I have thought carefully about whether or not to accept Classics For All’s invitation to write a response to Professor Jenkyns’ review. Exchanges between authors and reviewers may be good spectator sport, at least for the first couple of rounds, but they’re rarely enlightening, especially when it’s not a matter of factual errors (the only thing I’d wish to correct is that I really do not offer David Engels’ work as a model for classical studies) but of fundamentally different views of the world in general and Classics in particular.
Put simply, I can understand why Professor Jenkyns loathes my book; it’s not that I wish to destroy his language-focused approach to Classics, but I do see it as just one element of a much broader, inclusive and multi-disciplinary approach, rather than as the only acceptable way of studying classical antiquity. I suggest that, rather than seeing interest in classical subjects as an unqualified good thing that must be promoted and celebrated at all costs, we need to think carefully about the more problematic aspects of the discipline (elitism, narrowness, racism, sexism, pedantry, irrelevance), and the causes that classical models have sometimes been used to support – there are times when the answer to ‘Why Classics Matters’ is that it’s part of a pernicious ideology that needs to be combatted. And if my book says little new on these topics, that’s because these issues have long been recognised, but the discipline and its leading figures persist in waving them away or refusing to accept that perhaps Classics itself needs to change.
Professor of Ancient History
University of Exeter