Long-time scholar and classicist Knox (coeditor, The Norton Anthology of World Masterpieces) offers three essays in defense of the ancient Greeks against their current and many maligners in the camps of the new academia. ``[The] revisionist case lacks cogency,'' declares Knox, arguing simply that the role of the ancients ``in the history of the West has always been innovative, sometimes indeed subversive, even revolutionary.'' As for the great fight over the ``canon,'' Knox refuses to be ruffled or alarmed, merely pointing out—perhaps optimistically—that if the classics are exchanged for other books, ``the new material will have to compete with the old, and if it is not up to the same high level it will sooner or later be rejected with disdain by the students themselves.'' Whether Knox sufficiently buttresses his arguments here to win the day in some imaginary and strenuously heated debate may not matter very much; his voice offers the high pleasures of enormous learnedness, great common sense, and simple clarity as he speaks (the essays all had their origins as talks) about the original meaning of the liberal arts, about the psychology and intellectual attitudes of the ancients—not avoiding their blemished views regarding women and slavery—and about the genuine contributions of the sophists, their best and deserved reputations besmirched for all of history by that zealous early promoter of political correctness, Plato.
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