The Necessity of the Classics
The classics are, argues Louise Cowan, “the primary curricular need of our time.” The classics are poetic in the root sense of the word: they are a form of making (poesis), based on mimesis, “the envisioning, or imagining, of fictional analogies, a kind of knowing different from philosophy or history and yet occupying an irreplaceable position in the quest for wisdom.” Cowan (a recipient of the National Humanities Medal) insists that what we label the classics “have become classics because they elicit greatness of soul,” and that such aspiration can only be informed by such works.
This article was originally published in The Intercollegiate Review, Fall 2001. Read by Ken Myers. 35 minutes.