Rattigan is doing more here than exploring the tortured psyches of the British upper-middle class (and it’s not just another “school story,” which Americans often think a quirky fixation of British writers). Well classically trained himself, he is also raising central questions about the classics, the classical tradition, and our modern engagement with it. How far can the ancient world help us to understand our own? What limits should we place on our reinterpretation and reappropriation of it? (When Aeschylus wrote “God from afar looks graciously upon a gentle master,” he certainly did not have a schoolmaster in mind, but a military conqueror; in fact, the phrase—and this too, I guess, was part of Rattigan’s point—was one of the last spoken by Agamemnon to Clytemnestra before she took him inside to kill him.)
Wednesday, January 18, 2012
... Do the Classics Have a Future? by Mary Beard | The New York Review of Books.