Erich Maria Remarque: All Quiet on The Western Front
Reader Submission: Title and Redesign by Ben Knox.
Judith Viorst and Ray Cruz: Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day
I had decided to thaw myself by purchasing a hot tea and sitting in the sun about thirty minutes prior to my Greek class when I managed to overhear a conversation from my fellows that piqued my interest and upset. I figured I would comment on it here, for, although eavesdropping is not one of my more attractive habits, it is often quite beneficial.
On the previous Friday, Professor Kratzer had been kind enough to hold a small discussion group for our reading of the Phaedo, as the class had recently been filled with more grammatical comments than interpretive ones. I was eager to go, as Humanism is undoubtedly affected by Platonic theory, and I have not yet done much by way of interpretation of Plato’s dialogues. We discussed what we had read so far, which is merely the beginning of the work, and we got stuck several times on particular verbs of following, accompanying, and approaching. When discussing the difference between mythos and logos, and the benefits that would lie in writing therein, particularly in reference to Socrates beginning the dialogue with his description of how he was commanded by a dream to write poetry as a mythologos, I responded.
I proceeded to mention to my colleagues certain ideas about poetry as an alternative method of instruction for moral virtues, as interpreted by Sidney in his Defense of Poesie. Professor Kratzer seemed intrigued, but the others failed to comment on the matter in which poetry can in some way be seen as equal or superior to philosophy in its execution of moral exempla that both delights and instructs.
As far as the conversation I overheard went, they seemed to be fairly offended that I had the gall to apply Renaissance poetic criticism to a philosophical work, regardless of its nod toward the poetic. At this, I am surprised.
Where did the edition of Plato which we are now reading originate? Is there an ancient, classical copy of the work by which we may see that it is merely the product of that singular ancient time, unaffected by the textual transmission process? Whatever editions of Plato we have in our possession in the Greek are Medieval and Late Medieval compositions. These have been copied numerous times with even more glosses, commentaries, and scholia than actual texts. To assume that the text retains only its classical source material, unaffected by changing times, attitudes, philosophical doctrines, and religious overtones, is fairly naive. As such, a Renaissance theory in response to Plato’s works applied to the text is not at all invalid.
I would that undergraduates in classics took more time to consider whence their texts have come, how far they may have traveled, and through which hands and interpretations they were copied down. This is not to say that one cannot attempt to grasp what may have possibly been in the first edition of an ancient source text, but to dismiss an interpretation of a later period simply due to its chronology is, in my opinion, narrow-minded.