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The Battle of the Classics


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Table of Contents

Introduction: The Sick Man of Higher Education Chapter 1: Skills Are the New Canon Chapter 2: From the Studia Humanitatis to the Modern Humanities Chapter 3: A College Fetich? Chapter 4: Darwin Meets the Curriculum Chapter 5: Humanism vs. Humanitarianism Chapter 6: Toward a Truly Ecumenical Wisdom

About the Author

Eric Adler is Associate Professor of Classics at the University of Maryland and the author of The Battle of the Classics: How a Nineteenth-Century Debate Can Save the Humanities Today, Classics, the Culture Wars, and Beyond, and, Valorizing the Barbarians: Enemy Speeches in Roman Historiography.


"Adler correctly frames the dilemma that the humanities confront. Humanities professors must defend the specific subject matter that they teach, not just 'skills.' And Adler is also correct that professors should care about character." -- History of Education Quarterly "...the best..." -- Jessica Hooten Wilson, The University Bookman "open[s] fundamental questions for understanding how tradition is constructed, what is at stake in belonging, in changing tradition, in educating into tradition or against a tradition." -- Simon Goldhill, Bryn Mawr Classical Review "Not only is The Battle of the Classics that rara avis published by a university press with the potential to inform and improve popular discourse, it also encourages deeper questions and sparks furtherDLpotentially fruitfulDLdebate, some of which has already started online and in print. It begs the reader to think hard about the purpose of education. In an ideal scenario, this book would motivate us to deepen the debate and re-evaluate our premises. In 2021, educational controversies are front-page news; at the same time, they are matters of significant sessions at any number of professional academic conferences. Adler's invitation to a more substantial conversation (regardless of one's 'side') is obviously timely." -- J. Kinlaw, The University Bookman "Adler gives a lucid account of the origins of the humanities, the character of classical studies in particular, classics's central role in early American education, and their interrelated accommodation to and marginalization by the modern German-style research university... Adler's call for a truly multicultural, multidisciplinary core curriculum is welcome..." -- Pavlos Papadopoulos, The University Bookman "Eric Adler has written a book that should be read by all in higher education.... [He] has made an essential contribution to our literature on education. If Adler's educational vision found a home in even a smattering of institutions, we'd benefit greatly." -- Front Porch Republic "Adler's invaluable survey not only defends the humanities: it even lays out how their allies have fallen short.... For supporters and skeptics of the humanities, The Battle of the Classics is essential reading." -- The Spectator "I can't imagine a more vivid or important book for our times in higher education. Eric Adler is a clear-eyed, unflappable, humane scholar and culture critic who looks to the past, especially the nineteenth century in American education, to find arguments that may help us see our way forward through the swamp that seeps around us. He advocates for intellectual rigor, for keeping a steady eye on quality, for addressing questions of central concern to everyone who lives and breathes. He sees, quite rightly, that a diverse curriculum will force students (often against their inclinations) to look beyond themselves at the things that all of us share. Education represents a drawing out, as the root word indicates. It's a move toward the universal, finding common ground in a kind of plurality that never loses sight of quality. I love this book, which speaks to our current confusion, and recommend it strongly." -- Jay Parini, author of Promised Land: Thirteen Books that Changed America "Professor Adler's case for the humanities is lively, incisive, historically informed, and, above all, timely. There has never been a greater need for such a defense. A thorough researcher and a clear writer who understands the issues and the stakes and conveys them logically yet with an appropriate affection for the hard-won literary heritage bequeathed us, Professor Adler is the ideal person to undertake it." -- Carl J. Richard, author of Greeks and Romans Bearing Gifts: How the Ancients Inspired the Founding Fathers

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