D.S. Carne-Ross (1921-2010), "Scenario for a New Year," Arion
8.2 (Summer, 1969) 171-287 (at 177-178):
The "well-read man" is not much in demand
(unless he is famous) and has indeed become rather a figure
of fun. Professors of literature tend to regard him as a mere dilettante; scientists are likely to look down on him as a
humanistic snob—for if they, by his standards, are illiterate,
he is certainly innumerate by theirs. He gets even shorter
shrift from activist students who incline to see a life spent in
the imagined world of books as a betrayal of the real world
that calls so urgently for attention.
Id., p. 178:
How much of the
literature honored in college syllabuses is still really read—as distinct from being studied (and then forgotten?) in
order to get a degree?
Id., pp. 178-179:
Perhaps some responsible journal should publish a questionnaire listing fifty
or so authors from different times and places and invite the
reader to enter in the box beside each name the appropriate
symbol: A ( "I know his work well" ), B ( "I look into him now
and then"), C ("I mean to read him one day"), D ("Haven't
read him and don't intend to") or, all else failing, E ("Never
heard of him").
Id., p. 187:
Italian (and not only Italian)
suffers from the techniques of language instruction now in
fashion. Unlike French and Spanish, Italian is not an international language and the ability to speak it is useful only in
Italy. Its primary value is as an instrument of culture, which
means that what is needed is a fluent reading knowledge.
This is not best attained by the current teaching methods,
with their stress on "speaking skills" and their avoidance of
what used to be called grammar. Many of the Italian writers
most worth attention use a formal, often archaic language far
removed from the sapless koiné of the textbooks and tapes
and a student can waste two years on them only to discover,
when finally he comes face to face with a knotty page of
Machiavelli, that he has not been taught what he needed.
Id., p. 192:
The academic belief that all
disciplines are equally valuable, provided they are conducted
in accordance with the rules, is of questionable merit. If one
truly believes in one's subject, one ought to think it superior
to other subjects. The Grecian should believe, and publicly
maintain, that Greek literature is simply better than (for instance) French.
Id., p. 200:
For the scholar, value
resides in the rigor and purity of the methods employed and
in the objective concern for truth that governs them. What
you work on does not greatly matter: provided you work in
the right way. Housman's labors to establish an exemplary
text of Manilius, an author he despised, is the all too "classical" monument to these beliefs. I do not want to get caught
up in an argument about the irrelevance of scholarship to
our time of troubles. We need some scholars and will continue to need them. They have their place. But they cannot
be allowed to set the standard for the whole humanistic
enterprise. Though we may honor their professed dedication
to disinterested knowledge, it belongs to an age in which the
sum of things was felt to be secure. To devote several years
to a subject for which one does not even claim much general
importance or to setting up some quite minor text—this, at a
time when the future of literacy is in question, may in its way
be heroic: heroic, but not serious, to adapt the Austrian
mot.* If the substance of humane culture is to survive, it
will not be scholarship that saves it, and if the universities
survive as centers of humane learning, it will be because they
come to recognize that their task is not to train scholars but
to educate men.
* American scholars like on the whole to pretend that their work is
serious, whatever the evidence to the contrary. I recall a young
English classicist on a visiting appointment here causing mild scandal
when he described his main interest as "tinkering with the text of
Seneca." You are not, in this country, supposed to let the cat out of
the bag so nonchalantly.
Id., p. 206:
Modern society cannot get on without scientists and technologists; the social scientists are taking care
that it will not be able to do without them. But it could
manage very well without us. Who would even notice that
no one was any longer talking about Plato's theory of art or
Baudelaire's debt to Swedenborg? And our position is
weakened from the inside by the fact that we do not really
believe in what we are doing or know why we are doing it.
If society one day pointed an accusing finger and said, "You
cost a lot of money. What use are you?" I doubt that our
collective answer would convince even us.
Id., pp. 227-228:
The arts teach us to be discontent
with this "world we live in"—though not of course in the
sense (or the non-sense) of directing our attention to some
"other world," for they are autochthonous and belong here.
They remind us that we have no gods, no sanctities of place,
no valid ceremonies to mark the seasons of the year and the
stations of our lives, and scarcely any more the innocent
realm of natural creatures and forms. We call those who have
less food and less gadgets then we do "underprivileged." We
ourselves are the least privileged of men; yet, but for the arts,
we would not even know it.