Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘classical reception’

One of the slightly awkward aspects of reviewing Laura Jansen’s Borges’ Classics recently for Classics for All was that I couldn’t for the life of me find my copy of his Collected Fictions, so had to rely partly on memory and partly on Laura’s summaries of key pieces. Now that I’ve found it again and am re-reading some old favourites, it seems that this may have been a good thing, as otherwise the temptation to do nothing but quote choice extracts, head off on any number of tangents and then have even more problems getting the review down to a manageable size would have been too great – as it was, I had at least another couple of thousand words of notes and arguments that had to be omitted. It make me admire even more Laura’s success in keeping her book to a reasonable length, rather than trying to tackle every aspect that invites discussion. (more…)

Read Full Post »

There are times when – if I was completely confident that he is human, rather than a papier-maché marionette enchanted with a spirit of pure ambition and entitlement – I could almost feel sorry for Boris Johnson. How to answer questions about one’s self, when either it doesn’t exist or it has been firmly suppressed in favour of an attention-seeking public persona? Brexit? Easy: optimism, boldness, do or die, codswallop, no surrender, blah blah. Domestic policy? Tax cuts and infrastructure investment for everyone! Private life? That should remain private, so there. Okay, which figure from history would you like to be…? (more…)

Read Full Post »

I’ve just discovered this blog post lurking in my ‘Drafts’ file, having apparently been created in mid-March; I can’t remember why I never got round to finishing it – unlike another post I started back in the autumn, which perhaps needs to wait for an appropriate moment – but that’s probably revealing in itself. Anyway, in a number of ways this unfinished discussion connects to what I was planning to write this morning, so I’ll post it here and then add current thoughts underneath…

If what you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. If what you have is a copy of Thucydides, everything looks like the Melian Dialogue. (more…)

Read Full Post »

What are they good for?

This thought was prompted in the short term by a friend’s remark in a Facebook discussion that “I remember blogs” – followed up, when I enquired, by “#obsoletetechnology” – but I’ve been wondering about it for a while in the face of a steady decline in the viewing and visitor statistics for this one. (more…)

Read Full Post »

I’ve just had a review published on War On The Rocks (a reliably interesting website for analysis of foreign policy and strategy, from a viewpoint that is predominantly US-focused and frequently Realist), on the new book by Hal Brands and Charles Edel, The Lessons of Tragedy: statecraft and world order (Yale UP, 2019). As you can probably gather from the review, I found this rather an odd experience; indeed, half-way through the book I became increasingly convinced that I was a completely unsuitable reviewer, as after the first couple of chapters the ‘tragedy’ element largely disappeared, and B & E’s conclusion is not that US strategy people all need to start reading tragedy (that might be fun…), but that they need to review more recent history in the alleged spirit of tragic sensibility, which largely boils down to an assumption that bad things will continue to happen. (more…)

Read Full Post »

Obviously my ongoing survey of modern literary receptions can’t just stick to works I like and admire. The recent death of novelist Herman Wouk, none of whose books I’ve ever read (but I have seen most of The Caine Mutiny), has naturally prompted a burst of quotations, including the revelation that Thucydides is referenced several times in his late novels about the Second World War, Winds of War (1971) and War and Remembrance (1978) – which were unironically compared by the Christian Science Monitor to Thucydides at the time (link). (more…)

Read Full Post »

What’s the key lesson of the Melian Dialogue? The dominant tradition has been some sort of variant on Crude Realism, from the perspective of the would-be superior power: justice only between equals, we the strong have the right to dictate and you the weak must comply, and forget all this nonsense about hope. The usual response, from those who reject such a worldview and/or, perhaps more significantly, aren’t in any position to pursue it, is to question and reject the Athenian logic, by detaching it from the authority of Thucydides and pointing to the consequences of their attitude. But of course it is also possible to be one of the Weak and nevertheless accept the logic of the Strong; like the prisoner in Life of Brian who praises the Romans for their strict approach to crime and punishment, or the cow at the Restaurant at the End of the Universe, there are those who fully accept the right of others to dictate terms and exact obedience. (more…)

Read Full Post »

« Newer Posts - Older Posts »