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Who Killed Homer: The Demise of Classical Education and the Recovery of Greek Wisdom

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With straightforward advice and informative readings of the great Greek texts, the authors show how we might still save classics and the Greeks for future generations. Who Killed Homer? is must reading for anyone who agrees that knowledge of classics acquaints us with the beauty and perils of our own culture.


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With straightforward advice and informative readings of the great Greek texts, the authors show how we might still save classics and the Greeks for future generations. Who Killed Homer? is must reading for anyone who agrees that knowledge of classics acquaints us with the beauty and perils of our own culture.

30 review for Who Killed Homer: The Demise of Classical Education and the Recovery of Greek Wisdom

  1. 5 out of 5

    David Withun

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  2. 5 out of 5

    Stephen

    For hundreds of years, the study of the classics was at the heart of a liberal education, thought essential to the cultivation of free men. Yet today speaking Latin would be regarded as a sign of eccentricity, not erudition. People now attend university for technical expertise in fields like business, engineering, or nursing, and such a focus is lauded as practical. A degree in Greek literature would be derided as useless as a degree in art history, the epitome of wasted public finance. Victor H For hundreds of years, the study of the classics was at the heart of a liberal education, thought essential to the cultivation of free men. Yet today speaking Latin would be regarded as a sign of eccentricity, not erudition. People now attend university for technical expertise in fields like business, engineering, or nursing, and such a focus is lauded as practical. A degree in Greek literature would be derided as useless as a degree in art history, the epitome of wasted public finance. Victor Hanson argues that vocational training is not the point of a university education; an education is not what you know, but how you behave. In Who Killed Homer? he examines the soul-forming virtues of the classical tradition and contemplates their reason for their unnecessary but imminent demise. Hansen begins by arguing that the greatest virtues of western civilization have their origin, and sustaining permanence, in the Greek tradition. Drawing from philosophical treatise (to the Greeks, a category broad enough to cover politics, science, and more) in addition to extant literature, Hanson reviews a spectrum of values with origins in Greece. These range from concepts given overt legal protection (consensual government and the open criticism thereof, armies subordinate to civil power, free enterprise, etc) to ideas understood at a deeper level, and contributing to the others. These more fundamental appreciations include the belief that every polis' wellbeing depended on the average middling citizen, not the aristocracy or the mob, and that the world was fraught with meaning. Mysterious yet rational, the world was a place imbued with limits -- limits that extended to man. Part of the Greek heritage are more obvious than others; the very shape of US government structures bears witness to their past, and most histories of science will begin with the Greek enterprise. Other appreciations have been forgotten; like the belief that man was nothing without the polis; only the power of culture and threat of sanction by others kept the human animal from behaving worse than beasts. It is in civilization than man finds salvation from his own destruction. This is a hard lesson given an obscene and brutal summation by Hanson: "Man is nothing without the state." Ultimately, classical education imparted a cohesive view of the world in which science, politics, and philosophy were knit together, a part of the whole. If these truths are indeed timeless, how have they fallen by the wayside during the 20th century? Hansen lays the blame solely at the feet of the Classicists, who have thrown away the responsibility of their tradition in the pursuit of status and fortune. They ought to know better, and here Hanson's attitude reveals how seriously he takes his belief that education was the moulding of character, not acquisition of knowledge. To Hanson, those who have committed themselves to knowing the Greek mind, who have studied it in earnest, bear responsibility for practicing it. Just as we expect a minister to conduct himself with greater care than the average parishioner, so to does Hanson expect classicists to be, if not moral champions, at least contenders; he expects them to live the values of the Greeks, to take their place in the hoplite ranks of the mind and defend what is theirs, to rise to the challenge of revealing the classics' enduring relevance. Instead, they focus on increasingly more pointless esoterically in pursuit of esteem, viewing fellow classicists as competition to be beat for choice university positions in which they can focus on their 'research' and leave the actual teaching to grad students, producing not keen minds but papers on mathematical relationships governing the use of similes in The Illiad. The comprehension of the whole is lost, and insult is added to injury when said scholars apply tortured modern interpretations,laying waste to The Odyssey by accusing it of being the wellspring of western sexism. Instead of defending and advancing the Greek way, classicists have allowed it to become the scapegoat for every moral self-doubt of the west. After outlining his case against his colleagues, Hanson proposes ways to put the focus back on the meaning of the classics, in part by forcing classicists to teach."Publish or perish" is anathema to this professor who sees his primary vocation as giving young people a structured education, not advancing his own prestige. The work ends on a bitter note, however, as he does not expect the modern world's slide into the moral abyss to be arrested. Instead, we will probably have to wait for civilization to collapse and demand strong men again, men who will rediscover the Greek truths. That final bitter retort casts a pall over a strongly-argued book already shadowed by contempt for the modern world, especially ideologies like multiculturalism and relativism. The Greeks understood nuance, but in Hanson's view they stood by everlasting truths. Hanson's own stand is strident at times, to the point that he's less a Pericles calling forth citizens to stand with him and more a Leonidas rallying the troops before a final stand. His appraisal of Greek contributions is surpassed by the analysis of why classical studies have faltered, but Who Killed Homer does double duty as a traditionalist critique of modernity and a passionate appraisal of how much value the tradition still holds, even for moderns overawed by their own cleverness. As a classical partisan myself, I found it invigorating, but Hanson's zeal may spook the unconvinced. Related: [*]The Echo of Greece, Edith Hamilton http://www.thisweekatthelibrary.blogs... [*]The Way of the Greeks, Edith Hamilton [*]Greek Ways, Bruce Thornton [*]The Life of Greece, Will Durant http://www.thisweekatthelibrary.blogs...

  3. 4 out of 5

    Ronald

    Awesome. This book single-handedly caused me to read 10-20 "classics" books that I probably should have read in college. It's worth the cost just for the reading lists provided. If you've ever thought "why should I waste time learning about classical Greece?", this book answers that question clearly and forcefully. Make your kid read it BEFORE he goes off to college.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Brendan

    The book is highly polemical, and the authors waste too much ink on long series to drive home their point. For example: Tanks in Iran, nerve gas in Iraq, epaulettes and steel helmets in Africa, military departments in South American universities, staff debate over air force doctrine in China, and millions of khaki conscripts in India are the manifestations that world conflict has now become synonymous with Western warfare. Or: It is not reductionist or fantastic to ask why it is that even the most The book is highly polemical, and the authors waste too much ink on long series to drive home their point. For example: Tanks in Iran, nerve gas in Iraq, epaulettes and steel helmets in Africa, military departments in South American universities, staff debate over air force doctrine in China, and millions of khaki conscripts in India are the manifestations that world conflict has now become synonymous with Western warfare. Or: It is not reductionist or fantastic to ask why it is that even the most vociferous academic critic of the West would prefer to fly Swissair, check into the Mayo Clinic, scream obscenities in Times Square, run a red light in Omaha, swim with his girlfriend on a Santa Cruz beach, or live next to a US Army base in Texas - rather than board a Congolese airliner, leave his appendix in Managua General, use Allah's name in vain in downtown Jeddah, jump the curb in Singapore, wear a bikini and Speedos in Iran, or vacation near the home of the Korean National Guard. Ok, alright, we get it, we understand, your point is clear, I don't need 6 examples when 2-3 suffice, the droning repetition of examples and parallels is starting to detract from your point, and I'm tired of reading now! But, that aside, the book is thought provoking, and it did make me spend some time on Wikipedia reading the plot summaries of the Odyssey, the Iliad and the Anead. I read them all in high school, but it made me want a refresher on the stories, the characters, etc. It also made me want to reread some of the Greek drama and history that is on my bookshelf but hasn't been touched since high school (we'll see if I actually pick any of that up). I think the authors deserve credit for shaking the hornet's nest, and the book is a good read for anyone interested in the current state of a liberal arts education in the US in modern times (the book was published in the late 1990s, but it's hard to imagine the situation has changed much since publication).

  5. 5 out of 5

    Kris

    Engaging writing. Very sarcastic humor. Highly critical in some places. His arguments are insightful and urgently need to be heard by all classic academics today (and this was written in 1998--think how much worse it has gotten since then!). I appreciate how the co-authors admit, in the beginning, that they are both guilty of the things for which they criticize other academics. I loved reading about the phantom university structure they advocate for in the "What We Could Do" chapter. Sometimes Han Engaging writing. Very sarcastic humor. Highly critical in some places. His arguments are insightful and urgently need to be heard by all classic academics today (and this was written in 1998--think how much worse it has gotten since then!). I appreciate how the co-authors admit, in the beginning, that they are both guilty of the things for which they criticize other academics. I loved reading about the phantom university structure they advocate for in the "What We Could Do" chapter. Sometimes Hanson does tend to fall into unnecessary details. There are definitely big chunks of text where he is citing from original sources or describing a long explanation or analogy which should have been trimmed more. But I suspect the original manuscript for this book was even longer and the authors trimmed what they could. Side Note: I love how he describes how our modern culture is afraid to generalize about things. We are so determined to be specific and treat every people from every culture differently, so scared to make assumptions and basic generalizations about an entire culture, so fearful that our stereotypes will turn negative. So scared that we won't acknowledge a common heritage, a common background, common values.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Bryan

    I would give it a five but at times it can be a bit much, as mentioned by others. Well, I picked this up as a direction header for my journey into reading the Greek and Roman classics. It kept showing up in my Amazon suggestions every time I searched for different translations of Homer and Virgil. That being said it delivers what every literature, humanities, and history teacher wants to hear. The Greeks were really important and here is why. The details in chapter 4 are amazingly concise when d I would give it a five but at times it can be a bit much, as mentioned by others. Well, I picked this up as a direction header for my journey into reading the Greek and Roman classics. It kept showing up in my Amazon suggestions every time I searched for different translations of Homer and Virgil. That being said it delivers what every literature, humanities, and history teacher wants to hear. The Greeks were really important and here is why. The details in chapter 4 are amazingly concise when dealing with Homer and his influence on the greater Western psyche. In addition, the final chapter on how to redevelop the American academic system is eye opening. It's a shame that I got this out of A college library and am currently the only reader. The final chapter alone should be copied and recopied as a guidepost for a truly useful education. The most helpful parts for all are chapter 4 on Homer and the appendices, two lists of must reads for the lonely reader. I plan on adding the list to my Goodreads account before I return the book. As far as issues with the text, I am curious what they would say about the most recent Homer publications and if they would suggest the same translations. Additonally tge age of the book is a glaring fact. The book is now a decade old and lacks any reference to the benefits of teaching the Iliad in a post-9/11 America. The challenges that were faced Thucydides would be hugely beneficial in a time on overt challenges to free speech. Also, I find that Homer's take on warfare, The Iliad, cools the blood of racist warmongering teenagers; whereas, the Odyssey is simply Greek pop culture run amuck. Overall a great read for any liberal arts teacher.

  7. 5 out of 5

    J.A.A. Purves

    This book should be considered very valuable for today. Hanson & Heath are arguing against the swindle of modern "education," and they do so with passion, humor, and persuasiveness. Essentially, we have all been cheated. The Classics have been taken out of our education and we are worse and narrower because of it. Our vocabularies are smaller. Our creativity and imaginations are more paltry. Our skills of expression are weakened. Our ability to apply the lessons of history to modern problems This book should be considered very valuable for today. Hanson & Heath are arguing against the swindle of modern "education," and they do so with passion, humor, and persuasiveness. Essentially, we have all been cheated. The Classics have been taken out of our education and we are worse and narrower because of it. Our vocabularies are smaller. Our creativity and imaginations are more paltry. Our skills of expression are weakened. Our ability to apply the lessons of history to modern problems are pathetic. And our depth of thinking has been impoverished. But Hanson & Heath also have a vision for what education could be (based, for the most part, on what it used to be). With our public schools and universities currently broken, their advice may be just the sort of thing that we are going to have to do if we don't want things to keep getting worse. This means those of us who were cheated are first going to have to go through the process of self-education. This is one book that will both encourage, inspire and offer you hints on how to do so. It's the sort of thing that is going to take virtues like self-discipline and pursuit of the good life. It just so happens that these are some of the virtues that the Greeks were most interested in.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Emmett

    Impressively thorough, though I worry about what has changed since this book is pretty old, after all. However I get the feeling nothing much has changed in favour of the Classics since the time of printing. Suggestions to revolutionise the curriculum can be seen as good-hearted, passionate and well-intended at best; a little idealistic, though. I especially liked how many examples were given in the course of the entire book, and admit that I enjoyed the (at times nasty) jibes made to articles and Impressively thorough, though I worry about what has changed since this book is pretty old, after all. However I get the feeling nothing much has changed in favour of the Classics since the time of printing. Suggestions to revolutionise the curriculum can be seen as good-hearted, passionate and well-intended at best; a little idealistic, though. I especially liked how many examples were given in the course of the entire book, and admit that I enjoyed the (at times nasty) jibes made to articles and books referred to in the book itself. This is an honest book, one which grants few exceptions, and as such does not attempt a 'balanced' view of things, the Classics in relation to other then-emerging trade skills/views. I applaud the spirit, but sadly society has yet to be moved.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Charles Gonzalez

    I truly understand the origins of the author's thesis and passionate expression of it. Latin was expunged from high school study just a few short years before I attended. While that development perhaps saved me many day, weeks and months of anxiety over grammatical memorization, I feel in retrospect that I was never really given the chance of previous generations to be exposed to history, literature and philosophy of the ancients. It is an omission that I have spent the last several years finall I truly understand the origins of the author's thesis and passionate expression of it. Latin was expunged from high school study just a few short years before I attended. While that development perhaps saved me many day, weeks and months of anxiety over grammatical memorization, I feel in retrospect that I was never really given the chance of previous generations to be exposed to history, literature and philosophy of the ancients. It is an omission that I have spent the last several years finally reversing. Thus the author's (both classicists) heart felt and experientially derived conclusion that the loss of Homer, or classically focused education, has diminished American society and education. My personal experience argued for a similar conclusion...This book is an effective prosecution and presentation of the facts as they have seen them. Their arguement is compelling and articulated with torpedo like focus....They unfortunately continue to pile on their arguement towards the end of the book first proposing what I consider a slightly wooley new curriculum for college education, basically removing what they consider extraneous non-core subjects, like music, fine arts, etc, and replace them with a concentrated version of their classically derived curriculum of great books. I did not mind the presentation of their ideas, but found it tedious and unrealistic as an exercise in change. Recommending such changes as they argue for, knowing that they stand not a chance of happening in their lifetimes strikes me as a waste of intellectual effort and they would have been better served dealing with the realilty of our higher education structure as it is and suggesting changes begin to bend the curve of ignorance of our classical heritage......better yet, I would have, based on my own personal experience preferred some thoughts on how to bring classical education down to the high school level where creative thinking and exposure to new ideas really should begin. These observations notwithstanding, Hansen and Heath make a sound arguement and their book began a conversation (in 1998) that needed to be made....it appears that someone listened at least partly given the greater emphasis, interest in and popularity of all things Greek in recent years. A very good book.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Nathan Albright

    I do not believe that I would be considered a classicist within the context of Academia.  As fond as I am of Greek and Roman history and literature (in translation) [1], my knowledge of classical and koine Greek and Latin is at best very modest.  This book is written by two people who are obviously insiders in the world of Classical studies, and like most insider perspectives of a field or institution in turmoil, this is not a pretty picture.  It is not a surprising picture, to be sure, but it i I do not believe that I would be considered a classicist within the context of Academia.  As fond as I am of Greek and Roman history and literature (in translation) [1], my knowledge of classical and koine Greek and Latin is at best very modest.  This book is written by two people who are obviously insiders in the world of Classical studies, and like most insider perspectives of a field or institution in turmoil, this is not a pretty picture.  It is not a surprising picture, to be sure, but it is not a pretty picture.  Even if I am not sure that this book is aimed at me, seeing as I am not an insider in the world of the authors, it is certainly a book I was able to understand and appreciate.  And as odd as it may seem, I actually found the authors somewhat likable in this book, which is somewhat rare in the case of Victor Davis Hanson, whose work I have a deep feeling of ambivalence about due to our similarities in some respects and our deep differences in others. Despite being nearly 300 pages in length, this book contains only five chapters along with an acknowledgments and prologue section.  Of the two writers, only Hanson is one whose work as a classicist I am familiar with, and he is certainly enthusiastic about the Greek perspective, although less strong when commenting on other traditions.  The other author is someone who appears to be a little less well-known but of the same general mindset.  The authors begin with a discussion of how Homer is dead (1), specifically how it is that classical education has been such a failure in not only providing a classical education to college students but in convincing anyone that it needs to exist in the contemporary academy.  After that the author discusses what it means to think like a Greek (2)--something the authors are more sanguine about than I am--but which requires both serious thought as well as deep knowledge of the Greek language and classical Greek literature.  After that the authors discuss who killed Homer--Academics who corrupted the classics for political and cultural 'relevance' (3)--and why they did so.  Then there is a frank and often humorous discussion of how teaching Greek is not easy, which the authors vividly demonstrate with examples of the complexity of the Greek language (4).  The authors close with a bit of hope by discussing what can be done to preserve what remains of classical learning (5) and end with some book recommendations in an appendix. At the end of the day, this book does demonstrate the authors to be somewhat snobbish when it comes to their view of the excellence of the Greeks.  The authors seem to think that the Greeks are anti-European, neglecting the commonalities that show them to be fallen cultures of considerable corruption that borrowed without attribution a great deal from the cultures around them and tried to pass themselves off as more original than they were.  Nevertheless, even as someone whose feelings about Greek and Latin culture and history and thought are deeply ambivalent, the authors have more than a few points about what can and should be done and what it would take for the preservation of what is worthwhile about Greek culture and language (the book focuses less on Latin language and culture, perhaps viewing the Catholic Church as a strong enough defender of that) in contemporary society and education.  Whether or not you agree with everything the authors have to say, this book is certainly both entertaining and more than a little bit bittersweet as the authors tilt against windmills and seek to preserve and recover a mindset and cultural perspective that is being lost to history due to our contemporary philistinism. [1] See, for example: https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2018... https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2016... https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2014... https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2016... https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2016... https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2018...

  11. 4 out of 5

    Duncan H!

    Greek philosophy brings me here. I am indeed an american plebian. I was curious why my core curriculum of both primary and secondary school had happened to leave out all the inescapable greek wisdom... I sincerely appreciate this book. Needless to say i will not take the time to learn ancient greek, but i've certainly come to understand how we've come to exist within the institutions that define the nation state. I thank the authentic classicists for their timeless perspective into the nature of Greek philosophy brings me here. I am indeed an american plebian. I was curious why my core curriculum of both primary and secondary school had happened to leave out all the inescapable greek wisdom... I sincerely appreciate this book. Needless to say i will not take the time to learn ancient greek, but i've certainly come to understand how we've come to exist within the institutions that define the nation state. I thank the authentic classicists for their timeless perspective into the nature of man, and republicanism.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Joel Everett

    A highly interesting, yet polemical, take on state of Classical Education at the end of the 20th Century. A bit humorous at times, and one can only imagine what some of the pantheon of Classical Professors were like in real life. Given the current state of higher education though I find more hope in home grown movements than in a renewal of classical studies within the university as posited by the authors.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Christopher

    Who Killed Homer? is a tract by Victor Davis Hanson and John Heath seeking to change the contemporary method of teaching and researching Classics–which is facing a decline in popularity among the average student–turning it towards the political and moral ideals the authors hold. For these two, the Greek world (Rome and Latin literature is present here only as an afterthought) is seen as a paragon of political, social, and ethical organization whose lessons undergraduate students must learn. Hans Who Killed Homer? is a tract by Victor Davis Hanson and John Heath seeking to change the contemporary method of teaching and researching Classics–which is facing a decline in popularity among the average student–turning it towards the political and moral ideals the authors hold. For these two, the Greek world (Rome and Latin literature is present here only as an afterthought) is seen as a paragon of political, social, and ethical organization whose lessons undergraduate students must learn. Hanson feels that America is facing "balkanisation", so from the Greeks the youth of today should see that it is desirable for the life of the "polis" to speak a single language and shun outside cultural traits (including, presumably, such innocent things as food, music, and clothing) just as the Greeks spoke Greek and despised the Persians. They also suggest that Greek literature contains moral insights that the writing of other eras cannot impart, and so is the only basis for a solid education. The first objection I have against Who Killed Homer? is that this idea of classical Greece as worthy of emulating is simply a misinterpretation of the Western heritage. It is the confluence of the ancient world and the grace of Christianity that created the society we know today; only after Christianity entered the life of the Empire do we find a meaningful guide to thought and action. If we want to form the morals of our children, we'd do better teaching them the Church Fathers and the history of Byzantium than the incomplete thought of Athens. Hanson and Heath have raised up the Greek thinkers almost as idols, seeing them not as occasionally interesting intellectual figures, but as the solution to all our problems. Hanson and Heath feel that research has ruined the university, and that there is little value in much of recent publications. The authors want all research to be on broad, generalized topics that even non-specialists can understand, but in the end it seems that they simply don't understand the value of criticism and haven't learned its terminology, therefore it scares them. While I have seen poor theses appear in print, I've discovered that even the most obscure and specialized studies are occasionally useful to me as a student. I don't care much for ancient literature, but I do read quite a bit of 20th-century poetry and prose, and the close criticism written about my favourite authors has only helped me appreciate even more what they wrote, not led me astray into meaninglessness. My own experience as a knowledge-hungry young person leads me to see that research is valuable and instructive. Hanson and Heath would prefer to see an end to publication, and recommend heavy teaching loads for faculty. This would be disastrous, for the traditional system of lecturing only draws faculty away from research and demotivates students. I'd rather get everything by drawing together all the many resources in the library than by having to come in and listen to a single boring lecturer every day. Similarly, I'm sure my lecturers would be happy to concentrate on research instead of wasting their own and students' time with classes. Less lecturing is the key to happy, motivated, and successful students and productive faculty, one simply needs to see how much more educated undergraduates turn out in countries were class attendance is not mandatory, but where clear study goals are given and the final exams are rigorous. There's a reason why most of our most brilliant professionals are immigrants trained abroad before coming to the U.S. for graduate education, and our productivity would tank if Hanson's plans succeeded. Another serious fault of the authors' thesis is that they assume the only reason to read Greek is to understand the thoughts of classical writers. That may be true for Classics majors, but there are many students who take Greek as part of their training in comparative Indo-European linguistics. I could really care less about ancient literature or Plato's philosophy, but I still need a grounding in Greek grammar, ideally in a diachronic context. Were the ideals of Hanson and Heath put into effect, the entire field of Indo-European studies would disappear. Is limiting the possibilities of what one can get out of the material really an improvement for scholarship? And if I have to "think like a Greek" when I study Greek, do the authors think I should also be sacrificing to Agni and Indra in Sanskrit classes? The writing style here is quite annoying, at times being a screed and always being too passionate and unstable. As one Classics professor has said, Hanson's texts attempt to speak persuasively instead of authoritatively. Furthermore, the authors make digressions into other complaints they have about modern life that strays from the central thesis, as when they rage against free verse and claim it is "non-poetry" written by "non-poets". All in all, I see little value in the book, since the claims of the authors that Greek civilization is the only thing truly worth of study is simply false to most people. One can sympathize with their plea that general writing and representing Classics to the public is worthy of respect, but this is wiped out by their raging against specialized research. All in all, a problematic work.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Alexander Delorme

    Easily the best book written by a conservative I've ever read.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Alexandra Barron

    I had to create a new “abandoned” shelf in goodreads for this book (I’ll add The Martian to that shelf too for being so awfully written, but that’s another review). All I will say is - it’s one thing to write a critique of others work or thoughts but the snide comments and attempts to ridicule anyone who dares to point out that women and other ethnicities have underrepresented in the classics to date were just too much for me to take. I made it to chapter 3. They may have some valid points and c I had to create a new “abandoned” shelf in goodreads for this book (I’ll add The Martian to that shelf too for being so awfully written, but that’s another review). All I will say is - it’s one thing to write a critique of others work or thoughts but the snide comments and attempts to ridicule anyone who dares to point out that women and other ethnicities have underrepresented in the classics to date were just too much for me to take. I made it to chapter 3. They may have some valid points and critiques but they are lost in the bad writing (how many ridiculously long lists does one need to read), overblown rhetoric, and poor writing in general. Disappointing.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Christopher Rush

    And in the "It Could Have Been So Much Better" category...we have this thing. Every premise they have is correct: we can learn much from the Greeks and should re-embrace a great deal of Greek wisdom; Classicists are culpable for the demise of Classics in America; the love for Classics is moribund in America. The problem is not that they are anti-Christian (though at times they do sound a bit glad America is not under the "burden" of being religiously influenced) or anti-progressive: the chapter And in the "It Could Have Been So Much Better" category...we have this thing. Every premise they have is correct: we can learn much from the Greeks and should re-embrace a great deal of Greek wisdom; Classicists are culpable for the demise of Classics in America; the love for Classics is moribund in America. The problem is not that they are anti-Christian (though at times they do sound a bit glad America is not under the "burden" of being religiously influenced) or anti-progressive: the chapter on what Greek wisdom is what great, especially its dependence on the Iliad - I wish the rest of the book was that good (or just more of that chapter). The problem is most of the book is not "what Greek wisdom is and how great it is." Most of the book is a rather tendentious (or elevendentious, as Victor Borge would say) "roll call of shame" against their culpable compeers responsible for the demise of Classics. It does sound a bit whiny. What they say is true, and it's great they actually cite a number of inscrutable examples of the guilty parties (why would anyone go to colleges with these professors, anyway?), but they say it too much. Their point is made well before chapter 1 is over. Chapter 2, as I said, is fantastic - we need to know what Greek wisdom is and why it is so great and why we should re-embrace it. We don't need to know why the slackpants pseudo-professors who don't really teach at colleges no one can afford to go to anyway are self-serving hypocrites who don't teach and don't write papers for real people to read. We already know that. What we don't know is what's so great about the Greeks. If Hanson and Heath had switched the proportions of what Greek wisdom is and why it's lost, this would have definitely been a 5-star book. I'm a fan of theirs; I agree with what they say. I know this doesn't make me sound like a good friend - but they belabored their point (just as I am doing in this review). Sadly, some of their assumptions about the non-Western world did not seem to pan out: in a post-9/11 world, "religious fanaticism" does not seem to be so much on the decline as it seemed to be in 1999, nor is everyone as overtly West-embracing already as they thought we'd be by now. Regardless, this is worth reading if you haven't read Bonfire of the Humanities, and chapter 2, what Greek wisdom actually is, is certainly worth reading again and again. Their recommended reading lists are also quite useful.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Mary

    THIS BOOK IS ABSOLUTELY AMAZING. I am an eighteen year old female going to college next year. I have studied the Classics and Latin since the fifth grade, both in school and on my own as a personal hobby. I plan to major in it when I head off to school; someday I hope to have a career in it where I can teach and spread my love of this stuff to others. So Who Killed Homer? makes me both depressed and elated when I think about my future career field. Hanson and Heath should be lauded for their f THIS BOOK IS ABSOLUTELY AMAZING. I am an eighteen year old female going to college next year. I have studied the Classics and Latin since the fifth grade, both in school and on my own as a personal hobby. I plan to major in it when I head off to school; someday I hope to have a career in it where I can teach and spread my love of this stuff to others. So Who Killed Homer? makes me both depressed and elated when I think about my future career field. Hanson and Heath should be lauded for their fearlessness in calling out individuals, ideas, and ideologies. They are never afraid to blatantly state views that most would decry (and they have) as "un-politically correct" both inside and outside the field of Classics itself. I laughed over this book so many times, especially when they got so witty and sarcastic over the stupidity that so many have unfortunately sunk too when it comes to analyzing history in terms of "feminist principles" or "race principles" in the ancient world. This is the type of book that should be purchased in the original, placed on one's bookshelf, and read and re-read over and over again. Definitely if one is going to have any career in Classics or the Humanities, but this is meant for and should be read by everyone. Although some of the specific historical and literary examples may be difficult for those who aren't already slightly familiar with ancient Greece to follow (because these authors rarely if ever bother explaining; part of the charm of their work is how they just jump right in), what they have to say really does have universal appeal, as they themselves repeatedly declare. Why oh why is this not required reading in every school and university? If I ever do achieve my dream of becoming a teacher or professor myself some day, despite the over-saturation Heath and Hanson so depressingly point out, I will make it so at least within my own classroom. There is no better way to do the ancient civilizations of both Greece and Rome justice.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Hannah

    Hanson and Heath argue that “petty academic careerism” has caused the demise of Classics. Classics is no longer relevant to the typical American undergraduate because Classicists focus their energies on publishing specialized esoterica (which is read by few of their peers and by nobody outside academia) instead of teaching their undergraduates why the Greeks are worth reading. They argue that this is indicative of the prevailing elitism among academics, whose writing has become increasingly full Hanson and Heath argue that “petty academic careerism” has caused the demise of Classics. Classics is no longer relevant to the typical American undergraduate because Classicists focus their energies on publishing specialized esoterica (which is read by few of their peers and by nobody outside academia) instead of teaching their undergraduates why the Greeks are worth reading. They argue that this is indicative of the prevailing elitism among academics, whose writing has become increasingly full of theory and jargon which is incomprehensible to the uninitiated. I remember my own dismay when I was first assigned such journal articles. They were usually very difficult to understand and did not seem to provide much reward in learning once they were understood. It was always a relief when we went back to discussing the primary texts. The emphasis on specialization in academia does not at all benefit the undergraduate who is still in need of learning generalities. Classics programs have a notoriously difficult time in retaining students through the language courses. Hanson and Heath suggests that this is perhaps because professors are not proactive in demonstrating why these dead languages are worth studying. They suggest that many Classicists themselves do not believe that Ancient Greeks are any more worthy of studying than any other ancient culture. Hanson and Heath therefore defend the importance of studying Western Civilization and the Greeks in particular. Their polemic against multiculturalism was somewhat startling and uncomfortable, but it stems from their anger at Classicists who do not believe that what they study (Greek wisdom) matters or should matter to the world outside academia. I wish I had read this book before I started teaching, even though I don’t agree with everything in it, they definitely address real issues in our current university system.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Gordon

    An amazing book on why classical education is still relevant today, why it has lost its appeal, and how to bring back the study of the foundations of Western culture to mainstream education. I found myself remembering the tidbits of Greek literature, philosophy and drama I have read over the years (to include works of Homer, Thucydides, Socrates, Aristotle, and Plato). But, I didn't realize how much of what I read (and have yet to read of the Greeks and Romans) has defined the essence of what we An amazing book on why classical education is still relevant today, why it has lost its appeal, and how to bring back the study of the foundations of Western culture to mainstream education. I found myself remembering the tidbits of Greek literature, philosophy and drama I have read over the years (to include works of Homer, Thucydides, Socrates, Aristotle, and Plato). But, I didn't realize how much of what I read (and have yet to read of the Greeks and Romans) has defined the essence of what we hold dear in our modern culture. It is the Greek (and Roman) foundation which still distinguishes us "Westerners" from the rest of the world and which the rest of the world largely attempts to emulate. Victor David Hanson makes a sound argument on why we need to bring back classical studies into mainstream education to recapture the essence of what we value and to protect it from attacks from beyond our shores (including the shores of like-minded nations) and to protect our culture from attacks within our own society (who would denigrate the fundamental Greek values of democracy, rule of law, importance of character over wealth and sacrifice over pleasure...).

  20. 4 out of 5

    Kevin Keating

    This book was written by two Classics academics who basically are predicting the doom of Classics education, at least in this generation, and it is all the fault of academia and Classicists themselves. Some really interesting parts, but also a lot of redundancy. You kind of have to get through those parts to find the good stuff. I expected to learn more about The Iliad, which I teach, but I got no great insights on that score. The book was pretty good, only if you have an interest in education o This book was written by two Classics academics who basically are predicting the doom of Classics education, at least in this generation, and it is all the fault of academia and Classicists themselves. Some really interesting parts, but also a lot of redundancy. You kind of have to get through those parts to find the good stuff. I expected to learn more about The Iliad, which I teach, but I got no great insights on that score. The book was pretty good, only if you have an interest in education or the Classics. Pretty damning on the college model.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Samuel Boyle

    Classics, the study of Greek and Latin, used to be the core of higher education. Now it is not: why? It is a subject which has withstood ages of attack, until now. Classics professors evade teaching undergrads to write esoterica about "gender and rhetoric", "rhetoric and gender". They are not 60's radicals, but careerists who readily sacrifice their discipline for personal gain. Classics is ultimately about real education and needed more now than ever.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Colin

    One of the most important books in modern Classical scholarship, this book points the blame for the demise of Classical learning directly at those who are supposed to be the guardians of the legacy of Greece and Rome. By focusing on minutiae and fighting for academic position instead of actually teaching, Classicists have only themselves to blame.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    The best part of this book is that you get to feel indignant along with the authors at the absolutely absurd drivel that passes for scholarship. Privilege, discourse, deconstruct, gender, patriarchy, queer... Are we talking about the Greeks or are we in a "Women's Studies" class here?

  24. 4 out of 5

    Scott

    I like classics, some people don't, Hanson takes it personally.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Rachel

    Because you can never really read enough about how impoverished, hungry and miserable humanities Ph.D.'s are...

  26. 4 out of 5

    Marc

    A critique of academia generally with a focus on classics departments. The main shortcoming is the pointed and derisive tone throughout the book that ends up overshadowing many of the valid, and logical, arguments put forth. Any honest student who expected an opportunity to engage with challenging ideas at University will likely find this book resonates. Furthermore, most people who have worked for any period of time in academia should find much of the criticism valid, if they are honest. The ma A critique of academia generally with a focus on classics departments. The main shortcoming is the pointed and derisive tone throughout the book that ends up overshadowing many of the valid, and logical, arguments put forth. Any honest student who expected an opportunity to engage with challenging ideas at University will likely find this book resonates. Furthermore, most people who have worked for any period of time in academia should find much of the criticism valid, if they are honest. The main argument articulated by the authors, that Classics professors and departments have pursued their own short term interests which over time resulted in a fractured and diminished position, is somewhat generic. This observation can attributed to almost any organization or social group in time. Nevertheless, it is particularly relevant, even twenty years later. It is especially particularly important as it addresses the Greek Classics, primarily the Iliad and Homer, making the book very worthwhile. However, I found myself disagreeing with some of the analysis and conclusions. The main reason being that the diminished teaching and understanding of the classics appears driven more by societal trends than by college professors. And learning Greek, while laudable, is just not plausible. But the due diligence to comprehend history and culture comprehensively is unfortunately less common even though more plausible than ever before.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Patrick

    This was an interesting book about why the Greek Classics are not studied as extensively as they once were and why Classics departments are on their way out. I am not really qualified to review this book, but I found it to be an interesting read, especially the chapters which described Greek contributions to Western culture. Looking back, I do remember reading some Greek literature in translation.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Justin

    A very clear, very opinionated, and very refreshing reminder of all that is right with Western culture and why the Greeks still matter.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Rob Shurmer

    Read to understand why the classics are needed now more than ever!

  30. 5 out of 5

    James

    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 Victor Davis Hanson and John Heath remind their readers. Killing off Homer and the teaching thereof, as they argue in their impassioned tome, was ``an inside job by elite philologists and theorists of the present age.'' Their book, as they readily admit, is a later addition 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 Victor Davis Hanson and John Heath remind their readers. Killing off Homer and the teaching thereof, as they argue in their impassioned tome, was ``an inside job by elite philologists and theorists of the present age.'' Their book, as they readily admit, is a later addition to the genre of the academic expose 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 passionate Hellenists whose belief in Greece and Rome's central role in Western civilization is fervent and articulate. This is something that I, as a student in the Basic Program of Liberal Education of The University of Chicago share with them. 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. Whether you agree with their rigorous pedagogic program for returning Classics to a pride of place in the humanities, you may support their principled desire to see Homer and the Greeks restored to their rightful place in the Humanities.

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