Classics

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

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

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
This interdisciplinary workshop, organized by the Classics Department at the University of Nottingham, will examine classical scholarship in English alongside the expansion of British imperialism in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, bringing together historians and classicists.
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Unlike Williamson, whose adoption of theory is suitably unobtrusive in a book aimed at a general readership, the theoretically sophisticated duBois is openly at war - at war (few surprises here) with traditionally positivist, anti-theoretical, philological classical scholarship, and with ideologues like Allan Bloom and William Bennett, determined to safeguard a schoolboy epitome of fifth-century Athens as the pure font of Western democratic and aesthetic ideals.
In the years since Oxford classical scholarship was revolutionized in the late 1930s by the arrival of such distinguished refugees from Germany as Fraenkel, Pfeiffer, Maas, and others, the Clarendon Press has brought to fruition many works of enduring quality: Fraenkel's Agamemnon, Barrett's Hippolytus, Pfeiffer's Callimachus, Dover's Clouds, West's Theogony are outstanding examples, to stay only with Greek poets or dramatists.
Shame and Necessity is the 57th book in the series based on the Sather Classical Lectures, the most prestigious lecture series in Classical scholarship. When Williams was invited to give the 1989 lectures, some Classical scholars were surprised at the Sather Committee's interdisciplinary gesture towards philosophy.
Alexander romance literature declined in the late 12th century, and, with the revival of classical scholarship during the Renaissance, historical accounts displaced it entirely.
Momigliano's life was spent in the well-defined world of classical scholarship; the settings for his studies changed from that of Italy (Turin and Rome, 1929-1938) and by virtue of the fascist racial legislation to England (Oxford, Bristol, London to 1975) and eventually, by choice, to America (Chicago).
This outburst of Latinity and classical scholarship, which even included a dispute over whether the word apparatus belongs to the second or the fifth declension, seemed an appropriate beginning for a conference on a subject--the origins of the universe-- that has fascinated scholars ever since classical times.
Reading Poetry, Writing Genre: English Poetry and Literary Criticism in Dialogue with Classical Scholarship
Finally, it is always a problem to resort to metrics as a desperate solution to a problem, and Dryden's work on satire is not secondary literature, but an important primary source in the history of classical scholarship.
Augustine; classical scholarship, Christian theology, and the origins of the Renaissance in Italy.
Rather than pursuing an influence study, a general semiotics of intertextuality, or Levy's critique of classical tradition through a feminist parody of one of its famous narratives, I suggest that Levy deliberately inserted her poem into a complex discursive network of British and German classical scholarship, higher criticism, and popular print culture.

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