Does truth matter in the Classics?

Thanks to Rogue Classicism for reprinting a Wall Street Journal review of History Lesson
by Mary Lefkowitz.

We have read about persecution of academics for speaking or writing politically incorrect findings. We get the impression that this is less common in the UK than the USA, though student bodies here have managed to silence speakers whose views they reject. Shame on them.

In the Classics world the book Black Athena established itself as politically correct. Mary Lefkowitz showed that its successor was factually incorrect. She suffered for this.

Read the whole review if you can. This from its final paragraph gives food for thought for those who haven't the time for the whole (not too long) review:

Though much of academia is still lost in postmodern theory and relativism, Ms. Lefkowitz insists on what we might call a counternarrative: Teachers owe it to themselves and their students to get as close as possible to the truth. The academy has still not firmly answered the central question of “History Lesson”: What should the university do when a professor insists on teaching demonstrable untruths?


No Responses Yet

  1. The most valuable part of Black Athena is without doubt the HISTORY lessons in the first volume of Black Athena. Did the reviewer in the Wall Street Journal even read Black Athena? Nothing in the review indicates that the answer to that question about be “yes.”
    The first volume of Black Athena is not the linguistic volume – it is the HISTORICAL volume, documenting step by step the testimony of the ancient Greeks on their own regard for Egypt, and then the systematic expunging of that testimony by the nascent discipline of classicism in the 17th-18th-19th centuries, with one of the threads of the argument being that in the Renaissance, before Europe had embarked on a colonial subjugation of Egypt, scholars were much more prepared to share the ancient Greeks' own enthusiasm for Egypt – while with the advent of colonial ambitions in modern Egypt, classicists began to reflect the prejudices of their age in their scholarship (prejudices that clouded their scholarship badly).
    I do not have the linguistic competence to judge the arguments of Black Athena Volume II (although it is patently the case that a striking amount of Greek vocabulary is non-Indo-European in origin), but the HISTORICAL arguments of Volume I are very much worth thinking about, and given that Bernal himself is by training a historian, it is not surprising that the historical research there is well-documented and clearly argued (pace all the people who write the book off simply on the basis of its admittedly unhelpful title).
    The history of modern classics provided in Black Athena is NOT an Afro-centrist work of scholarship. Any classicist who wants to learn about the history of their own discipline could benefit enormously from reading volume I, particularly chapters 5 and following.
    Perhaps I should put up a quiz at based on the contents of Black Athena, Vol. I and then invite people to show some knowledge of the book's actual contents before they start opining about it. The Wall Street Journal reviewer who is so enamored of Lefkowitz's new “History Lesson” book would probably find much food for thought in the first volume of Black Athena as well, if he had bothered to read it.
    Laura Gibbs
    P.S. I did try to create an account but when I clicked on the link provided in the email, I received this error message: is temporarily unavailable or does not exist. Please check the address and try again.

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