to be. Disillusionment need not be disenchantment.

David
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Re: Why the Classics?

Post by cdm2003 » Sat Sep 09, 2006 2:08 am

alauda wrote:Yet the reason I'm posting this here is that it seems that among those who post to Textkit forums, though there are widely varying motives for studying, there is yet an implicit REJECTION of post-modern cynicism. This, by the way, is a different demographic than I find (with noteable exceptions) at American universities in which a cynically smug and oh so postmodern superiority over the ancients is an unearned but constant presumption among the faculty and upper division students.
Si vales, valeo, cet...

I read your post with much interest and then read the wikipedia article. While I do somewhat agree with the article's definition of metanarrative is, I think the phrase requires a better and much more detailed explanation than what wikipedia offers. There are even a few places where I believe it's no more than individual opinion (e.g., "The majority of metanarratives tend to be relatively optimistic...") and where some supportive cites would be helpful.

I think there tends to be a misunderstanding of postmodernism, at least along the lines of what Lyotard described. I don't believe that postmodernism is cynical and I don't believe that studying Latin or Greek or anything ancient either supports or rejects any particular metanarrative. Certain authors like Francis Fukuyama assert a cynical, paranoid postmodernism to which I do not subscribe. Any careful reading of Lyotard, Baudrillard, or Roland Barthes will demonstrate otherwise and any academic who attempts to use their writings to discredit the ancients does so for selfish reasons (how else can one compete with Aristotle?).

My personal motivation for studying Latin and Greek is entirely psychotic: I really am Gaius Julius Caesar.

Really.

:shock:
Horum omnium fortissimi sunt Belgae

alauda
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Post by alauda » Sat Sep 09, 2006 2:44 am

[b]bellum paxque wrote[/b]

[quote] . . . I share postmodernists distrust of metanarratives and am hesitant to suscribe to easy historical demarcations.
. . . .
Maybe I love these metanarratives for what they are: not for what I once thought them to be. Disillusionment need not be disenchantment. [/quote]

I myself find rest in such a "middle path," niether ardent belief nor total scepticism. Fantasy is fun, but I do think there are truths, and we can know them. The trick is to know what you actually know. Unfortunately, that does not, with me, appear to be very much.

[b]cdm2003 wrote[/b]
[quote]I think there tends to be a misunderstanding of postmodernism, at least along the lines of what Lyotard described.[/quote]

Funny, that's exactly what I discovered when I read him rather than just a few quotes. People like to point out the paradoxes like it is some clever observation, but he is quite aware of the paradox: in denying universal truth, one is making a universal statement, yet without the hope of enlightenment, even if it is in the future, one becomes cynical.

Reading excerpts from the life and times of post Peloponesian War Athens indicates that postmodern cynicism is nothing new...

Which makes an eloquent case for the study of the classics. One's own times are seen in the light of similar historic circumstances.
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Post by cdm2003 » Sat Sep 09, 2006 3:55 pm

alauda wrote:Funny, that's exactly what I discovered when I read him rather than just a few quotes. People like to point out the paradoxes like it is some clever observation, but he is quite aware of the paradox: in denying universal truth, one is making a universal statement, yet without the hope of enlightenment, even if it is in the future, one becomes cynical.
I agree. Many people tend to think of postmodernism as a sort of dystopic acceptance: denying a metanarrative consequently denies context, denying context consequently denies an important type of meaning, and denying meaning enables to one to say "Aristotle can teach us nothing now."

Take a look at St. John's College as an appropriate application of what postmodernist hermeneutics. They teach nothing but the classics of history, philosophy, and literature (thereby extolling their importance) while at the same time helping students look at other textual factors aside from metanarrative-context. This quote of Lyotard's is from the same book cited by the wiki article:
Lyotard wrote:Statements are treated as their own autonyms and set in motion in a way that is supposed to render them mutually engendering...
The point? Postmodernist literary analysis provides a different, but by no means less relevant, meaning than otherwise. The literary program mentioned above helps to objectify texts in such a way that, for instance, a reader of Aristotle in Africa or Asia uncovers a similar meaning as one reading within Western continent. The text becomes more important than the context within which is was written. These things only make learning classical languages and literatures more important and certainly do not deny their relevance.

In all honesty, this is why I love to study the classics...I can't think of anything more important...at least to myself. I know others may not, but to me, at least still being a neophyte in Greek and at best a novice in Latin, it's like there's a whole culture waiting for me to be discovered. The more I learn, the more I information I find out. It's like living the silly Da Vinci Code only I'm not being pursued by murderous flagellants. I can't dig up Pompei and I can't be "embedded" with Caracalla's 3rd Legion...but I can't wait for the knowledge of Latin vocabulary and grammar that I will learn today that will allow me to read just a little more Caesar tonight. I do not need any metanarrative within which to put the Romans or Greeks...I also don't need a metanarrative within which to enjoy CSI or Law & Order...yet both tasks make me happy and excited and that's good enough for me. 8)

All the best,
Chris
Horum omnium fortissimi sunt Belgae

alauda
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Post by alauda » Sat Sep 09, 2006 6:38 pm

One thing I had to do when reading the articles on Wikipedia, and Lyotard was follow up on all the weird words like "hermeneutics." I'm a fairly literate person, but my knowledge of Greek really didn't help me to see that came from Hermes as the bearer of messages. :)

"Autonym," I gathered, came from "auto" self, and "nym" name -- meaning (I guessed) a self-referential statement, but looking that up, just to be sure, showed that was *almost* right, for the American Heritage has it as "A name by which a people or social group refers to itself."

But since I *did* look those words up, I was able to understand what you were saying...
cdm2003 wrote: a reader of Aristotle in Africa or Asia uncovers a similar meaning as one reading within Western continent.
That is an exciting thing, and I thank you for pointing that out. It shows that postmodern methods can yield some amazingly useful results.

I don't think you meant to suggest that context is irrelevant though. Certainly you didn't say so. I can't imagine *any* serious scholar would ever make such a claim. But there is some debate on the topic.

In college, I took a series of history courses from a professor whom I would describe as a "mature feminist" and whose methods of study were a great influence on me, and context was a great part of that.

As an example,the Greeks cloistering of their women came not from an intent to suppress them but from the many centuries of rapine and kidnaping they endured. There was a time when you really could not let your Mom, your wife, your sisters roam about by themselves, not if you loved them.

So there was a sensible historic basis for the practice, particularly among the rural people. Then in the great democratization period the country people came into the cities more and more. In an effort to not antagonize them and show the old "we are one" spirit, the urban people started doing the same thing (or at least made a great show of pretending to do so). Furthermore, from their stories and plays we see many formidable, heroic female characters, yet though the environment changed, they kept the old tradition, and they kept it a long, long time. Romans often remarked on it as one of the goofy things about the Greeks.

But add to that the archaeological finds of what were at first thought to children's weapons found in the context of women's quarters, we discover that those were *women's* weapons. Greek women and girls knew how to fight and were often armed. We hear little reports of things like if you whistled at a Greek girl, she was likely to laugh and whistle back, something many much more "liberated" modern women wouldn't dream of.

Men who are afraid of women don't teach them how to fight, and women who are afraid of men don't whistle and catcall them, but the Greeks did, yet we know this only by context, not by any self referential studies of literature. So there is a limit to that kind of analysis. If we deny the context of the Greeks treatment of women, we really don't understand their relationship with each other at all.
For me, again and again, I find that in many ways, the Greeks and Romans were wiser than us, that they understood human nature quite well. Certainly, Sophocles, Thucydides, Cicero, Aristophanes, Aristotle, or Octavian understood human nature, though they all said some pretty (to our perceptions) ridiculous things, and thus we must understand their failures, for if, in their wisdoms, they still failed, we *must* understand, or we too, are doomed.

I am still curious about others motivations. I was just thinking that another real difference here than in school is that so many are self-teachers and self-motived learners. Recently, I read a book by Victor Davis Hanson, and John Heath called _Who Killed Homer_. (I think it's out of print. I found it at the library.) The authors make the case that the demise of the classics in universities is due to internal corruption and arcane, useless, and virtually unintelligible scholarship of major university professors.

But it seems to me that so long as there are places like Textkit, Homer and the classics will never die.

So thanks.

Salve

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Post by cdm2003 » Sat Sep 09, 2006 7:30 pm

alauda wrote:I don't think you meant to suggest that context is irrelevant though. Certainly you didn't say so. I can't imagine *any* serious scholar would ever make such a claim. But there is some debate on the topic.
I hope that wasn't my implication...it certainly isn't my belief. I believe that there is an incredible amount to be learned from context, especially the type you describe (i.e., using archaeological data to better understand the role of women in ancient Greece). I think the postmodernist literary perspective is that there is also something to be gained from ignoring (not denying!) the metanarrative. This is where a lot of scholars tend to go wrong...they assume postmodernism actually "denies" the metanarrative as opposed to simply asserting that there is inherent meaning "besides" the metanarrative.
alauda wrote:I am still curious about others motivations.
Me too...as knowing Latin or ancient Greek alone doesn't put bread on the table, I guess most self-motivated learners are just having a great time. I know I am. :D

Chris
Horum omnium fortissimi sunt Belgae

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Post by annis » Sat Sep 09, 2006 7:55 pm

"Interpretation is the revenge of moralism upon art." -- Literary Aesthetics: the Very Idea
alauda wrote:It shows that postmodern methods can yield some amazingly useful results.
No it doesn't.

:)

Since I first encountered postmodernism in the Great Multiculturalism Wars where I went to college, I have harbored an abiding hostility to pomo theory. It is fundamentally regressive, and fatally undermines the goals it claims to support. That Judith Butler, with her fatalistic, theory-driven surrender to the status quo, is considered a feminist at all is a horror to me. So I was rather shocked to see great stretches of it leading a fairly basic question (as I saw it) about the motivations of textkittens for their studies. I had to cool off for a day. :) I could go on at length about what's wrong with postmodernism, but I'd like to make two brief (brief-ish) points at least.

Solipsisitc arrogance. A lot of postmodern theory is conducted by people largely ignorant of the actual history of philosophy. As a result, postmodernism tends to arrogate to itself the honors of this or that methodological tool. I have yet to see a single instance of something useful in postmodernism that hasn't been a long-standing tool in some other field. The wikipedia article displays some of this ignorance — "Categorical and definitive periodizations of history, such as the Fall of the Roman Empire, are rejected by Postmodernism." — postmodernists are hardly the only ones. I know of historians hostile to postmodernism who also reject such simplifications. And you really don't need to be a postmodernist to assert that context matters in understanding cultural productions... that's quite an old idea. I'd say the majority of Marx's work is precisely that.

Revelatory arrogance. The strongest versions of postmodernism like to assert that there's "no privileged viewpoint" and some go so far as to assert that there's no such thing as true knowledge. The problem with this is that to say "there is no privileged standpoint" requires one to assume that postmodernism itself does have an iron-fisted privileged viewpoint. At least when Thomas Aquinas asserts the primacy of special revelation, we know on what basis he makes that claim (the bible and related history). In the case of postmodernism, there is no other epistemology which lets is say anythig about it at all. It is ultimately cut off from all challenge or chance of reaction to change. It is dead and sterile.

What is useful in postmodernism is not its own, and what is its own is incoherent and solipsistic.
Last edited by annis on Sat Sep 09, 2006 8:01 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Why the Classics?

Post by annis » Sat Sep 09, 2006 8:00 pm

alauda wrote:I am very, very curious in particular as to the full spectrum of motivations which bring others here to study the classics.
Because it's cool!
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Post by Episcopus » Sat Sep 09, 2006 8:17 pm

to get out of the ghetto son!! flipmode is the squad!!

and what annis said
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Post by alauda » Sat Sep 09, 2006 9:34 pm

annis wrote:Since I first encountered postmodernism in the Great Multiculturalism Wars where I went to college, I have harbored an abiding hostility to pomo theory.
:) indeed

Confession: My degree is in mathematics. My worst subject. But I studied it because I could not abide the endless and fruitless wrangling of which you speak. It is even worse in the arts.

But it was the search for metanarrative as a common denominator among classicists that prompted the original statement. The Homerics, in particular, are some of the supreme metanarratives of the world. That is hardly much of a stretch.
annis wrote:And you really don't need to be a postmodernist to assert that context matters in understanding cultural productions...


Er... Who said so? Not me. Not cdm2003. I thought that someone might think that and disagreed, and so did cdm2003.

I certainly cannot make a case for postmodernism. I'm hardly qualified. I am only just now even looking into it for the first time. The idea, whether a postmodern origination or not that different cultures can derive similar meaning from texts through the use of certain tools is fascinating and worthy of study.

And yes. The study of classics IS cool. But people who think that are not the majority. Really, I want to collect input there as it is something I wish to promote to others. The more I hear about the joy and enlightenment others derive, the better a case I can make. Others need convincing. I don't see that it is such a simple matter.

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Post by cdm2003 » Sat Sep 09, 2006 9:40 pm

annis wrote:That Judith Butler, with her fatalistic, theory-driven surrender to the status quo, is considered a feminist at all is a horror to me.
Forgive me, Annis, but I'm not understanding this comment. Is it her hermeneutical approach that renders this judgment from you? If you have a moment, would you flesh your statement out a bit for me?
annis wrote:A lot of postmodern theory is conducted by people largely ignorant of the actual history of philosophy. As a result, postmodernism tends to arrogate to itself the honors of this or that methodological tool. I have yet to see a single instance of something useful in postmodernism that hasn't been a long-standing tool in some other field. The wikipedia article displays some of this ignorance...
I agree and disagree. I think you need to make it clear that the postmodern theory to which you are referring is of the sort I condemned above...a sort of sloppy form (like Fukuyama's The End of History and the Last Man) which people mistake to mean a condemnation of categorizing in general. I think a real postmodernist, in the sense of the word described by Lyotard, would not outright reject the fall of the Roman Empire as an event that began, took place, and ended, but would rather point out to you that there is little meaning in trying to define it as a specific category within which to frame an epistemology. For example, the postmodernist may point out Gibbon's work to you and say,
Postmodernist wrote:See how that six-volume set starts with describing the Will of Augustus and ends with the death of Constantine XI Palaeologus? Is it worth while to consider some grandiose and theoretical "Fall" which begins in 14 CE and ends in 1453 CE? If it is worth while to have a narrative about a "Fall" in those terms, couldn't it be argued that the "Fall" is better described, perhaps, beginning with the death of Hadrian in 138 CE and ending with the death of Romulus Augustulus in 476 CE? If so, do we discount Gibbon and claim that his landmark work misunderstood the very epistemological boundaries within which it was framed? Perhaps a "Fall" is even better understood in terms of a "Rise," say, ab urbe condita, or say, from when Aeneas left Troy, or from when Helen was brought to Troy, or from even before that. As to the end of said "Fall," is it with Romulus Augustulus, Constantine XI, or the death of the last Holy Roman Emperor? Has the "Fall" as a historical period even ceased to terminate, as Latin is still in use in the Vatican, on YLE 1 Finland, and on this very forum? We even have a man who still calls himself the "Pontifex Maximus." Couldn't it then be argued, therefore, that Rome has yet to "Fall," as there are people living within the old city walls who drive by the Coliseum on the way to work in the morning and speak a language derived from Latin?
Fun example...but I think it's clear how it could be taken "ad infinitum" without once ever describing a single event with any intellectual meaning. No postmodernist would actually go to Rome today and expect to watch the gladiators in an arena while relaxing in their new toga and eating all of those tasty mures fricti (which the staff at the Coliseum do "just right") simply because they rebel against the epistemological category of the "Fall of the Roman Empire." A postmodernist would simply state that such events are not so easily categorized, for whenever you think you are at a point where you may completely "know" about such an event, someone will inevitably come along and point out a new fact or relationship or interdisciplinarity that makes redefinition necessary.

Anyway, I apologize if this is long winded.
All the best,
Chris
Horum omnium fortissimi sunt Belgae

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Post by GlottalGreekGeek » Sun Sep 10, 2006 10:27 am

Why am I on the journey to becoming a Glottal Greek Geek? (note : for those you don't know, my username is a self-fulfilling prophecy, not a fully accurate statement of current conditions).

1) I love Ancient Greek literature, or at least enough of it to make studying Greek more than worthwhile,

2) I am a theatre person, and Greek nicely complements my theatre studies, and in my case might actually help me get my bread and butter some day (in theatre, you never know)

3) I was curious how a conservative Indo-European language operated (now that I know, the novelty has worn off, and I am not eager to learn another for this reason, though I might have other reasons)

4) I find it fascinating to read stuff written by people from THOUSANDS of YEARS AGO for other people from THOUSANDS of YEARS AGO, representing the genuine and unadultered thoughts of said people

5) it's a way to rebel against what I felt was superficial in my official education. We read about the Greeks, and the Mali Empire, and the Song dynasty, but it was very much on the surface (which is not surprising, since the curriculum requires coverage of so many nations/eras, I'm impressed that the teachers went into as much depth as they did). But I was rebelling more against my English/Language Arts classes, which, paticularly during the second half of my high school years, felt pretty fake. I wanted to do something genuine, just to show myself, if nobody else, how it should really be done, and that was going to the fountain of Western literature, reading the stuff closely, word by word, unfettered by translation, and really try to get to the heart of the piece, and not suck the life out of it by chopping it into easily digestible and gradeable bites.
alauda wrote: Confession: My degree is in mathematics. My worst subject. But I studied it because I could not abide the endless and fruitless wrangling of which you speak. It is even worse in the arts.
Actually, my dad also majored in Mathematics, his weak point, but in his case he did it because he wanted it to *stop* being his weak point, and to a degree he succeeded. I've always admired him for picking a weak point to be his major so he could become a more balanced person rather than playing his strengths and ignoring his weaknesses as I feel too many people do.

But for the arts - I must disagree. A lot. Maybe by the arts you mean literature and art history - and while I don't know enough to have a very useful opinion, what I do know inclines me to agree with you there. But when it comes to what I think of as the *real* arts, I not only disagree, but I would argue that the hard core arts offers the best education availible these days (of course, my opinion is quite biased, so don't take this statement to heart). In theatre, the art of my choice, there are some lousy training/departments out there - but for what field lacks lousy programs? There are plenty of decent theatre departments out there, and I would say that they offer much valuable education, and that theatre education as a whole is very healthy now. One of my friends who is a painter complains about visual arts departments at colleges, saying that they teach too much BS and not enough craft, so maybe not all of the arts are as rosy. Music education, according to my musically inclined friends and family, is also generally good these days (there are some specific problems, but that is outside the scope of this thread), ditto for dance, and for the other arts. Of course the arts are plagued with underfunding - but I dont' think that's what you're talking about.

The arts are, in my opinion, very disciplined and practical. It is easy to write papers full of air. It is possible to make a sadistically awful theatre show, but I don't think it's possible to make one full of air - you really do need real people on stage in some shape or form (of course, you could argue that an essay needs words - but I think the level of sophistication and discipline required to make even a bad theatre show is higher than it takes to write an essay full of BS).

Mind you, I am most knowledgable about the BFA/BM level of arts, where more than half of the classtime is devoted to the chosen art, and most of the students are going to go on professionally in the chosen art. However, I also think there is a lot of good going on in the BA level of arts as well, and during high school I have always found the down to earth practicality of theatre refreshing after studying English (and really, I am probably being too harsh on my teachers in this post generally - I was probably the wrong kind of student for what they had to offer).
Last edited by GlottalGreekGeek on Mon Sep 11, 2006 7:34 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Post by Episcopus » Sun Sep 10, 2006 3:14 pm

ggg, you may not mean it thus but i do agree that classes such as english are quite fake, and they gain little. my english classes were:

''the exclamation mark at the end of the sentence shows that he is surprised"

"the question mark at the end of the sentence shows that he does not know what is happening"

the kids aren't even aware of the simple structure of their language, yet they waste their time making no intellectual progress for many years to state the obvious or invent some ridiculous analysis and write essays like pansies. the same applies to latin, in the first lines of the aeneid i could argue that elision in a certain line implies that iuno wishes to castrate aeneas. once we argued with that english teacher that macbeth had a special relevance to pink baby rabbits and talked bollocks up to the point that it were plausible, and the teacher took this literary discussion seriously, which says a lot about the boundaries of the subject.
i agree with ggg in that learning a language like greek is real. how can you be 'good' at a subject like english other than by writing the pansiest essay known to man, dot your i's with hearts, present it in a pink folder, attach a buttercup to it give the teacher an apple then skip out of the classroom?
in this way the arts loses. modern and classical languages alike are being heavily pansified: for example, how can you only get a d grade in britain if you write a free composition in perfect french? if you don't mention their 'culture' and 'society' that's how. all their culture is half starved stick women, large rural turnips and onions. i did a latin qualification a couple of years ago and failed it, and a couple of tutors who interviewed me patronised me, saying, 'er, yes, you did er well in that er [pansy] test, considering you had no teacher, er, well done [you mountain-trekking pansy]' how could i fail tests with latin language sentences such as 'sextus bonus miles est'? 'roman society' 'roman history' 'analyse the emotional [!!!] effect upon you[r pansy heart] in these lines' which these days constitutes two thirds of it. why don't they just cut out the language altogether? half or a third is small enough for it to be insignificant, in that it defeats the object of having a 'french' or 'latin' qualification. they should just make all degrees 'ancient history' or 'french cultural studies' or 'classical archaeology' or 'floral decoration studies'.
i have a solution to all this but i don't know whether i would be able to suffer a life of politics and bumming old men to get to a position in which i could actually execute my super plans.

sit down shut up if you talk you be caned get out your verse composition books.
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Post by Michaelyus » Sun Sep 10, 2006 3:29 pm

Episcopus wrote:half or a third is small enough for it to be insignificant, in that it defeats the object of having a 'french' or 'latin' qualification. they should just make all degrees 'ancient history' or 'french cultural studies' or 'classical archaeology' or 'floral decoration studies'
Indeed, there actually are GCSEs & A-levels in "Ancient History", degrees in "French studies", "Classical archaeology" and several courses in "ikebana".

Anyway, I took up Latin partially to kill time (after completing my language studies in school), partly to get another qualification, partly for prestige ("I did GCSE Latin"), and partly because I quite liked to learn a language from another era. Culture did come into it of course: I liked to learn about Roman life and description, about their livelihoods etc. etc. but really the language itself was my main focus (plus I wanted to be able to read some of the Renaissance literature and compose motets and cantatas in Latin without resorting to other people's libretti). Those are my main motivations.
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Post by alauda » Sun Sep 10, 2006 6:10 pm

Wow, GGG. That was a great response. I hope you don't mind if I quote you when talking to others.
GlottalGreekGeek wrote: 5) it's a way to rebel against what I felt was superficial in my
official education ...
:D I can relate. That's why I studied math. Your dad sounds like cool guy.

A little background. I had, right out of high school, a full scholarship to the Academy of Arts in San Francisco (though part of the program was at Berkeley). I went to visit the schools, and I was so appalled by the work of the teachers and students that rejected the scholarship. I'm from a working class family. That scholarship was a big deal. There was no money for college. I had to go to a community college at first and work my way through school. Everyone thought I was nuts.

But I should say that when I said, "the arts," I should have said, "painting and sculpture" -- what are usually referred to as the "fine arts."

Well, there was no one teaching how to paint like Rembrandt or Leonardo or Carravagio. There were no sculptors who could sculpt like Phidias, Myron, or Michelangelo. They could not, and indeed, defiantly proclaimed why they WOULD not teach or do. It left a bitter taste. I decided to teach myself.

Another note: I was making a living at art already. It was not much money, but I was a pretty emancipated kid. It was an exhibition in high school of some brightly colored pastels of the school athletes that got me the scholarship, so I had a certain arrogance. I saw that the teachers at the colleges were not surviving as artists, so I disregarded them.

I am glad, very glad, you find the situation in your fields of interest different, but the situation in public schools with regard to fine art programs, with EXTREMELY rare exceptions, has not changed. I have seen a lot of talent ruined, and I just hate that. No real artistic talent needs much encouragment to be imaginative. He or she needs his or her eyes and hands disciplined. No creative drive EVER suffers from that.

These days, a student who wishes to learn the techniques of the old masters would do better to find a private teacher. There are men and women who are successful artists who open their studios, homes, and lives to talented young artists in spite of the fact that painting pays better than teaching. If I had known about that in my youth, I would have sought out such a one, as it was, I had to struggle for years to learn what I wanted to learn. Painting and sculpture are still best taught the way old fashioned way just like it was done in Greco-Roman times, and throughout the medieval era.

And on still another note, I read an earlier thread in which you announced that you'd finished the Iliad. Allow me to add my belated congratulations! I am now studying my next worse subject, ancient languages. It is difficult! I get so frustrated when I go to re-read something only to find that I've already forgotten something I thought I'd learned. It is calculus all over again, so well done to you.

So motivation is everything. Thank you for sharing yours.

Salve,

Rex

PS Thanks for the etymology on your nick. I wondered about that. :)

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Post by perispomenon » Sun Sep 10, 2006 6:32 pm

alauda wrote: I get so frustrated when I go to re-read something only to find that I've already forgotten something I thought I'd learned.
I share that emotion. But I know (from experience in other fields) that with perseverance, those frustrations will become less frequent, and in the end, will even disappear.

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Post by nostos » Sun Sep 10, 2006 8:13 pm

Episcopus wrote:they should just make all degrees . . . 'floral decoration studies'.
Behold the Studies of Floral Decoration!
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Post by Interaxus » Mon Sep 11, 2006 3:23 am

How come nobody so far has mentioned the obvious?

OUR COMMON DENOMINATOR is the fact that Latin was wiped off the educational face of the earth some decades ago. We live in the Post-Latin Era (PLE). Mad Mel could make a film about us. One way or another we’re all ‘pet lambs in a sentimental farce’. We make a virtue of our heroic nerdity but if Bush or God brought back Latin, would we turn up for lessons?

Cheers,
Int :twisted:

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Post by GlottalGreekGeek » Mon Sep 11, 2006 7:57 am

Well, Academy of Art college in San Francisco has such a poor reputation, it's not even accredited. I've heard that once upon a time they were a better school, but it's gotten so bad that they are losing (or have already lost) the teachers they have which are good. I don't know how heavily you researched the school before you went there, or when you tried to go there, but I heard pretty early on it's a place to avoid.

As I said before, the biggest blow to the arts is lack of funding. For example, San Francisco State University used to have one of the best theatre departments in the country, then their funding got seriously reduced, and so did the quality of their program. They are working hard to make their theatre department good again, and from what I hear have made some progress, but I have some personal reasons not to go there.

I have heard some names of arts schools (fine arts can also apply to theatre, dance, film, and music) which actually have good visual arts programs, but since all of that info came to me as an accident and not through a research effort of my own, I hesistate to say anything about it.

Also, there are a lot of pit falls you have to look out for if you're looking for a serious arts education, but if I went into that it would be a serious hijacking of this thread. But you picked up on one of the key things to look for - have the teachers practiced the art professionally, and did they *succeed* professionally. Some people in all of the arts are lousy artists themselves but make excellent arts teachers (and vice versa), but it's a good thing to look at.

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Post by annis » Mon Sep 11, 2006 1:11 pm

Interaxus wrote:OUR COMMON DENOMINATOR is the fact that Latin was wiped off the educational face of the earth some decades ago. We live in the Post-Latin Era (PLE). Mad Mel could make a film about us. One way or another we’re all ‘pet lambs in a sentimental farce’. We make a virtue of our heroic nerdity but if Bush or God brought back Latin, would we turn up for lessons?
Heroic nerdity?! What a great phrase. "No, I'm not eccentric! I'm a heroic nerd!"

That some people study Latin or Greek precisely because of God seems to me to explain why no one has mentioned what you seem to consider the obvious. Greek and Latin are rarely goals in themselves, but are instrumental to some other end, such as a study of history, literature or religion or whatnot.

Though it might seem like heroic nerdity to study something no longer usually part of the curriculum, I'd also point out how many textkittens seem to be interested in a lot of languages, both living and departed.
William S. Annis — http://www.aoidoi.org/http://www.scholiastae.org/
τίς πατέρ' αἰνήσει εἰ μὴ κακοδαίμονες υἱοί;

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Post by Episcopus » Mon Sep 11, 2006 2:00 pm

Michaelyus wrote:
Indeed, there actually are GCSEs & A-levels in "Ancient History", degrees in "French studies", "Classical archaeology" and several courses in "ikebana".

Anyway, I took up Latin partially to kill time (after completing my language studies in school), partly to get another qualification, partly for prestige
i understand the prestige part; i chose to do it because my entrance would bind me to continue, and not be distracted by anything, unless i wanted complete embarrassment, which i received anyway! :lol:
i also hoped that there would be significant prose composition, in which i marked all my macrons and stacked enclitics just like i stack my paper for going to school.

hahae interaxus du er jo en meget morsom mand 8)

"heroic nerdity" is interesting. i was treated like a bit of a hero by classicists in this 'PLE'. but the romance of it all would have been lost had i actually been offered latin classes, support, help from and discussion with expert latinists. indeed, i probably would have refused to go and done it myself, or more likely, done something completely unrelated, like chinese.
as the study of classics comes closer, the opportunities of actual teachers and whatnot, i find myself attracted by sinotibetans and african isolates for which i can't find a textbook.

it is true that people learn greek and latin for reasons other than the languages themselves. i learn languages in order to write with them. a language attracts me like a becoming girl or a shiny bar of platinum (both of which i possess), and reminds me of all memories of the country (if i have been there), the environment and unique traits - indeed it is the closest thing to being a person of that nationality, living in that country, without actually being in such a state. interaxus should know very well - sweden reminds me of lakes, pine trees and of course swedish girls in the summer. if i studied swedish in school though we would probably have to learn how to cook meatballs and pick out a correct flowery lampshade from ikea as part of our translation/composition examination. in a way therefore i am glad that certain things are not in the curriculum. that which is obscure is often mysterious, and often is the most attractive. is this all learning the language for itself? i would say half and half, at any rate far more than those who wish to 'find god' in the vulgate or investigate history and religion. but learning any language, especially ancient, surely must involve at least a slight bit of learning for the sake of the language alone, because it's a consuming endeavour.
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Post by alauda » Mon Sep 11, 2006 11:10 pm

GGG wrote:Well, Academy of Art college in San Francisco has such a poor reputation, it's not even accredited. I've heard that once upon a time they were a better school, but it's gotten so bad that they are losing (or have already lost) the teachers they have which are good. I don't know how heavily you researched the school before you went there, or when you tried to go there, but I heard pretty early on it's a place to avoid.
I'm 48. That was 1976. AASF was considered THE school on the West Coast then. My program was accredited through a relationship with UC Berkeley, the funding came through one of their scholarship programs, but a lack of accreditation does not necessarily have anything to do with excellence. That is a total myth. (Except in the case of a school that has LOST its accreditation.) Accreditation is mainly a tedious and expensive process. If you have time and money, you can get accredited.
GGG wrote:fine arts can also apply to theatre, dance, film, and music
Not according to a dictionary nor traditional usage. But the "fine" in "fine art" was never much of a descriptive. It's just a couple of sounds that refer to a certain small set of traditions. I know the usage is unjust. I know it is irritating to artists in performing arts, but as you know, languages and usage are often quirky rather than logical.

And I don't want to hijack this thread either. I've been paying attention to every response and collected a list. I have definitely learned some things.

Salve,
Rex
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Post by Agrippa » Tue Sep 12, 2006 12:59 am

I don't know: I just love writing and reading in Greek and Latin. I don't have ulterior motives; I'd love to read Plato and Spinoza some day, but otherwise, I'm learning them for their own sake.

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Post by GlottalGreekGeek » Tue Sep 12, 2006 2:42 am

alauda wrote:but a lack of accreditation does not necessarily have anything to do with excellence. That is a total myth. (Except in the case of a school that has LOST its accreditation.)
I agree, but I have heard that AASF is a bad school in addition to lacking accreditation (and quite frankly, if everybody knew it was a good school, it wouldn't matter terribly if it were accredited - the people who mattered would recognize it as a good education).

And "fine arts" is applied to the performing arts in official contexts - one can get a "Bachelor of Fine Arts" degree in Theatre or Dance, and maybe other performing arts as well, as well as for visual arts. One might even be able to get a BFA in creative writing, but I'm not sure. Music people, on the other hand, can get "Bachelor of Music" degrees - which is like BFAs, except it's for music - and there is still the plain ol' "BA" degree for all arts.

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Post by whiteoctave » Tue Sep 12, 2006 3:36 pm

Classics, that is the ancient world in all its guises, literary, linguistic and otherwise, is such an all-encompassing and nigh unbounded field that either to ask what external benefit its study brings or to investigate what purpose Classicists pursue is, to me at any rate, as unintelligible as asking mankind why it reads, learns or converses with others.

~D (awaiting the day when 'postmodernism' is but an embarrassing memory of past folly)
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Post by richc » Tue Sep 12, 2006 7:15 pm

I feel I have to say something about postmodernism, maybe I dont understand it as I
should but I did see how those who adhered to it behaved when I first came to
college. While these people maintained there was no point of view better or worse
as regards a text. Because they refused a context they seemed to me to default to
a gut reaction to these books. Almost invariably judging them harshly as somehow not
correct. Well.. blacklisting them.
Its too bad. This theories effect has been very damaging to a number of departments.
Imagine a student saying they were studying the classics at a party and getting snubbed
for it. I"ve been given a hard time for reading Greek before by people involved in this
posmodern literary criticism. No big deal, but I can imagine a younger kid feeling hurt
if they were snubbed for pursuing such an un-pc subject. Yeah. I think it was the moralistic
tone that I saw on a number of occasions that bothered me.
As for why I study classics. Well after studying an eastern discipline for 25 years, and
seeing its effect on people. I saw that no westerner could effectively assimilate such
a foreign diet. Western acculturation would always remain, so it may as well be more
actively investigated, than present in some haphazard manner. So I lit upon the Graeco-
Roman heritage to take a look at, and I've enjoyed it immensely. Now I no longer think
about why, I just look forward to my time with some of the old writers.

My two cents
Rich

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Post by IreneY » Tue Sep 12, 2006 9:36 pm

Well, first of all I am usually very sceptic about anything that defines itself in relevance to something else if that "something else" is not the only alternative. What does postmodernism means really? After modernism? Nice way to describe your world view.

Postmodernism in particular I never quite liked (and I am talking about all the different 'definitions' of it; I guess since all is subjective it follows that almost everyone has his/her own definition about what postmodernism is).

Anyway, it's nothing new under the sun, just a compilation of thoughts expressed before cast in a rather cynical grouping.

My reasons for learning ancient Greek and Latin are rather banal I'd say: I had no choice whatsoever about ancient Greek and no choice about Latin once I decided what I wanted to study in the Uni.
The reason my Latin is still rusty is pure laziness and the reason I still study ancient Greek (I don't believe anyone can ever say that he has known all there is to know about a language even if we're talking about his/her native one) is that I just love it (although I admit to a partiality to classical, Attic Greek )

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Post by alauda » Wed Sep 13, 2006 3:11 am

GGG wrote:
alauda wrote: but a lack of accreditation does not necessarily have anything to do with excellence. That is a total myth. (Except in the case of a school that has LOST its accreditation.)
I agree, but I have heard that AASF is a bad school in addition to lacking accreditation (and quite frankly, if everybody knew it was a good school, it wouldn't matter terribly if it were accredited - the people who mattered would recognize it as a good education).
True that. You'll recall that I said, when I visited the school that I was "appalled." And now my first impression is common. And they all thought I was just an arrogant teenager who thought he was too cool for school. 8)
GGG wrote:..."fine arts" is applied to the performing arts in official contexts - one can get a "Bachelor of Fine Arts" degree in Theatre or Dance, and maybe other performing arts as well, as well as for visual arts...
Good point. Notice however the plural in the term? You'll hear it that way: "Master of Fine Art" for painting and sculpture (sometimes music composition), and a "Master of Fine Arts" for performing arts and commercial fields like illustration. It is fine with me if the term simplifies; however, at cocktail parties amongst the beau monde (rich people who buy art and support the arts), the misuse of the terms is a shibboleth.

I really could talk about art and the arts forever, but returning to the topic at hand...
whiteoctave wrote: ...to ask what external benefit its study brings or to investigate what purpose Classicists pursue is, to me at any rate, as unintelligible as asking mankind why it reads, learns or converses with others.
I am happy to believe you meant that as an artistic way of saying that the classics belong in the essence of our lives and studies, but I'm looking for ways of explaining the study of classics to people who do not already get it and inspiring them to want it. I'm talking about funding, selling books, getting documentaries made, classics programs expanded in schools, more students signing up for courses, and really bringing the classics to ordinary people, not just an elite few.

That is not an unintelligible goal. Really, to get way out there hyperbolic while stating a plain, cold, hard fact at the same time, the survival of Western Civilization depends on it.

So thanks for the responses so far. I notice that no one has talked about studying the bible in particular, but one of the authors of one of my books says that sometimes up to half his students in his Greek classes are there for that reason. Is the reason that no one's brought this up because I already mentioned it in the first post of the thread?

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Post by Interaxus » Wed Sep 20, 2006 2:35 pm

Episcope:

I hope Cambridge doesn't rain on your parade!

By the way, those Swedish girls you mention are a case in point. A black-haired beauty in a sea of blondes has no rival. The triumph of the exotic over the everyday? Rarity versus the norm? Like what makes Latin sexy today? Q.E.D.

Annis wrote.
I'd also point out how many textkittens seem to be interested in a lot of languages, both living and departed.
Me too.

Whiteoctave wrote:
Classics, that is the ancient world in all its guises, literary, linguistic and otherwise, is such an all-encompassing and nigh unbounded field that either to ask what external benefit its study brings or to investigate what purpose Classicists pursue is, to me at any rate, as unintelligible as asking mankind why it reads, learns or converses with others.
Some classicists may have failed to notice it or may still be in denial but the cataclysm did happen, didn’t it? Those defending the merits of a classical education from the start of the last century onwards lost the battle. Society is not the same. The denizens of today’s classical ghost towns are no doubt very much alive. In a world racked by constant change, understanding the mindsets and motivation of survivors makes some sense.

Alauda wrote:
Painting and sculpture are still best taught the old fashioned way just like it was done in Greco-Roman times, and throughout the medieval era.
Surely that's a gross over-simplification. Workshop practices and goals have varied greatly over the past 2½ millennia.
There were no sculptors who could sculpt like Phidias, Myron, or Michelangelo. They could not, and indeed, defiantly proclaimed why they WOULD not teach or do. It left a bitter taste. I decided to teach myself.
The best practitioners aren’t always the best teachers - except of themselves perhaps.

Cheers,
Int

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Post by Agrippa » Wed Sep 20, 2006 7:23 pm

alauda wrote: So thanks for the responses so far. I notice that no one has talked about studying the bible in particular, but one of the authors of one of my books says that sometimes up to half his students in his Greek classes are there for that reason. Is the reason that no one's brought this up because I already mentioned it in the first post of the thread?
It's surely why I learned Hebrew. It's not why I learned Greek, but it's an incentive, and I'm not Christian.

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