Classics

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Classics

 

a cultural term used in a variety of disciplines.

Originally “classic” was applied to the first order or “class,” the highest of the five census categories into which the citizens of ancient Rome were traditionally divided. Cicero was the first to use the word in the metaphoric sense of “elite.” It was first applied to literature by Aulus Gellius in the second century. Humanists of the Renaissance considered all the ancient writers, painters, sculptors, and architects to have been the “chosen” in literature and art and called them classics. The classicists used the words “classics” and “classical” in the same sense, applying it also to the contemporary artists working in the classical style.

The science based upon reading and explaining works of the authors of antiquity was given the name “classical philology” in the 17th and 18th centuries. During the Renaissance, a type of general secondary schooling developed that stressed the study of Latin and Greek—the “classical” languages—and antique, “classical” literature: this was called classical education. A special system of choreography, classical dance, with its own means of expression, emerged in the same period.

This was also the time when the idea of classics and classical as the best, the perfect, the ideal, the first of its kind, came into widespread use. Thus all the outstanding masters of literature and art whose work had lasting value not only for national but also for world culture were called classics—for example, Shakespeare, Raphael, Goethe, Mozart, Beethoven, Pushkin, Tolstoy, and Dostoevsky. Classical art refers not only to the work of the ancient Greek classical artists (fifth-fourth century B.C.) or the High Renaissance of the late 15th and early 16th centuries, to which this term has been traditionally applied, but also to the art of particularly fruitful periods in the culture of a country, such as the classical literature of the eighth century in China or the classical opera of the 19th century in Russia.

Yet another semantic nuance is appropriate for the broad interpretation of the term; classics are the demonstrative, the characteristic, the representative, the typical. Thus, reference may be made to the “classical French novel of the 19th century,” meaning the realistic works of Stendhal, Balzac, or Flaubert, which determined the style of the epoch. The “classical Viennese operettas” will include the works of J. Strauss the Younger, F. Lehar, and I. Kalman. It is in this sense that the terms “classical manner” and “classical tradition” are used.

The adjective “classical” is frequently used as a synonym of “mature” and “complete.” Thus in his work Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy, Marx directly identified the “full maturity” of the historical process with the “classical form” of the latter (see K. Marx and F. Engels, Soch., 2nd ed., vol. 13, p. 497). This interpretation also applies to such terms as “classical German philosophy,” “classical bourgeois political economy,” and the “classical school of criminal law.” The term “classical natural science” describes the level of scientific knowledge of nature (general principles, system of views, methods of investigation) before the scientific revolution of the 20th century, especially in those fields where basic concepts have since changed radically, for instance, classical mechanics or classical physics.

The term “classical,” apart from rendering the idea of “prototype” and of a perfect creation, can also contain the idea of the original, the programmatic, the pioneering. In this sense, phrases like “the classics of Marxism-Leninism” (Marx, Engels, and Lenin) or “the classics of natural science” (Newton, Darwin, Mendeleev, Pavlov, and Einstein) are used.

G. V. KHOVRINA

References in periodicals archive ?
Documenting the Roman army: essays in honour of Margaret Roxan (Bulletin of the Institute of Classical Studies Supplement 81).
Jocelyn's contribution on classical studies is in itself a history of the university, especially when read in conjunction with the following essay on the University's contribution to modern studies in the arts by Alan Bell.
Purpose of the project is the development, installation and operational support of appropriate infrastructure for digital projection and integrated electronic management of the archives of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens (ASCSA).
Classical studies scholars Manuwald (University College London, UK) and Voigt (The Open University, UK) explain in their introduction that the past couple of decades have seen a wave of interest in efforts to ".
He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and is on the boards of the American School of Classical Studies in Athens, Haverford College, and the National Academy Foundation.
Students and staff from the classical studies department and guest teachers from local schools, tucked into some authentic ancient Roman and Greek dishes at an event aimed at promoting the subject to teachers from Kirklees schools.
AN ancient history lecturer from South Wales has taken up an appointment as Professor-in-Charge of the renowned Intercollegiate Center for Classical Studies in Rome.
An internationally respected classics scholar and key figure in the development of classical studies at Cardiff and in the UK, he was appointed a chairman in ancient history in 1985.
Combining the expertise of seventeen specialists with his own, Gerald Sandy offers readers a broad if not comprehensive selection of articles on the history, development, and impact of classical studies in early-modern France.
Corinth: results of excavations conducted by the American School of Classical Studies at Athens Vol.
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Donald Nicol, formerly Professor of Modern Greek and Byzantine History of King's College, London, and now at the American School of Classical Studies in Athens, puts his specialist knowledge of late Byzantine history to use in compiling A Biographical Dictionary of Byzantine History (Seaby, 18.