Tuesday, November 16, 2021


Its Own Reward

Harry Levin, "Portrait of a Homeric Scholar," Classical Journal 32.5 (February, 1937) 259-266 (at 259):
Professors of the classics have reached a point where they spend their time apologizing for their subject. They are apt to promise those who follow their dwindling courses a unique opportunity to undergo a moral discipline, to attain the marks of caste, or at least to assure themselves a comfortable academic career. Milman Parry disdained such inducements himself and refused to offer them to others. The study of Greek, he had found, is its own reward, and he never attempted to justify it on any but a personal and aesthetic plane. He once recruited a cast for the production of a tragedy by holding before them the privilege of memorizing several hundred lines of Sophocles. It delighted him to think that a single year of declensions and conjugations was all that stood between the ordinary individual and the grandest of poems.
Id. (at 261):
The scholar's mind was not, so far as Parry was concerned, a warehouse to be stocked up with job lots of assorted erudition and prefabricated opinions. It was an instrument to be kept sharp and bright by constant and skilful use.
Id. (at 264):
Despite his deftness in argument, philosophy and anything he labelled "critical theory" made him restless; frequently he would cut the knot of abstract discussion by appealing to "reality." In speech he shunned foreign phrases and Latinate words, seeking the simplest and most concrete English. His writing reveals sensibility of judgment, catholicity of taste, a rigorous method, an historical point of view — all the valuable qualities of the modern intellectual, including a distrust of the intellect.

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