Peter Craven | Classics and why we must keep them alive

Apr 28, 2022 | Watch

In the third Ramsay Lecture for 2022, one of Australia’s leading public intellectuals and our most distinguished independent literary critical voice, Peter Craven, poses and answers the question – Classics and why we must keep them alive.

In this lecture Peter Craven journeys back in time, taking us through centuries of great works, through various translations and adaptations, through famous dramatisations, and through the infusion of ancient cultures into each another.  In so doing, he discusses the classic works that have impacted him, and which he believes to be the best ever produced.  Peter also reveals the connectedness of great works to one another and shows how the classics serve as points of entry to our understanding of other cultures and world history in general.

Provocatively, Mr Craven argues that it is through the classics we learn that “…the history of civilisation is at the same time, as Walter Benjamin reminded us, the history of barbarism: Athens executed Socrates and Rome executed Christ..” And that “…Renaissance England, Shakespeare’s England, was an axe-blade world, a world of religious persecution and an exorbitant abuse of power.”

Mr Craven discusses the need to resist some unjustified cancelling of the classics, and to ensure that deserving modern works are passed onto future generations.

“We need to be constantly aware that literature can be a difficult pleasure, something that was not forgotten in the wake of modernism.  We need to be our own library of Alexandria and resist the flames flickering all around us.”

Please join us for this ‘tour de force’ lecture and conversation between Peter Craven and Ramsay Centre CEO Professor Simon Haines.