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January 01 , 2009

Bonfire of the Humanities

Rescuing the Classics in an Impoverished Age


With humor, lucidity, and unflinching rigor, the acclaimed authors of Who Killed Homer? and Plagues of the Mind unsparingly document the degeneration of a central, if beleaguered, discipline—classics—and reveal the root causes of its decline. Hanson, Heath, and Thornton point to academics themselves—their careerist ambitions, incessant self-promotion, and overspecialized scholarship, among other things—as the progenitors of the crisis, and call for a return to “academic populism,” an approach characterized by accessible, unspecialized writing, selfless commitment to students and teaching, and respect for the legacy of freedom and democracy that the ancients bequeathed to the West.

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