From the Editor's Disk: True or False?
From an excellent Smithsonian Magazine piece of July 1993 on the Athenian Agora and the excavations, quoting Shear colleague John M. Camp."The real pleasure of studying this site, he says, is the shock of recognition. 'Our own ideas, our own concepts originated right here,' he told me, gesturing toward the bright open square of the Agora. 'It's not only democracy, it's virtually all of Western drama, law -- you name it. Over and over again, you find the only thing that's really changed is the technology. Everything else, they thought of it before. They did it before, and it all happened here.'"
True or false? Answers in 25,000 words or less welcome and distributed to the list if they seem interesting, but first have a look at the two reviews to follow of Bernard Williams's Shame and Necessity. He makes the most vigorous and original case I've seen in years f or a variant of "True". I think I disagree with him violently, but the book is intelligent, lucid, and makes you work very hard to disagree with it. The reviews are by Michael Halleran of the University of Washington and Steven Salkever of Bryn Mawr, and both are among the finest quality work we've published. The question, of course, is central to the self-definition of "classicists" and to any consideration of what place, if any, they should have in the contemporary university. Do they have to convince everyone else that the answer is "True" in order to survive? (A late report of a piece in the current New Yorker reaches me, in which a Columbia graduate goes back to freshman humanities after thirty years and discovers that the Iliad is still a great [and Great] book. It is a piece that warms the hearts of devout classicists; but who else would be persuaded by it?)