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Posts Tagged ‘Boris Johnson’

It was scarcely a revelation that Boris Johnson should have written two articles about the EU Referendum, trying out the arguments and testing the different propositions before choosing the side that seemed to suit his personal ambitions best. A little more surprising was the lapse in his knowledge of classical myth, confusing two different classical accounts of journeys into hell: “He [Cameron] was going to probe the belly of the beast and bring back British sovereignty, like Hercules bringing Eurydice back from the underworld.” Johnson’s gratuitous classical references are, we may reasonably suspect, all part of his carefully constructed image, and I wouldn’t be wholly surprised if one of the reasons for the crisis of A-level Classical Civilisation turned out to be widespread aversion to classical literature and history as a result of his appropriation of them, making it ever harder to argue against the association of the subject with arrogance and privilege. But this supposed display of superior intelligence and education does depend on him getting the references right… (more…)

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Has Boris Johnson ever given a speech without throwing in a classical reference or two? It’s part of the brand, clearly – and always reminds me of Josh Ober’s classic study of Mass and Elite in Democratic Athens. Ober noted the surprising readiness of wealthy Athenians, especially those who’ve chosen an active role in public life, to parade their wealth and their difference from the mass of the citizens, even when faced with the task of winning over several hundred jurors drawn from the ordinary population. The ancient equivalent of a modern British politician taking off his jacket and tie, rolling up his sleeves and dropping a few aitches is conspicuous by its absence. (more…)

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