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Volume 8, Number 8

What is a Classic According to T.S. Eliot and H.-G. Gadamer?

Tansu Acik


THE INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF THE HUMANITIES http://www.Humanities-Journal.com First published in 2010 in Champaign, Illinois, USA by Common Ground Publishing LLC www.CommonGroundPublishing.com. 2010 (individual papers), the author(s) 2010 (selection and editorial matter) Common Ground Authors are responsible for the accuracy of citations, quotations, diagrams, tables and maps. All rights reserved. Apart from fair use for the purposes of study, research, criticism or review as permitted under the Copyright Act (Australia), no part of this work may be reproduced without written permission from the publisher. For permissions and other inquiries, please contact <cg-support@commongroundpublishing.com>. ISSN: 1447-9508 Publisher Site: http://www.Humanities-Journal.com THE INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF THE HUMANITIES is peer-reviewed, supported by rigorous processes of criterion-referenced article ranking and qualitative commentary, ensuring that only intellectual work of the greatest substance and highest significance is published. Typeset in Common Ground Markup Language using CGCreator multichannel typesetting system http://www.commongroundpublishing.com/software/

What is a Classic According to T.S. Eliot and H.-G. Gadamer?

Tansu Acik, University of Ankara, Ankara, Turkey
Abstract: According to vanguard study of Raymond Williams by 1976 we owe almost every substantial concept and institution of modern life to 19th century, such as democracy, culture, civilisation, education, humanism, art, even literature . In this presentation we add to that list the concept of classic. The semantic field of term classic in various European languages would be examined always regarding to social context. Then the notion and criteria of classic in T. S. Eliots essay What is classic? would be scrutinized in the light of contemporary researches. T. S. Eliots analysis of classic is among the last comprehensive attempt of defining the concept. Then we examine the notion of classic in the philosophical hermeneutics of H.G. Gadamer. Keywords: Classic, Canon, Culture, Education, Literature, T. S. Eliot, H. G. Gadamer, Philosophical Hermeneutics.

A Short Historical Perspective of a Classic Work


N EUROPEAN LITERATURE, qualifying a work of living language as a classic began in France in the mid 18th century with a retrospective look at literary tradition. Over the centuries certain authors writing in various languages have been regarded as great, but until the 19th century no common concept existed to define the works they had created. The adjective classic was used for the first time to qualify a certain period in French literature. Later, the question of whether there were similar classical works in other languages would be raised. For example, in the second quarter of the 18th century Thoulier dOlivet commented that, Italy has its classical writers we (the French) dont; Nietzche posed the same question in relation to German literature and gave a negative answer in The Wanderer and his Shadow (125)1. It was not until the 19th century that Dante, Shakespeare, and Goethe began to be considered as classic European writers2. Goethe and other writers in his milieu were the first to use the concepts of classic and classicism in a sense close to
Hans Ulrich Gumbert, Phoenix or Ashes: From Canon to Classic, Trans. R. Norton, New Literary History, vol 20, No. 1, 1988, p. 141-163. The author also discusses a vital short text on the subject by Voltaire arguing that the French classics mainly consisted of drama that was regularly staged in France in the second half of 19th century; Gumbert discovered the concept of a classic that was close to the contemporary meaning, through the mediation of the German romantics, in a book on Germany written by Madame de Stal in the 19th century. Among the convincing arguments, there is one of crucial importance, that in the 18th century the term literature meant massive, diverse, deep knowledge, and erudition, became transcendental and autonomous through the concept of the classic. Also Gumbert argues that 18th century literature shifted from writing towards reading and interpretation, because it lost its function of socialization and gained an educational value in the 19th century. 2 E. R. Curtius writes that Dante had been long forgotten in Italy. He quotes Alfieris argument that there were hardly thirty people who had read Dantes Commedia in 18th century Italy, and Stendhals comment that Dante was belittled in Italy in 1800, European Literature and the Latin Middle Ages, trans. W. R. Trask, The Bollingen Library, 1953 p. 348-350. The International Journal of the Humanities Volume 8, Number 8, 2010, http://www.Humanities-Journal.com, ISSN 1447-9508
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the present understanding of the words. German thinkers from consecutive generations were the determinants in the formation of the current meaning of classic as a concept from the beginning of 19th century. To sketch a rough picture it is important mention those things which are deeply interrelated for example, the seminal definition of classic in arts by Johann Joachim Winckelmann, the reevaluation of the Ancient Greek with fresh eyes and its appropriation by German scholars of classical philology and by writers surrounding Winckelmanns friend Goethe; and for the first time in Europe, the establishment of the secular secondary and higher education institutions by Goethes friend Wilhelm von Humboldt in Prussia. Wilhelm von Humboldt played the crucial role of embodying the classical concept in educational establishments and was the first to propagate the concept of culture being closely related to the definition of a classic work. The overall taste for classical works of literary or art was formed in 19th century through education institutions. Modern secondary and higher education in the West has been heavily influenced by Humbolts work. In Berlin in the first decades of the 19th century Goethes friend Humbolt developed the idea of Bildung, selfformation, which had been put forth by Enlightenment thinkers since Herder, from this were created the gymnasium a secondary school based on studying Greek-Roman texts in the original languages, math and history; and in 1810, the University of Berlin, namely the first modern university3. We are indebted to him for many key concepts and their applications: PhD programs based on original research, academic autonomy and innovative scholarship, and especially his conception of Bildung or cultivation. By the end of the 19th century every European state had, more or less aligned its educational system to the Prussian model, even in France where a rival model had been created. Many universities emphasized a version of the Humboldtian Bildung and called it liberal education in English and culture gnrale in French. That approach gave rise to many higher education models such as the Liberal Arts College core curricula that aimed to impart general knowledge and develop general intellectual capacities, in contrast to a professional, vocational, or technical curriculum. According

David Sorkin, Wilhelm von Humboldt: The Theory and Practice of Self-Formation (Bildung), 1791-1810, Journal of the History of Ideas, vol.44, No.1, 1983, s.55-73. Matthew Arnolds Culture and Anarchy published in 1869 is the most famous modern advocacy of high culture and high humanism. According to Arnold, culture is the best which has been thought and said in the world. A generation before Arnold, the poet and writer Coleridge, while translating German ideas into English, first used the term cultivation for the concept of bildung. In Coleridges writing, the concept ceased to be a natural tendency for development and started to mean a certain state of general consciousness in conflict with the concept of civilisation in the sense of general material progress: R. Williams stated that the meaning of culture will gradually expand during a century, from individual perfection, to societys overall development, then to arts as a whole, and last to a way of life in both material and intellectual senses (Williams R., Culture and Society 1780/1950, Columbia University Press, 1958, p.49-70). The real issue for Arnold is education reform; he discusses and criticizes the attitude towards education of almost every group, namely liberals, aristocrats, middle-class bourgeoisie, in the context of current political events. He considers each group deficient in terms of understanding education. He advocates the Unification of Education which was to be implemented as late as 1902 in the United Kingdom, and the superiority of culture and criticism, seen as the individuals efforts for perfection in all aspects against narrow specialization. Arnold states that Hellenism and Hebraism are the two main components of British thought. Humboldt is the only individual who is praised as outstanding in contrast to the politics mentioned in current events, the abundance of people of religion, and there is absolutely no reference to any writer new or old. The educational ideals put forward by Humboldt and continued by Arnold and others, are in a way ideal and supranational in their content and purposes, despite otherwise defended opinions in Germany such as the article by David Sorkin mentioned above. I will not deliberate here the connection of this education bill with the ideal of a new citizen, and the training of public officials; I will just point that this education does not aim to train experts, but focuses on a general education. Arnolds sweet light, the common must-have that he attributes to the educated, is based on acquaintances with that which is thought and written in the best way.



to H.-G. Gadamer the concept of self-formation, education, or cultivation (Bildung), which became supremely important at the time, was perhaps the greatest idea of the eighteenth century, and it is this concept which is the atmosphere breathed by the human sciences of the nineteenth century, even if they are unable to offer any epistemological justification of it4 Winckelmann (1717-68) was the founder of Art History, and developed the first definition of classic in arts. He classified Greek statues as classical or archaic according to criteria that he created. Winckelmann characterized the most common and distinctive features of Greek sculpture masterpieces as a noble simplicity and a quiet grandeur (edle Einfalt und stille Grsse) in terms of stance and expression5, this was the only criteria in the field of classical art for a long while. Here, Winckelmann used Laocoon, known today as a sculpture from the Hellenistic era, as an example of the Greek masterpiece criteria. He found that these criteria featured also in the prose in the Socratic era and identified the same features in Raphaels work. Winckelmann was the founder of modern scientific archaeology and had first applied his categories of style systematically to art history. As H.- G. Gadamer succinctly wrote in Wincklemanns time a classic was a normative concept, it was a creative anachronism transformed into a period label, along with such terms as Archaic and Hellenistic by historicist scholars: The concept of classical now signifies a period of time, a phase of historical development but not a supra-historical value. With the rise of historical reflection in Germany that took Winckelmanns classicism as its standard, a historical concept of a time or period detached itself from Winckelmanns sense of the term, it denoted a specific stylistic ideal and, in a historically descriptive way, also a time or period that fulfilled this ideal. So the normative side of the term and the historical descriptive side of the term fused. When German humanism proclaimed the exemplarity first of Greek, then Roman antiquity, the concept of classical came to be used in modern thought to describe the whole of classical Antiquity (TM 286-287). The concept of classic and its correlative canon do not only have a meaning within their modern literature contexts, but recently they have become scientific concepts carrying both analytical and heuristic powers, emanating from the work of Jan Assmann and Adeila Assmann. Jan Assmanns research that developed the normative and formal structures of the classic and canon concepts in Antiquity provides important clues for the current paper6. Assmann explored the concept of canon in contrast with that of the classic, in the high written cultures of Mediterranean Antiquity. According to Assmanns analysis the canon of text, or canon in usual naming, is binding and official at the highest level. He established that the canon originated independently and separately in the Buddhist religious texts and the Torah. Assmann explained that the canonization of the Greek classics of secular nature in Alexandria, and the canonization of Christian, Confucian, Taoist texts refer to those initial, original examples. He asserted that transition from ritual coherence based on repetition to textual coher4

Hans-Georg Gadamer, Truth and Method, 2nd rev. ed., tr. revised by Joel Weinsheimer and Donald G.Marshall ,New York, 1991, p. 8; this work hereafter will be cited as TM. 5 Gedanken ber die Nachahmung der Griechischen Werke in der Mahlerey und Bildbauer-Kunst, 1755 ;Thoughts on the Imitation of Greek Works in Painting and Sculpture , Reflections on the Imitation of Greek Works in Painting and Sculpture, trans. by Elfriede Heyer and Roger C. Norton , Open Court, 1987. 6 J. Assmann, Das kulturelle Gedchtnis: Schrift, Erinnerung und politische Identitt in frhen Hochkulturen ,C. H. Beck, 2007, 87-129; 272-280.



ence based on interpretation occurred in Antiquity within almost the same period; not because of writing as a tool, but through the canonization of tradition, that disrupted tradition in a refreshing way. Cultural memory is the all encompassing term and comprising all ramifications of Assmanns species-genus criteria classification; he placed tradition and the canon under the cultural memory, and within the canon branch are classic and canon. The feature that distinguishes tradition from canon, is that the criteria for determining the canon is the exclusion of other options, that is the deterministic nature of the boundaries of the chosen option. The difference between classic and canon is that in the concept of classic, the excluded is not worthless, and the classic choice is not binding. The discrimination between classic and non-classic is based on the distinctions between authority, connectivity and measurability. Assmann defines canonization as the emergence of a new teaching, and not as the strengthening of tradition or as the existing culture becoming sacred. Disruption and not continuity caused the ancient to rise to the throne of unsurpassable excellence. The classic emerged through the interruption that made it impossible for the traditional to continue to exist. On the other hand, with the identification that transcended this interruption and which considered the past as their own past and the ancient masters as their own masters, the relationship to the ancient world was fixed. The past should remain in the past but not be estranged. Since its emergence, poets and writers have been questioning the concept of classic. For example, from the 20th century7: Paul Valery and Andre Gide are two leading modern classical authors who demonstrated their respect for classicism in their articles in newspapers, journals and other publications. These writers who produced the most advanced, pioneering works in French; radically changed poetry and prose at the beginning of the 20th century; and according to literary historians were the creators of the movement of high modernism. For example, Ezra Pound commented that All criticism is an attempt to define classic. In 1921, Gide considered himself to be the best representative of the classic. Although he praised the classic he commented on its efforts to appear ordinary as the art of shyness and humility, how classic works did not accentuate their originality, using lightness and litotes in style. Albert Camus praised the passionate uniformity, knowing how to replicate appropriately, and the humbleness and timidity of classic. He stated I only know one revelation in arts: the strictly appropriate correspondence of forms and language to substance. He wrote from this point of view, I cannot love anything but classical French literature with all my heart Italo Calvino, in his 1981 essay Why Read the Classics? made an assessment of readers attitudes toward the classics8. In his progressively expanding essay, Calvino gave fourteen definitions of classic, each deriving from the previous one. To this day, literature scholars usually refer to these features in their writing considering the classic style to be objective in the sense of object-orientation, intellectual control; containing as little local color as possible, an ideal of impersonality, closed configuration; taking middle stance between a rigid and scattered approach, creating a harmony of proportions, and undertaking a quest for balance and competence.

7 8

These examples are from the lemma classicisme , Encyclopaedia Universalis ,Paris, 1985 . I. Calvino Why Read the Classics, trans. M. McLaughlin, Random House, 1999. This essay discusses the readeroriented literary theory data brought to the fore by U. Eco in 1960 on another level.



A Classic According to T.S. Eliot

The poet and critic Thomas Stearns Eliot (1888-1965) belongs to the set of pioneer writers who focused on the issue of the classic in the first half of 20th century and his work is actually the most comprehensive on the subject. Together with Ezra Pound he was the founder of modern British poetry. In the Criterion magazine that he published between the two world wars, he advocated a European wide culture and was also the leading critic of his time9. He fundamentally changed literary thinking; at the same his early writings helped to create modern literary studies as an autonomous field of inquiry and gave that discipline a certain authority, tradition and rigor. In 1944 as President of the Virgilian Society Eliot delivered an address entitled What Is a Classic?10. In the address Eliot claimed that our classic, the classic of all Europe is Virgil. He did not mean that Virgil was the greatest European poet; he meant that his work showed a maturity of mind, manners and language with a perfection of the common style to such degree that it provided us with a criterion by which to judge our living poets: a classic can occur only when language and literature are mature; and it must be the work of a mature mind. Twenty-seven pages of the text of his lecture are devoted to an argument designed to show that Virgil possessed these qualities, however it is only in the last five pages that Eliot refers to Virgils particular relationship to the Roman Empire and to its spiritual continuation throughout European history. Frank Kermode seems to assume that Virgils importance for Eliot lay mainly in his significance as the propagator of an imperialist myth of Latin and Christian cultural continuity11. At the beginning of the text Eliot gives extensive assessments of European literature, especially English literature; of these what is most interesting is the criteria that he developed. He considers defining a classic as outside the opposition romantic-classic enumerating certain qualities that he expects a classic to display. He distinguishes between universal classic and the classic within a language, in his own words in relation to other literature in its own language, or according to the view of life of a particular period. A classic can only occur when a civilization is mature...It is the importance of that civilization and of that language, as well as the comprehensiveness of the mind of the individual poet, which gives the universality. It is easier to detect that a language attained a certain level of maturity through prose rather than poetry. In his words one of the signs of classic approach towards a classic style is a development towards greater complexity of sentence and period structure He also states that manners and maturity of vision have to be expressed through language that is not rude

Louis Menand locates his literary criticism between the series of non-academic critics that preceded him and the New Criticism movement of academics that succeeded him: T. S. Eliot and Modernity New England Quarterly, Vol. 69, no.4, 1996, 555-579; Critical companion to T. S. Eliot: a literary reference to his life and work, ed. Russell Elliott Murphy, Fact on File, 2007. 10 Eliot .T.S., What Is a Classic? ,London: Faber & Faber, 1945; also published in the following books, On Poetry and Poets, Faber & Faber 1956; Selected Prose of T.S. Eliot, ed. Frank Kermode, Harcourt, 1975 p.115-131. 11 Frank Kermode, The Classic: Literary Images of Permanence and Change, , Faber and Faber, 1975, p. 13-46, in Chapter I he gives a learned account of Virgils influence during the middle ages, with special reference to the imperial myth as it appeared to Dante and others. Kermode reminds us that Eliots claim for Virgil had been anticipated by Sainte-Beuve and rejected in favor of Homer by Arnold in his Oxford inaugural lecture of 1860. More recently Judith Perkins focusing on the underlying assumptions of Eliot treated his argumentation concerning the classical more favorably in the light of Gadamers guiding concepts, Literary History, H. G. Gadamer, T.S. Eliot, and Vergilius, Arethusa 14 (1981), p. 241-49.



or rough. In his own words: Development of a classic prose is the development towards a perfection of common style...What we find, in a period of classic prose is not a mere common convention of writing, like the common style of newspaper leader writers, but a community of taste. Eliot thinks of language maturity in terms of the qualities related to conception of time such as a critical sense of the past, a confidence in the present, and no conscious doubt of the future. In his own words Consciousness of history cannot be fully awake, except when there is another history than the history of the poets own people...There must be the knowledge of the history of at least one other highly civilized people, and of a people whose civilization is sufficiently cognate to have influenced and entered into our own. This is a consciousness of history that the Romans had in regard to the Greeks. In this respect, the Elizabethan period cannot be considered classic despite the existence of Shakespeare furthermore, Eliot, unlike Pope does not consider that 18th century English Literature qualifies as a classic. He also states the irrelevance of searching for a difference in value between great works and classic works. The great poets, such as Shakespeare or Milton, may exhaust not a form only, but the language of his time, as used by him, will be the language in its perfection. At this point, Eliot introduces another characteristic feature that the great classic poet will ultimately express the maximum possible of the whole range of feelings which represent the character of the people who speak that language. In this a work maybe be called classical. Even though he is not the greatest author he fulfils many of the criteria related to the definition of the class, Eliot attributes Virgils uniqueness to his central place in European literature. This last argument of can be seen as an example of circular reasoning, where the thing to prove is used as evidence or petitio principi. As a matter of fact, the criteria Eliot develops seem to be derived from Virgils own attributes. Towards the end of the text he makes a further distinction between the relative and absolute classic: that which is a classic in relation to its language, and that which is classic in relation to a number of other languages. Goethe for example, does not represent the entire European tradition; he is as provincial as 19th century British writers. However, he is a universal author in the sense that every European ought to be acquainted with him. Unfortunately Eliot does not shed further light on the idea of the universal classic but he adds that the classic becomes the new standard of quality and excellence among the literature of various languages. The fact that Eliot does not consider Virgil only through his literary characteristics was revealed at the end of his speech, in two instances when he mentions that the Roman Empire and the Latin language are not any empire or any language, because they determined Europes fate. Eliot comments that Virgil must have significance for us which cannot be expressed wholly in terms of literary appreciation and criticism. In the last sentence of his speech, immediately preceding his quote from Dantes Purgatoria, he states that Virgil led Dante towards a vision he could never himself enjoy, and led Europe towards the Christian culture which he would never know. This is the only occurrence of the adjective Christian apart from a passing remark concerning a certain English poet. Thus, Eliot implicitly makes Virgil with a sleight of hand the unconscious precursor of Christianity12. Although this argument is historically flawed, this follows a very old tradition of seeing Virgil as an unconscious pioneer of Christianity.

Eliots fervent Catholic opinions that could today appear to be zealously dogmatic, interestingly, can never be perceived in his poems or his writings apart from his essays that directly concern religion and Christianity. In Vergilius and Fate (1951) he exalts the Roman Empire and Virgil with regard to Christianity. He asserts in Modern Education, and the Classics (1932), that there are only two tenable assumptions about life, Christianity and materialism. In the same essay, he comments that if it wasnt for Christianity, I wouldnt mind the lack of Greek and



The title of Eliots address was What is a classic?, however, he presented a single example, the work of Virgil. There is a logical aporia in his exposition: the common name by definition should contain a cluster of entities but in his instance it has a single member. Using an analogy with geography, consider that there is only one peak in a given world, the name of that peak in geography would be a proper noun, not a generic name, thus, the geographical term peak would not exist. On the other hand there is indeed legitimacy through heritage behind Eliots reasoning; Virgils text is the single example from antiquity that has been subject to continuous transmission and interpretation in Europe. This feature is not considered alone since Eliot introduces a Christian understanding of time. However, this aspect of his thought is revealed in an allusion in the last sentence, which connects him to all his predecessors. However, referring to matters outside the text, to its future repercussions instead of its literary qualities, and even relating the text to the representation of a future civilization, can be seen as a drawback when looking at it through the understanding of criticism that he pioneered. Eliots criteria and his judgments on comparative literature although sometimes eccentric can offer fertile clues concerning the definition of a classic work. There are curious hints of Assmanns distinctions between classic and canon, even though the concept of canon had not yet been introduced in literary studies at the time he posed his question to the Virgilian Society.

The Example of Classical in Philosophical Hermeneutics of Gadamer

Hans-Georg Gadamer (1900-2002) whose training was in classical philosophy and classical philology and who took refuge in philology in the Nazi period of the 1930s, developed a distinctive and thoroughly dialogical approach, grounded in Platonic-Aristotelian as well as Heideggerian thinking (he states that he owed everything to Heidegger). He rejects subjectivism and relativism, abjures any simple notion of interpretive method, and grounds understanding in the linguistically mediated happening of tradition13. Gadamer compares understanding to a conversation. Not only is the dialectical movement of a conversation like the hermeneutic circle, but a conversation is also a fusion of horizons between oneself and someone else. The conversation is also a useful model for the way audiences think about art. His major work Truth and Method is not meant to be a programmatic statement about a new hermeneutic method of interpreting texts. Gadamer intended Truth and Method to be a description of what we always do when we interpret things. His real concern is philosophic: not what we do or what we ought to do, but what happens to us over and above our wanting and doing. Gadamer points to the inadequacy of the natural science model in the functioning of human sciences and in understanding art. Now I would like to lend my voice to Gadamer, fusing my horizon of interpretation with his voice in Truth and Method, all quotes being from TM, because I have nothing to add to or extract from his discourse that features another operational

Latin texts On the other hand, in the 1942 presidential opening speech The Classics and the Man of Letters presented to the Classical Association, - the largest group interested in the Greco-Roman world at all levels, he considered Greek and Latin in the light of their importance in the history of English Literature and defended the necessity of their instruction for the continuity of English literature. 13 The Cambridge Companion to Gadamer, Cambridge University Press, 2002.



definition for classic14. Gadamer says: It is clear that the human sciences cannot be adequately described in terms of this conception of research and progress. This is shown by the fact that the great achievements in human sciences almost never become outdated.... Obviously the value and importance of research cannot be measured by a criterion based in the subject matter. Obviously, in the human sciences we cannot speak of an object of research in the same sense as in natural sciences, where research penetrates more and more deeply into nature...The theme and object of research are actually constituted by the motivation of the inquiry (TM 284). In the Afterword to Truth and Method that he wrote years afterwards, he states It was not defining some canon of content specific to the classic that encouraged me to designate the classical as the basic category of effective history (wirkungsgeschichte). Rather, I was trying to indicate what distinguishes the work of art, and particularly the eminent text, from other traditionary materials open to understanding and interpretation. The dialectic of question and answer that I elaborated is not invalidated here but modified: the original question to which a text must be understood as an answer has, as suggested above, an originary superiority to and freedom from its origins. This hardly means that the classical work is accessible only in a hopelessly conventional way or that it encourages a reassuringly harmonious conception of the universally human. Rather, something speaks only when it speaks originarily, that is, as if it were saying something to me in particular. This hardly means that what speaks in this way is measured by a supra-historical norm. Just the reverse is true: what speaks in this way sets the standard. And that is the problem. In such cases the original question that the text is understood as answering claims an identity of meaning which has always already mediated the distance between its origin and the present. In my Zurich lecture of 1969, The Being of the Poetical, I indicated the hermeneutic distinctions necessary for such texts. (TM 579) His discussion of the concept of the classical claims no independent significance, but serves only to evoke a general question, namely: Does the kind of historical mediation between the past and the present that characterizes the classical ultimately underlie all historical activity as its effective substratum? Whereas romantic hermeneutics had taken homogeneous human nature as the unhistorical substratum of its theory of understanding and hence had freed the congenial interpreter from historical conditions, the self-criticism of historical consciousness leads finally to recognizing historical movement not only in events but also understanding itself. Understanding is to be thought of less as subjective than as participating in an event of tradition, a process of transmission which past and present are constantly mediated. (TM 290-291) We might say that is exactly in the vein of the romantic hermeneutics T. S. Eliot assumed towards classical. Gadamer attempts to demonstrate that the truths of history cannot be discerned by scientific observation because these truths are only revealed through a kind of dialogue. The interpreter of a text from a past culture belongs to and is conditioned by his own different culture, so he is, to use a term that Gadamer borrows from Heidegger, wirkungsgeschichtliches bewusstsein (historically affected consciousness) who views the past and its remnants from a particular horizon, involving a particular pre-understanding. Self-understanding comes up against

For example Murray McGillivray adds nothing to Gadamers handling of the classical Creative Anachronism: Marxs Problem with Homer, Gadamers Discussion of The Classical and Our Understanding of Older Literatures New Literary History, Vol. 25, No. 2, Writers on Writers ,Spring, 1994, pp. 399-413.



limits: the historically affected consciousness, which is more being than consciousness. People inherit forms of consciousness through their education, but these are only alienated forms of their true historical being. It is for this reason that Gadamers example of the classical, intended to illuminate the idea of tradition, is particularly valuable. Although the example of classical is not recounted with reference to concrete and specific instances, the concept of tradition, which Gadamer is attempting to explain using this example, is in a way, a pivot argument in his book. Briefly put, for Gadamer tradition is our link to the past. What makes it possible for us to achieve understanding of the text from the past is tradition, which links our horizon to the horizon of the text, and permits us to begin the work of understanding, which if we do it properly will fuse our horizon to that of the past. The concept of classical antiquity and of the classicalwhich dominated pedagogical thought in particular since the days of German classicismcombined both a normative and a historical side. A particular stage in the historical development of humanity was thought to have produced a mature and perfect form of the human. This mediation between the normative and historical senses of the concept goes back to Herder. (TM 286) Hegel systematically justified the historicization of the concept of classical, and he began the process of development that finally changed the classical into a descriptive stylistic conceptone that describes the short lived harmony of measure and fullness that comes between archaic rigidity and baroque dissolution. Since it became part of the aesthetic vocabulary of historical studies, the concept of classical retains the sense of a normative content only in an unacknowledged way. Symptomatic of renewed historical self-criticism was that after the First World War classical philology started to examine itself under the banner of a new humanism, and hesitantly again acknowledged the combination of normative and historical elements in the classical. In so doing, it proved impossible (however one tried) to interpret the concept of the classical which arose in antiquity and canonized certain writersas if I expressed the unity of a stylistic ideal. On the contrary, as a stylistic term the ancient concept was wholly ambiguous. Today when we use classical as a historical stylistic concept whose clear meaning is defined by its being set against what came before and after, this concept has become quite detached from the ancient one. The concept of classical now signifies a period of time, a phase of historical development but not a supra-historical value. In fact, however, the normative element in the concept of classical has never completely disappeared. Even today it is still the basis of the idea of liberal education.If we try to see what this implies, we might say that the classical is a truly historical category, precisely because it is more than a concept of a period or of a historical style, and yet it nevertheless does not try to be the concept of a suprahistorical value. It does not refer to a quality that we ascribe particular historical phenomena but to a notable mode of being historical: the historical process of preservation (Bewahrung) that, through constantly proving itself (Bewahrung), allows something true (ein Wahres) come into being. It is not at all the case, as the historical mode of thought would have us believe, that the value judgment which accords the status of classic was in fact destroyed by historical reflection and criticism of all ideological construal of the process of history. Rather through this criticism the value judgment implicit in the concept of classical acquires a new, special legitimacy. The classical is something that resists historical criticism because its historical dominion and the binding power of the validity that is preserved and handed down precede historical reflection and continue in it..The classical is fundamentally something quite different from a descriptive concept used by an objectifying historical consciousness. It is 61


a historical reality to which historical consciousness belongs and is subordinate. The classical is something raised above the vicissitudes of changing times and changing tastes. It is immediately accessible, not through that shock of recognition, as it were, that sometimes characterizes a work of art for its contemporaries and in which the beholder experiences a fulfilled apprehension of meaning that surpasses all conscious expectations. Rather, when we call something classical, there is a consciousness of something enduring, of significance that cannot be lost and that is independent of all the circumstances of timea kind of timeless present that is contemporaneous with every other present. So the most important thing about the concept of the classical (and this is wholly true of both the ancient and the modern use of the word) is the normative sense. 15 (TM 287) . It speaks in such a way that it is not a statement about what is past -documentary evidence that still needs to be interpreted- rather, it says something to the present as if it were said specifically to it. What we call classical does not first require the overcoming of historical distance, for in its own constant mediation it overcomes this distance by itself. The classical, then, is certainly timeless, but this timelessness is a mode of historical being. Of course this is not to deny that works regarded as classical present tasks of historical understanding to a developed historical consciousness, one that is aware of historical distance. The aim of historical consciousness is not to use the classical model in the direct way, like Palladio or Corneille, but to know it as a historical phenomenon that can be understood solely in terms of its own time. But understanding it will always involve more than merely historically reconstructing the past world to which the work belongs. Our understanding will always retain the consciousness that we too belong to that world, and correlatively, that the work too belongs to our world. This is just what the word classical means: that the duration of a works power to speak directly is fundamentally unlimited. (TM 290) Since one could hardly add anything to Gadamers handling of the concept, instead of a sham conclusion I would like to end the paper with a few remarks. The discussants of the concept of classic from every generation, nourished by the traditions of great art, thought and literature, are all the more relevant to this day. On one hand, there is an ever growing gap between natural science, humanities and social sciences; while on the other hand, there is a secondary and higher education system modeled after specialized labor force which has lost its unity and common base. Teaching and research have become so specialized, fragmented, and incoherent. In this context, the strongest option against the attacks of market in the field of education is humanistic education meaning an education on both art and ideas; furthermore it has been opening to other cultures besides Greek, Roman and Western classics. Liberal education, which can be termed as humanistic education as well, has its roots in Greco-Roman antiquity. Inside the texture of this tradition two threads were identified16. Broadly speaking, one can be called the civic ideal, the responsible participation of citizens

I totally agree with Irmgard Wagner when he opposes Hans Robert Jauss views regarding to Gadamers treating the notion of classic, by the way Jauss teacher was Gadamer: Hans Robert Jauss and Classicity Modern Language Notes, Vol. 99, No. 5, Comparative Literature , December, 1984, pp. 1173-1184. Gadamer, Jauss argues in the explication of his fourth thesis, takes over Hegels classicist definition of the classical work as always immediately accessible (that which signifies and interprets itself) and therefore not in need of hermeneutic mediation between present and past. Bymaking classicity the prototype of historical mediation, Gadamer, according to Jauss, contradicts himself. The above mentioned quotes show the weakness of this argument. 16 Ilsetraut Hadot , Arts Liberaux et Philosophie dans la Pensee Antique , Paris 1984.



in the public life; the other can be called the philosophical ideal, which at the same time has got to do with perfection, be it in ethics or arts; both aspects persist today and they are especially relevant in the pluralist democratic society.

About the Author

Dr. Tansu Acik University of Ankara, Turkey



Tom Nairn, The Globalism Institute, RMIT University, Australia. Mary Kalantzis, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, USA.
EDITORIAL ADVISORY BOARD Patrick Baert, Cambridge University, Cambridge, UK. David Christian, San Diego State University, San Diego, USA. Bill Cope, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, USA. Joan Copjec, State University of New York, Buffalo, USA. Alice Craven, American University of Paris, Paris, France. Michel Demyen, University of Victoria, Victoria, Canada. Elizabeth DePoy, University of Maine, Orono, USA Mick Dodson, Australian National University, Canberra, Australia. Oliver Feltham, American University of Paris, Paris, France. Clyde R. Forsberg Jr., Oxford College/Aletheia University, Tamsui, Taiwan. Stephen French Gilson, University of Maine, Orono, USA. Hafedh Halila, Institut Suprieur des Langues de Tunis, Tunis, Tunisia. Souad Halila, University of Tunis, Tunis, Tunisia. Hassan Hanafi Hassanien, Cairo University, Cairo, Egypt. Ted Honderich, University College, London, UK. Paul James, Globalism Institute, RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia. Moncef Jazzar, Institut Suprieur des Langues de Tunis, Tunis, Tunisia. Eleni Karantzola, University of the Aegean, Rhodes, Greece. Krishan Kumar, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, USA. Ayat Labadi, Institut Suprieur des Langues de Tunis, Tunis, Tunisia. Marion Ledwig, University of Nevada, Las Vegas, USA. Greg Levine, Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia. Harry R. Lewis, Harvard University, Cambridge, USA. Fethi Mansouri, Institute for Citizenship & Globalization, Deakin University, Melbourne, Australia. Juliet Mitchell, Cambridge University, Cambridge, UK. Nahid Mozaffari, New York, USA. Nikos Papastergiadis, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia. Robert Pascoe, Victoria University, Melbourne, Australia. Scott Schaffer, University of Western Ontario, London, Canada. Jeffrey T. Schnapp, Stanford University, Stanford, USA. Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, Columbia University, New York, USA. Bassam Tibi, University of Goettingen, Goettingen, Germany and Cornell University, Ithaca, USA. Giorgos Tsiakalos, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Thessaloniki, Greece. Siva Vaidhyanathan, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, USA. Cheryl A. Wells, University of Wyoming, Laramie, USA. Zhang Zhiqiang, Nanjing University, Nanjing, Peoples Republic of China. Chris Ziguras, Globalism Institute, RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia.

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