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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars provocative
A reviewer below, who describes himself as a cognitive psychologist with an interest in classics, said that this book convinced him not to waste four years studying Greek just to understand the nuances lost in translation; programming languages and other applied fields are worthier of the student's time. I must applaud a cognitive psychologist for taking an interest...
Published on 2 Mar. 1999

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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Lively and readable, but misses the point
I found the book articulate, clear, a pleasure to read, and in general a good example of the virtues of studying classical rhetoric (heh!). On the other hand, like many others who have covered the same turf recently, I think that the authors missed the point by choosing to blame the usual suspects: feminists, revisionists, and all the other -ists.
I attended...
Published on 8 Jan. 1999


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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars provocative, 2 Mar. 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Who Killed Homer?: The Demise of Classical Education and the Recovery of Greek Wisdom (Hardcover)
A reviewer below, who describes himself as a cognitive psychologist with an interest in classics, said that this book convinced him not to waste four years studying Greek just to understand the nuances lost in translation; programming languages and other applied fields are worthier of the student's time. I must applaud a cognitive psychologist for taking an interest in classics, but his view exemplifies the problem with our university education that the authors of WHO KILLED HOMER aim to attack in the first place. Being in the field of cognitive science myself, I am quite familiar with the simple-mindedness, not to say ignorance and arrogance, so common among its practitioners. The view expressed by our cognitive psychologist seems quite typical. Whether or not one should devote time to the study of Greek is a matter of choice; surely the student can decide for herself. But to say that it is not inherently worthwhile as programming languages is mistaken, and to say that people only study Greek due to cognitive dissonance is exceptionally stupid. (The very concept of cognitive dissonance is neither original nor helpful, perhaps useful for social psychologists for their problematic predictions but will disappear altogether from textbooks in about 50 yrs as a historical relic of the bad old days of psychology in its primitive phase.) How can our scientifically minded psychologist be so certain about the value of something he himself never studied? Perhaps the nuances lost in translation are the truly important ones; perhaps those with such faith in translation should not claim that they have understood the classics; perhaps Greek is not as difficult as the numbers (350 verb forms) would suggest. The truth is: the professional practioners and naive friends of classics cause more harm to the discipline than its true enemies. WHO KILLED HOMER? would be worth reading if only for this reason.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, 3 Nov. 1998
By A Customer
This review is from: Who Killed Homer?: The Demise of Classical Education and the Recovery of Greek Wisdom (Hardcover)
As someone who is trying to learn Greek on my own I was quite impressed by the author's analysis of Greek grammar and what a learner of this language can expect in the way of challenges to be overcome. Moreover the author's thrilling discussion of what Greek civilization has contributed to life as we know it today is the sort of information which can instill even the most reluctant student with a desire to plug ahead to discover what treasures Greek has in store for her. Finally the list of books which the authors have suggested we read will almost certainly enrich our knowledge of the ancient Greek world without our having to acheive a doctorate to do it: this is a great book to buy and read right away.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A shake-up for university education and "modern" thought, 16 Jun. 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Who Killed Homer?: The Demise of Classical Education and the Recovery of Greek Wisdom (Hardcover)
This an excellently researched and written book which keeps the reader's interest strong from the beginning to the end. I come from an Economics background with a strong amateur interest in ancient greek history and mythology, but after reading this book my experience during the six years of studies in Canadian and American Universities came back to me to remind me of the problems and challenges facing higher academic education, which I had sensed back then(early 80's). I feel there is a common pathology in all academia in the west and the lack of proper classical training, from the early years, may account for that. The book offers an excellent account of the contribution of greek wisdom to western culture, and for modern Greeks (it has already been translated in modern Greek)it is also useful to see that they are not the only inheritors of ancient Greece, and rightly so, language and customs apart. In addition, the book answers accurately to the recent resurgence of the supposedly "afro-asiatic" roots of classical civilisation and gives the right perspective to the whole debate. This book should form a basis for a reexamination of university education and all education for that matter. By stressing our common western heritage, feeling proud of it, we can interact more fruitfully with the other traditions in the world. Cultural mix-ups do not offer solutions to problems facing the world today. The forces of ignorance, superstition and the irrational loom large. The world has benefited by the Greek spirit and should not discard it too easily, in view on new "millennia" promising ideas. The books has a very good section on recommended readings in ancient greek wisdom at the end.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Read this book!, 23 April 1998
By A Customer
This review is from: Who Killed Homer?: The Demise of Classical Education and the Recovery of Greek Wisdom (Hardcover)
If you are on a Classics faculty somewhere, you will either love this or hate it. If you're a layman, chances are you will find it riveting. A well-written, devastating critique by two insiders.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Lively and readable, but misses the point, 8 Jan. 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Who Killed Homer?: The Demise of Classical Education and the Recovery of Greek Wisdom (Hardcover)
I found the book articulate, clear, a pleasure to read, and in general a good example of the virtues of studying classical rhetoric (heh!). On the other hand, like many others who have covered the same turf recently, I think that the authors missed the point by choosing to blame the usual suspects: feminists, revisionists, and all the other -ists.
I attended graduate school in the humanities in the late '60's and early '70's, at what was universally regarded as one of the best schools in my field (if not THE best). In the preceding decade, as both faculties and enrollments boomed, universities had begun to model all departments on the paradigm of the sciences. I'm not sure whether this came from desire to give those departments more credibility in a world where science had become a god, or to make it easier for the bureaucratic bean-counters by basing (say) tenure or hiring decisions on the same criteria in all departments. But the upshot was that "academic excellence" became a game in which faculty members competed for points (publications, citations, invited papers), and students were a mere sideshow to the REAL work that went into creating a successful academic career. As an undergraduate during this era, I, like many of my peers, was completely turned off: an academic discipline that I felt was deeply relevant to today's world had been turned into a pseudo-science intelligible only to insiders.
Too many authors write as if academia in the '50's and early '60's was a sort of Golden Age that fell into ruins as various politicized special-interest groups pursued their own agendas under the rubric of "relevance." In fact, if academia hadn't previously turned itself into an esoteric game in which irrelevance was a criterion of "academic excellence," the special-interest groups wouldn't have stood a chance. I feel that in this book Hanson and Heath went for the cheap, popular targets and completely missed the main point.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Will Classics be killed by classicists? Why should we care?, 23 Aug. 1998
By A Customer
This review is from: Who Killed Homer?: The Demise of Classical Education and the Recovery of Greek Wisdom (Hardcover)
. . . The first question Hanson and Heath answer: Yes, in the next generation. Already, departments of Classics in US colleges turn out three times more PhD.s than can be employed, and existing positions (in some cases entire existing departments) are being eliminated rather than filled by budget-trimming administrators. Who cares, or ought to? The authors argue we ALL should, since Western civilization--love it or hate it--is now, thanks to the spread of technology developed by western science, as well as the global reach of market capitalism and consumerism, the dominant pattern of culture on earth, and it owes this dominance in large part to what the Greeks gave it at its birth 2,500 years ago. Not to mention the fact that the history and examples of the Greek and Roman experiments in shared government had much to do with the design of our own; that representative democracy is enjoying a renascence in the world following a century of totalitarian experiments; that the study of classics (if done right) is conducive to clarity and discipline of thought and expression and the inculcation of an ethic of personal responsibility--where modern education and indeed society at large seem to have given up on these ideals altogether. If the Greeks and Romans have so much to teach us, it's largely the fault of the people who teach Classics in colleges and universities that we haven't heard about it. Apropos their thesis the authors quote Yeats: "The best lack all conviction, while the worst/Are full of passionate intensity." While most hard-working professors of classics don't necessarily hate and avoid their students, focus on narrow, philological, highly exoteric specialist studies of no conceivable interest to anyone but themselves, skip class in order to jet off to network and schmooze at academic conferences (at departmental expense), or write taxpayer-subsidized, turgid, unread and unreadable fashionably-leftist tomes in an opaque, post-structuralese dialect, these besetting sins are common enough among those who run departments, select books for publication, hire professors, and in general set the agenda for the profession (argue the authors) that the the study of classics--as measured by dwindling enrollments in classes at all levels for decades now--is practically dead now in this country, and will by simple attrition disappear from US higher education in the next ten years or so. Hanson and Heath drop napalm in prose on varying types of those whom they view as narrowly-focused, self-interested careerists, indeed as the murderers of their profession and as traitors to both the society they study and the one they live in. Names are named, incriminating and revealing incidents of public record and personal observation are passed on, and passages from prominent, recently-published books in classical scholarship which seem to have no discernible or possible sense are quoted and allowed to stand with a minimum of comment. But their most magnificent vitriolic writing is saved for those learned, subsidized custodians of out shared past who simply lack enthusiasm for passing on knowledge of the Greeks and their achievements (N.B., the authors are Hellenists--that is, specialists in Greek language and culture--and their personal experiences as such provide much material), and who seem to despise as bad form the combination of learning and passion in those who actually do have it. Hanson compares these alleged drones to a particular late scholar of wide learning and generous spirit, Eugene Vanderpool by name (one which students of classical archaeology will have surely run across), and concludes, "[t]o be brutal, it would have been a rare bargain to push twenty of them off the Acropolis to give that gasping septuagenarian one more year or two of air" (p. 176). No weasel words elsewhere in the book, either. No quarter is given or prisoners taken: this is a declaration of war to the knife, and knife to the hilt--which is what makes it so worth reading. Especially if you do care about classics, as a current or former teacher or student, and whether you agree with their indictment of the discipline they clearly love and are proud to serve or violently don't, you've got to read this book: you're implicated in it, somewhere.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Problematic, Flawed and Odd., 6 Nov. 2013
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This review is from: Who Killed Homer?: The Demise of Classical Education and the Recovery of Greek Wisdom (Hardcover)
Potentially, I might have agreed with the book in that its central thesis is plausible: That the practice of professional academics are in some way harming the Classics. I still think that, however this book is eminently terrible and the fact that so many people think otherwise really testifies how few people know anything about classical antiquity. I'll stick to just a few essential points.

1) We need to think like Greeks. WTF? I doubt any anthropologists would agree such a thing is possible OR desirable. What is funny though, is that Greek somehow = right wing 20th century American. Not only is this naive it's dependent entirely on selectively (mis)reading our sources. Can we know how Greeks thought? Well it's highly dependent on class, polis, period etc (as well as the usual constraints!) but it's a world apart from this book.

2) Casual racism. Apparently modern Greeks don't speak good Greek!? British people are subservient and conniving? and so on...

3) Plaintive wailing: So much of this book is dedicated to basically complaining about complexity, apparently people use big words (wah), and scholarship is too complex. No s***, when dealing with complex topics complexity naturally arises. Not everyone is happy to treat classical Greek as modern American and getting beneath the skin of another people is very, very, difficult and tentative.

4) Rants against Evidence/Privileging own Viewpoint: What's really odd is how he'll occasionally attack the extant literature. Callimachus is bookish, Menander trite, Polybius second rate. Now what makes this hilarious is that he'll then tell us to read Virgil, heavily influenced by Callimachus et al, or Tacitus (who needs Polybius) and so on. Worse, the first two of these were some of the most important authors for the Greeks AND Romans. This is indisputable. Are we to assume that the authors are more Greek or Roman than they were themselves?

Idiocies like these abound. I've picked what I think are the most striking even to the untrained but you could easily open any page and lift a dozen more. It is, seriously, a terrible book. Which is a shame since a good expose remains a desideratum...this just isn't it, not even close. Instead we have is something terribly confused and misinformed, pursued with the vehemence of the fanatical and the ignorant.
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The most important thing I have read in the last decade., 9 Aug. 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Who Killed Homer?: The Demise of Classical Education and the Recovery of Greek Wisdom (Hardcover)
This should be required reading for all. A masterful summation for those who have read the classic primary works and an absolute necessity for those who have not. A most timely book with an extraordinary amount of wisdom. I savored each sentence.
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Good Read, 26 Jun. 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Who Killed Homer?: The Demise of Classical Education and the Recovery of Greek Wisdom (Hardcover)
As a student of John Heath at Santa Clara University, I was more than happy to read this intelligent man's view on why and how classical education has virtually died in this country. An informative and well researched piece.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lighting a conflagration under the university curriculum., 21 Jun. 1998
By A Customer
This review is from: Who Killed Homer?: The Demise of Classical Education and the Recovery of Greek Wisdom (Hardcover)
It is difficult to describe this marvelous and passionate exposition on the love of learning. Drives the reader to consider a substantial investment in the Loeb Classic library.
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