- Out of Athens: The New Ancient Greeks
The field of study we call Classics is an ideological construction. It assumes that the Greece and Rome of antiquity belong to the modern West in some singular, privileged way—as our antiquity, their works our classics—and that these civilizations were largely self-invented. In this antiquity, there is no diaspora, no hybrids, no minorities, often no women or slaves. Democratic, philosophical Athens is the antitype of a cosmopolis: hermetic, autochthonous, owing nothing to the civilizations of Africa, India, or the Near East. But the classical lines of demarcation and exclusion have eroded under globalization. We are beginning to understand how antiquity was everywhere mixed and riven by difference. DuBois envisions a new classical studies, less insular, engaged with larger debates in the humanities. She brings a classical scholar's expert knowledge on Alexander, Epimenides, Oedipus, Spartacus, and St. Paul to bear on questions in the work of Agamben, Badiou, Butler, Negri, and Rancière. She reads Sappho and exposes the impulse of scholarship to efface the traces of the past, transfixed by an imaginary original. They might better study the forces of fragmentation and the genealogy of canons. She studies the politics and religion of dramatic tragedy in Athens and finds resources to undermine a neoconservative account of the stability, superiority, and homogeneity of Western civilization. [End Page 356]
Barry Allen's books include Truth in Philosophy; Knowledge and Civilization; and Artifice and Design: Art and Technology in Human Experience. He teaches philosophy at McMaster University and is associate editor of Common Knowledge for philosophy and politics. His monograph-length article "The Cloud of Knowing: Blurring the Difference with China" appeared in the Fall 2011 issue.