Friday, December 13, 2019


The Patina of Familiarity

D.S. Carne-Ross (1921-2010), "The Beastly House of Atreus," Kenyon Review n.s. 3.2 (Spring, 1981) 20-60 (at 26):
It is not a matter of abandoning our cultural horizon as we read the Oresteia and pretending, quite vainly, to be fifth-century Athenians, but rather a kind of tactical ceding of home ground in order, later, to be able to reach more deeply into the poet's. To bring the old text close, we must first push it away. The first step is to remove the patina of familiarity that lies dullingly on the masterpieces of our tradition and uncover, even at the cost of some violence of interpretation, whatever is strange and alien there. Classical scholars do of course insist on the foreignness of Greek civilization and tell us that we must try to see antiquity as it really was, not as we would like it to have been. And yet one sometimes feels that their frame of reference is not so unfamiliar after all and that antiquity as it really was bears a curious resemblance to Oxford and Cambridge and other such haunts of the learned.
Georg Luck (1926-2013), Arcana Mundi, 2nd ed. (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2006), p. xiii:
We are dealing with people living in a distant age, people whose day-to-day lives are quite foreign and sometimes almost incomprehensible to us. Even though we think we know so much about the ancient Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans through literary texts, they are strangers in so many ways.

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