Juvenalian ridicule, Ciceronian argument, and Cato-like censure animate a lively defense of the deadest of dead languages...


WHO KILLED HOMER? The Demise of Classical Education and the Recovery of Greek Wisdom

Juvenalian ridicule, Ciceronian argument, and Cato-like censure animate a lively defense of the deadest of dead languages and dead white European males. Cynicism, skepticism, and invective are all Greek and Latin concepts, as Hanson (Greek/Calif. State Univ., Fresno) and Heath (Classics/Santa Clara Univ.) remind their readers while ruthlessly employing the same in this debate over the decline and fall of Classics. Killing off Homer and the teaching thereof, as they argue in their impassioned philippic, was ""an inside job by elite philologists and theorists of the present age."" Their book, as they readily admit, is a late addition to the genre of the academic exposÆ’ made popular in the '80s by Allan Bloom, Camille Paglia, Dinesh D'Souza, et al., in which higher education is revealed to be suffering variously from philistine utilitarianism, feel-good social science, radical chic, sophistic theory, multicultural Balkanization, and self-promoting careerism. While the ensuing Culture Wars have raged over the humanities in general, Classics has also suffered from falling undergraduate enrollment, chronic underemployment for new Ph.D.s, and other scourges. Hanson and Heath are not so much right-wing revisionists as passionate Hellenists whose belief in Greece and Rome's central role in Western civilization is fervent and articulate. Writing against the multicultural grain, they stress the unique aspects of Greek and Roman society, e.g., the idea of open dissent in the polis and the concept of civilian militias and citizen-soldiers, and maintain the continued importance of The Iliad and The Odyssey. Their rigorous pedagogic program for returning Classics to a pride of place in the humanities, however, involves too many Draconian measures--scrapping the doctoral dissertation, ending post-doc fellowships, junking peer conference junkets--to be practical. An elegy that slaughters a hecatomb of sacred cows along the way.

Pub Date: April 7, 1998


Page Count: 288

Publisher: Free Press

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1998