The Battle of the Classics: How a Nineteenth-Century Debate Can Save the Humanities Today (Hardback)
  • The Battle of the Classics: How a Nineteenth-Century Debate Can Save the Humanities Today (Hardback)

The Battle of the Classics: How a Nineteenth-Century Debate Can Save the Humanities Today (Hardback)

Hardback 272 Pages
Published: 16/10/2020
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These are troubling days for the humanities. In response, a recent proliferation of works defending the humanities has emerged. But, taken together, what are these works really saying, and how persuasive do they prove? The Battle of the Classics demonstrates the crucial downsides of contemporary apologetics for the humanities and presents in its place a historically informed case for a different approach to rescuing the humanistic disciplines in higher education. It reopens the passionate debates about the classics that took place in late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century America as a springboard for crafting a novel foundation for the humanistic tradition. Eric Adler demonstrates that current defenses of the humanities rely on the humanistic disciplines as inculcators of certain poorly defined skills such as "critical thinking." It criticizes this conventional approach, contending that humanists cannot hope to save their disciplines without arguing in favor of particular humanities content. As the uninspired defenses of the classical humanities in the late nineteenth century prove, instrumental apologetics are bound to fail. All the same, the book shows that proponents of the Great Books favor a curriculum that is too intellectually narrow for the twenty-first century. The Battle of the Classics thus lays out a substance-based approach to undergraduate education that will revive the humanities, even as it steers clear of overreliance on the Western canon. The book envisions a global humanities based on the examination of masterworks from manifold cultures as the heart of an intellectually and morally sound education.

Publisher: Oxford University Press Inc
ISBN: 9780197518786
Number of pages: 272
Weight: 510 g
Dimensions: 242 x 164 x 27 mm

A. is passionate about classics and the classical languages. This book is a useful and informative contribution to a debate which will be of interest to all classicists. * Peter Jones, Classics for all *
The book envisions a global humanities based on the examination of masterworks from manifold cultures as the heart of an intellectually and morally sound education. * Morteza Hajizadeh, New Books Network *
Adler's depth and breadth of research are impressive.... Adler does not write as a political partisan. He does not offer a cliched defense of Western civilization, or a culture-war polemic. It takes courage to defend the classics in our time, and Adler's work will re-invigorate those who feel as though they are fighting a losing battle. * Law & Liberty *
The Battle of the Classics will be of special interest to students of education who care about the humanities and the classics, but it may also be an eye-opener for general readers who are wondering how it happened that America started abandoning the traditions that shaped its Constitution and liberties. Based on meticulous research, the book... deals in a most enlightening manner with developments in American higher education of large and enduring importance, and it is lucidly and engagingly written. Adler evinces a breadth and depth of knowledge and understanding that is becoming rare in today's academia. * The American Conservative *
[A] well researched and thoughtful book. * The Classical Outlook *
Adler's argument acquires a striking originality and almost inescapable force.... Promote[s] the humanistic educational creed in a most constructive and promising way. A distinctive quality of Adler's book is that it demonstrates the crucial importance of knowing the humanities' past in order to vouchsafe their future * History of Humanities *
Highly readable and thoroughly researched.... The Battle of the Classics is a great success. * The Cambridge Quarterly *
An insightful and valuable contribution to the debate over the educational value of the humanities. Summing Up: Highly recommended. * CHOICE *
Adler correctly frames the dilemma that the humanities confront. Humanities professors must defend the specific subject matter that they teach, not just 'skills.' And Adler is also correct that professors should care about character. * History of Education Quarterly *
...the best... * Jessica Hooten Wilson, The University Bookman *
open[s] fundamental questions for understanding how tradition is constructed, what is at stake in belonging, in changing tradition, in educating into tradition or against a tradition. * Simon Goldhill, Bryn Mawr Classical Review *
Not only is The Battle of the Classics that rara avis published by a university press with the potential to inform and improve popular discourse, it also encourages deeper questions and sparks further-potentially fruitful-debate, some of which has already started online and in print. It begs the reader to think hard about the purpose of education. In an ideal scenario, this book would motivate us to deepen the debate and re-evaluate our premises. In 2021, educational controversies are front-page news; at the same time, they are matters of significant sessions at any number of professional academic conferences. Adler's invitation to a more substantial conversation (regardless of one's 'side') is obviously timely. * J. Kinlaw, The University Bookman *
Adler gives a lucid account of the origins of the humanities, the character of classical studies in particular, classics's central role in early American education, and their interrelated accommodation to and marginalization by the modern German-style research university... Adler's call for a truly multicultural, multidisciplinary core curriculum is welcome... * Pavlos Papadopoulos, The University Bookman *
Eric Adler has written a book that should be read by all in higher education.... [He] has made an essential contribution to our literature on education. If Adler's educational vision found a home in even a smattering of institutions, we'd benefit greatly. * Front Porch Republic *
Adler's invaluable survey not only defends the humanities: it even lays out how their allies have fallen short.... For supporters and skeptics of the humanities, The Battle of the Classics is essential reading. * The Spectator *
I can't imagine a more vivid or important book for our times in higher education. Eric Adler is a clear-eyed, unflappable, humane scholar and culture critic who looks to the past, especially the nineteenth century in American education, to find arguments that may help us see our way forward through the swamp that seeps around us. He advocates for intellectual rigor, for keeping a steady eye on quality, for addressing questions of central concern to everyone who lives and breathes. He sees, quite rightly, that a diverse curriculum will force students (often against their inclinations) to look beyond themselves at the things that all of us share. Education represents a drawing out, as the root word indicates. It's a move toward the universal, finding common ground in a kind of plurality that never loses sight of quality. I love this book, which speaks to our current confusion, and recommend it strongly. * Jay Parini, author of Promised Land: Thirteen Books that Changed America *
Professor Adler's case for the humanities is lively, incisive, historically informed, and, above all, timely. There has never been a greater need for such a defense. A thorough researcher and a clear writer who understands the issues and the stakes and conveys them logically yet with an appropriate affection for the hard-won literary heritage bequeathed us, Professor Adler is the ideal person to undertake it. * Carl J. Richard, author of Greeks and Romans Bearing Gifts: How the Ancients Inspired the Founding Fathers *

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