David Grene (1913-2002), Of Farming & Classics: A Memoir
(Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2007), p. 74:
But the most remarkable feature of classical training in my time
was its obdurately philological character. This was much less so
in France and Germany, where university professors paid much
more than lip service to the content of Greek and Latin literature.
Within such a specific context, our Irish professors certainly concerned themselves almost exclusively with the verbal and stylistic
aspects of the languages studied (and the same was, as far as I
can find out, largely true in England). In their publications these
same interests took precedence. A few of these teachers and professors, I suppose, were a kind of barbarian, but not most of them.
They felt that classics in itself was something quite different from
literature, philosophy, or history. It was a study of a world of its
own. In fact, I recently saw this very phrase in a speech by Professor Tom Mitchell, the present provost of Trinity College Dublin.
The greater philologists of the old order penetrated deeper than
most scholars with the power of an imagination awakened by an
endless attention to, and absorption of, the minutest aspects of
words of well-known texts in Greek and Latin. These classical
texts are not exactly like those in modern languages, where contemporary usage is continually revising and rendering more exact
our knowledge of the words, and where there is always more literature coming into existence to modify one's understanding of
what has already been read. The Greek and Latin classics, frozen
in expression, are beyond further contemporary modification.
Id., p. 75:
there is a distinct effort to see the classical projection as a field for
comparative studies in anthropology or linguistic disciplines. But
the period of classical studies between the nineteenth and early
twentieth centuries knew nothing of all this. Their attitude truly
was toward a kind of liturgy, and liturgies achieve their effects by
being learned (by heart if necessary) and forcing themselves into
the obscurer parts of the mind and emotions. As a result, in the
devotion, love, and veneration of the actual words of the texts,
something has come alive in the culture of the West that cannot,
I think, be put totally to sleep or lost.
Id., pp. 75-76:
I am one of the last living products
of the older training. There are times when I feel that was fortunate for me because I was a late developer, and I doubt that in
my early twenties I could have effectively dealt with the challenge
to passion and mind in those classical texts—all the matters that
I now press on my American students' attention. I was perhaps
better served by the relentless Talmudism of my teachers, as far
as my future career went, than I would have been by what now appears to be a much more enlightened approach. At the end of
eight years in school and four more undergraduate years in college, I had come to know rather well, even if in a peculiar and
some people would say distorted fashion, the languages and the
texts of Greek and Latin literature.