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Classics and Its Displacement in Higher Education


Classics and Its Displacement in Higher Education

A critical reflection on complacency and its role in the decline of classics in the academy.
In response to philosopher Simon Blackburn’s portrayal of complacency as a vice that impairs university study at its core, John T. Hamilton examines the history of complacency in classics and its implications for our contemporary moment.
The subjects, philosophies, and literatures of ancient Greece and Rome were once treated as the foundation of learning, with everything else devolving from them. Hamilton investigates what this model of superiority, derived from the golden age of the classical tradition, shares with the current hegemony of mathematics and the natural sciences. He considers how the qualitative methods of classics relate to the quantitative positivism of big data, statistical reasoning, and presumably neutral abstraction, which often dismiss humanist subjectivity, legitimize self-sufficiency, and promote a fresh brand of academic complacency. In acknowledging the reduced status of classics in higher education today, he questions how scholarly striation and stagnation continue to bolster personal, ethical, and political complacency in our present era.

144 pages | 5 1/2 x 8 1/2

Critical Antiquities

Ancient Studies


“Hamilton has given us an extended essay on the theme of complacency, taking as his starting-point an opinion piece from 2009 by the philosopher Simon Blackburn, which characterizes it as one of the deadly ‘sins’ of the academy. He draws on etymology and wordplay to explore the imagery and resonances of complacency in different historical contexts from antiquity to the present, not simply in its familiar associations of (self-)satisfaction, but, strikingly, in the imagery of ‘flatness’ that Hamilton explores in novel and thought-provoking ways. Readers will be diverted and challenged in turn, and all should come away with fresh perspectives on this topic.”

Duncan Kennedy, University of Bristol

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