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Epilogue: Myth and Society 
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Post Re: Epilogue: Myth and Society
Thanks for the Ong link. I had never thought much about the transition from oral to written. It's possible that engaging with the written word enables us to access material on a deeper level, but it's also reassuring that Socrates was likewise concerned. I can't really see a silver lining with the move to digital medium. The other day I gave my reading class a vocab quiz (multiple choice). One of the words they had difficulty with was "narcissus." Almost everyone got it wrong. (Curiously, very few could define the word "savanna" either.) So I brought in Bulfinch's Greek Mythology and read them the tale of Echo and Narcissus (plus the Wikipedia entry on Narcissistic Personality Disorder). I can see a day coming when Greek mythology will be so arcane that it will fall off the radar entirely. The relentless march of change.


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Mon Apr 04, 2011 4:19 pm
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Post Re: Epilogue: Myth and Society
You're a brave man, geo. I mean for facing the present (and glimpsing the future) full force in front of a group of young people. Ever feel as though you're in a segment of "Jaywalking"? There's one thing, at least, that I'll say for an unreconstructed fundamentalist--he probably knows the Bible well, which means that he's not stuck in his own time as so many others are.

Perspective, though, compels me to admit that when I was in grad school, the profs complained about our lack of cultural literacy, and their profs no doubt had similar complaints about them. Over a number of decades, the class labeled as the educated class has been getting dumber in terms of what it knows of the humanities.


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Mon Apr 04, 2011 6:05 pm
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Post Re: Epilogue: Myth and Society
Apparently I've turned into an old codger. I recall as an underclassman taking a Romantic Lit class—Wordsworth, Coleridge, Shelley, et al.—and being way, way out of my league. Our professor was horribly depressed about what a bunch of nincompoops we were. I'm still not ready to take that class.

David Brooks stood up for the humanities in one of his columns, a losing cause, he admits. I actually share this with my class so I can make the point that not all classes are directly related to finding a job, but that they still have worth.

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/08/opinion/08brooks.html


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Mon Apr 04, 2011 8:38 pm
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Post Re: Epilogue: Myth and Society
It's tough because we need to be understanding of others' shortcomings, just as we would like others to be understanding of ours. The more we go on, the more there is to be held accountable for knowing. It's said that in the Renaissance a person (noble, with time on his hands) could reasonably expect to have a fairly deep knowledge of everything Western culture had produced to that point. Of course nobody could even come close now. Should we choose to have a shallow acquaintance with a lot or a deep one with much less?

Then, too, kids aren't stupid and will gravitate to where the rewards are. The rewards aren't set up by other kids, but by adults. For me the important thing now needs to be not how much you know--though the standard still does need to be raised--but the attitude towards broad learning as something that continues for life. Even for many smart people who went to the best schools, it seems that learning of the kind I have in mind is viewed as something they got over with, so they just coast the rest of the way. Is careerism the culprit?


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No, it is impossible; it is impossible to convey the life-sensation of any given epoch of one's existence--that which makes its truth, its meaning--its subtle penetrating essence. It is impossible. We live as we dream--alone.

Joseph Conrad, The Heart of Darkness


Tue Apr 05, 2011 8:58 pm
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