To the crows!

James Davidson

  • The Oldest Dead White European Males, and Other Reflections on the Classics by Bernard Knox
    Norton, 144 pp, £12.95, September 1993, ISBN 0 393 03492 5

A student of Classical literature who first learnt his principal parts and ablatives absolute in the classrooms of an undistinguished grammar school in London in the late Twenties finds himself over sixty years later an American citizen, described by Robert Fagles as ‘arguably the finest Classicist of our day’, by Peter Green as one his nation ‘ought to bronze’, and by Jasper Griffin as a man ‘one would like to have as a friend’. In his long career he has written on many subjects: scholarly articles on the heroes of Attic drama in its golden age, unsentimental reminiscences of the Spanish Civil War, accounts of sabotage behind the lines in Occupied France, and English poetry. Invited to deliver the Jefferson Lecture in Washington DC, he chose to speak about something of more immediate concern – campus politics. Taking as his title ‘The Oldest Dead White European Males’, Bernard Knox addressed the impact made on a conservative discipline of new methods and concerns: the anthropology-influenced work of the Paris circle of Pierre Vidal-Naquet and J.-P. Vernant, ‘militant feminists’ and political correctness.

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