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The subject of this colloquium is Ancient texts Modern Relevance Question mark I want to begin the colloquium by saying something strange Speaking seriously now the question of the relevance of ancient texts to our modern lives can be pretty much blown off Of course ancient texts are relevant Do we care about justice Then Platos Republic is relevant Do we care about anger and friendship and love and heroism Then the Iliad is relevant Do we care about living good lives Of course we do Then Aristotles Nicomachean Ethics is relevant Really anyone who reads these books with any sort of seriousness knows that they are relevant Case closed On the other hand it is difficult to escape the sense that these works though profoundly moving are really parts of some other world In Greek especially reading these works is like breathing different air Even the tortured Lattimore translation of the Iliad is only able to open the window for us a little In reading Lattimore you would never feel the way in which Homers hexameter lines rise linger and fall You would never feel how deeply Homers tragic sensibility breaths through even the smallest parts of his poem Homer is strange to us Its not like we walk onto the battlefield of the Iliad and feel at home When Homers not strange to us you can almost always be sure that something is wrong In Chicago the Goodman Theater recently sold out their production of the Odyssey for stage I paid 35 for a bad seat People loved it but it was an American Odyssey It was in other words a comedy Odysseus didnt really seem like a warrior he was a kind of wandering sensitive man This is the problem with thinking that the Greeks are so so relevant If youre only keen on relevance youre only going to see what you already know or who
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