Classics (sometimes encompassing Classical Studies or Classical Civilization) is the branch of the Humanities comprising the languages, literature, philosophy, history, art, archaeology and other culture of the ancient Mediterranean world (Bronze Age ca. BC 3000 – Late Antiquity ca. AD 300–600); especially Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome during Classical Antiquity (ca. BC 600 – AD 600).
- The more rigorously criticism historicizes a work of art, in the sense of lodging it in the context of the moment of its production, the less likely it becomes for criticism to be able to explain either its own subsequent interest in the work or the possibility of lay—that is, nonacademic—interest in reading it.
- Russell Berman, Fiction Sets You Free: Literature, Liberty and Western Culture (2007), pp. 5-6
- I am not one who was born in the possession of knowledge; I am one who is fond of antiquity, and earnest in seeking it there.
- Confucius, Analects, Book 7, Chapter 19
- People who read only the classics are sure to remain up-to-date.
- Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach, Aphorisms, D. Scrase and W. Mieder, trans. (Riverside, California: 1994), p. 24
- The way to become a classic is by not resembling the classics in any way.
- It goes against the grain for me to do what so often happens, to speak inhumanly about the great as if a few millennia were an immense distance. I prefer to speak humanly about it, as if it happened yesterday, and let only the greatness itself be the distance.
- Søren Kierkegaard, Fear and Trembling (1843), S. Walsh, trans. (2006), p. 28
- The neo-conservative critics of leftist critics of mass culture ridicule the protest against Bach as background music in the kitchen, against Plato and Hegel, Shelley and Baudelaire, Marx and Freud in the drugstore. Instead, they insist on recognition of the fact that the classics have left the mausoleum and come to life again, that people are just so much more educated. True, but coming to life as classics, they come to life as other than themselves; they are deprived of their antagonistic force, of the estrangement which was the very dimension of their truth.
- Herbert Marcuse, One Dimensional Man (1964), p. 64
- At home these men’s works [Kant, Schiller and Goethe] were kept in the bookcase with the green glass panes in Papa’s study, and Törless knew this bookcase was never opened except to display its contents to a visitor. It was like the shrine of some divinity to which one does not readily draw nigh and which one venerates only because one is glad that thanks to its existence there are certain things one need no longer bother about.
- Robert Musil, Young Törless (1966), E. Wilkins and E. Kaiser, trans. (1955), p. 115
- In order to be able thus to misjudge, and thus to grant left-handed veneration to our classics, people must have ceased to know them. This, generally speaking, is precisely what has happened. For, otherwise, one ought to know that there is only one way of honoring them, and that is to continue seeking with the same spirit and with the same courage, and not to weary of the search. But to foist the doubtful title of “classics” upon them, and to “edify” oneself from time to time by reading their works, means to yield to those feeble and selfish emotions which all the paying public may purchase at concert-halls and theatres. Even the raising of monuments to their memory, and the christening of feasts and societies with their names—all these things are but so many ringing cash payments by means of which the Culture-Philistine discharges his indebtedness to them, so that in all other respects he may be rid of them, and, above all, not bound to follow in their wake and prosecute his search further. For henceforth inquiry is to cease: that is the Philistine watchword.
- Friedrich Nietzsche, Untimely Meditations (A. Ludovici trans.), § 1.2
- I do not know what meaning classical studies could have for our time if they were not untimely—that is to say, acting counter to our time and thereby acting on our time and, let us hope, for the benefit of a time to come.
- Friedrich Nietzsche, Untimely Meditations, “On the uses and disadvantages of history for life,” Preface, R. Hollingdale, trans. (1983), § 2.0, p. 60
- To live classically and to realize antiquity practically within oneself is the summit and goal of philology.
- Friedrich Schlegel, Philosophical Fragments, P. Firchow, trans. (1991) § 147
- These discoveries in old books of new beauties and aspects of interest may persuade us, therefore, that we are not only still ourselves, but more ourselves than ever: that our spirit has not only persisted in its being, but has become more lucid in the process.
- Logan Pearsall Smith, “Montaigne,” Reperusals and Recollections (1936), pp. 1-2
- Our understanding of the thought of the past is liable to be the more adequate, the less the historian is convinced of the superiority of his own point of view, or the more he is prepared to admit the possibility that he may have to learn something, not merely about the thinkers of the past, but from them.
- Leo Strauss, What is Political Philosophy? (1959), p. 68
- “Our ideas” are only partly our ideas. Most of our ideas are abbreviations or residues of the thought of other people, of our teachers (in the broadest sense of the term) and of our teachers’ teachers; they are abbreviations and residues of the thought of the past. These thoughts were once explicit and in the center of consideration and discussion. It may even be presumed that they were once perfectly lucid. By being transmitted to later generations they have possibly been transformed, and there is no certainty that the transformation was effected consciously and with full clarity.
- Leo Strauss, What is Political Philosophy? (1959), p. 73
- Those who raise the objection of the distance in time, will certainly recall many golden words of long-dead sages and poets which strike such a deep and kindred chord in our own hearts that we very vividly feel a living and intimate contact with those great ones who have left this world long ago. Such experience contrasts with the ‘very much present’ silly chatter of society, newspapers or radio, which, when compared with those ancient voices of wisdom and beauty, will appear to emanate from the mental level of stone-age man tricked out in modern trappings. True wisdom is always young, and always near to the grasp of an open mind.
- Nyanaponika Thera, The Heart of Buddhist Meditation (1965), pp. 20-21
- Something that everyone wants to have read but no one wants to read.
- Mark Twain, Definition of a classic of literature. Speech at Nineteenth Century Club, New York, 20 Nov 1900
- The fact is, the public make use of the classics of a country as a means of checking the progress of Art. They degrade the classics into authorities. They use them as bludgeons for preventing the free expression of Beauty in new forms.
- Oscar Wilde, The Soul of Man Under Socialism, ¶ 32