Modern Greek Lessons by James D. Faubion

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By James D. Faubion

It is a examine of the cosmopolitan highbrow lifetime of Athens, a urban at the margins of Europe, improving from the repressive rule of an army junta. Drawing thought from Athens and its cultural elite, the writer explores the which means of modernity. He reveals it now not within the singular personality of "Western civilization", yet as an alternative in an more and more diversified relatives of practices of reform. He analyzes an extremely instructive instance. A circle of Athenian reformers, reclaiming the continuity of an ostensibly discontinuous historical past whereas charting a path for switch, discover their modernity within the perform of what Faubion phrases "historical constructivism" - the synthesizing of heritage, or the absorption of the prior into the current.

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When I first toured it, on a clear and blustery October morning, I was nearly overcome. The Acropolis was, I thought (and creature of my socialization, continue to think) an incomparable flower of human spirituality. It did not look, however, as it had during the Periclean era, or the Hellenistic era, or any era, for that matter, preceding the modern one. It would surely have 30 PLATE 6. A “laic” building in the Plaka. CHAPTER ONE Image Not Available MODEL IMPROBABILITIES 31 Image Not Available PLATE 7.

I am enough of a neoromantic to hope for more. I make, in what follows, frequent enough allusion to a “hermeneutics of domination,” though a hermeneutics not nearly so systematic as either Foucault’s or Bourdieu’s. My trifling is purposeful. The human beings about whom I write, though exercising domination, are not, even in the ultimate analysis, motivated solely to accumulate and invest their capital. They are not, even in the ultimate analysis, illusionists who profess to ethical and moral commitments only to deceive others, or, if nothing else, then only to deceive themselves.

Literature, particularly the literature of Kazantzakis and Karapanou, might seem to occupy a rather rarefied domain, far removed from the mainstream of everyday life. Indeed it does: but that makes it perhaps all the more exemplary of Greek moderns themselves, for whom a certain social and cultural view from afar is less a luxury than a practical necessity, and who are consequently likely always to be few in number. They are not, however, a cadre of aesthetes. For all their literary virtues, for all their beauty, the oeuvres of neither Kazantzakis nor of Karapanou are mere objets d’art.

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