In Response to: The Color of Classics

As a former Princeton classics major and professor at a state university, I found the discussion of Greek and Latin studies in “The Color of Classics” disappointing. 

I agree that it is no longer appropriate to apply the name “classics” exclusively to these subjects, especially at postmodern universities, where knowledge practices are not meant to privilege one subject over another. But the idea that the study of Greek and Roman cultures should not exist as a distinct field at all, even as an “area study,” like other language-based cultural fields, is exasperating. The article discussed the current field solely as if it were a mechanism for sustaining privilege or hindering or helping upward mobility. I think these claims are dubious, but more to the point, the article made no mention about the value of studying such unusually complex and interconnected material as Greek tragedy or Greek philosophy (to state just my own preferences) as subjects on their own, or in relation to the ancient cultures that produced them, or as pedagogical tools for thinking about or critiquing sensitive topics such as race, gender, or ethics in modern society from a safe distance. 

Over time I have only become more convinced about the value of studying ancient Greek (and to a lesser degree, Roman) culture, and wish it were more vigorously promoted at our universities. Few things at Princeton equally fired my imagination or got me interested in other fields of study.

Dan Caner ’86
Bloomington, Ind.