Monday Links, 5/10/21

I’ll write a longer thing on Beowulf shortly, but over the weekend I read Toni Morrison’s excellent essay “Grendel and His Mother,” which helped me understand the story more.

  1. Are star ratings worthwhile?
  2. Rebecca Futo Kennedy, a professor of ancient Greek and Roman studies at Denison University, on the what, who, and why of the Classics: “Critical Classics is about not promoting antiquity as idealized models to underpin modern American exceptionalism, but instead, encourages us to look to the broader realities of that past (warts and all) and to the various ways that past has been used and has influenced our present–not because we are the “natural” heirs of ancient Greece and Rome, but because we chose to build some of our political and social (and scientific) assumptions and practices upon parts of antiquity we liked.”
  3. New (to me) genre — “philosophical fiction,” and 20 recommended works.
  4. Some notes on Thomas Foster’s “How to Read Novels like a Professor.”
  5. “My not very deep or insightful review of Dune.”
  6. Interview with Molly Swetnam-Burland, a professor and recipient of the 2020 Award for Excellence in Teaching of the Classics at the College Level by the Society for Classical Studies:

[W]e can ask questions about the ancient world inspired by our own modern experiences and have rich enough evidence to get some answers. […] When we adopt an approach like this, it reminds us that Romans and Greeks were real people — and I think it also helps us understand what they wrote, whether epic poems or funny satires, because we see that these texts were written by people who were dealing with issues of their own – from food scarcity to plagues to civil wars.

They might escape from reality by reading and reciting Virgil (there’s a lot of evidence that Pompeians knew their Virgil!) in the same way I might re-read a favorite novel over and over, just because it provides me motivation, relaxation and enjoyment. For the record, my favorite novel is Richard Adams’ “Watership Down.”

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