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Classics in the Modern WorldA Democratic Turn?$
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Lorna Hardwick and Stephen Harrison

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780199673926

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199673926.001.0001

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Questioning the Democratic, and Democratic Questioning

Questioning the Democratic, and Democratic Questioning

(p.2) (p.3) 1 Questioning the Democratic, and Democratic Questioning
Classics in the Modern World

Katherine Harloe

Oxford University Press

This chapter draws on contemporary political theorists’ critiques of democratic political discourse in order to explore the implications of adopting the phrase ‘democratic turn’ to characterize recent approaches within classical reception studies. The first part draws upon work by John Dunn and Jeremy Waldron to explore the heterogeneity of meanings the terms ‘democracy’, ‘democrat’, and ‘democratic’ have accumulated, the dangers of implicit valorization they offer, and the possibility that its adoption may close off, rather than open up, avenues of critical discussion. The second develops doubts about the form of historical narrative suggested by the idea of a ‘turn’. The final part invokes Edward Said’s late work on ‘Humanism and Knowledge’ to argue that a democratization of classics would need to encompass a commitment on the part of classicists to bring their expertise into the public sphere, allowing the perspectives won by their studies to inform wider debates both inside and outside the academy. This is consistent with one plausible, persistent conception of what democratic commitment involves: cultivation of and participation in a set of spaces, which enable different perspectives to be expressed, debated, and to shape the conditions of communal life.

Keywords:   democracy, John Dunn, Edward Said, humanism, classics

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