The Impact Of Classics On The Present-Day Western Culture Essay Sample

Type of paper: Essay

Topic: European Union, Culture, Influence, Education, Life, Present, Heroism, Western Culture

Pages: 2

Words: 550

Published: 2020/12/02

Louise Cowan’s “The Necessity of the Classics” and Walker Percy’s “Diagnosing the Modern Malaise” are concerned with the role of classics in the modern Western culture. They show how present-day lives in Western societies can be understood or positively influenced using classics. The two essays show that classics can be used to understand and cultivate admirable values such as heroism, and avoid undesirable feelings such as unhappiness and loneliness. As such, she, particularly, argues that classics should be primary basis of present-day curricula in western education societies. In this essay, it will be shown how Cowan and Percy, though arguing from different perspectives and using different classics, demonstrate the critical role of classics in shaping the present-day Western-culture.
Cowan demonstrates that values that form the fabric of western societies such as heroism are transmitted through classics. Cowan (3-11) uses Greek and Latin classics to argue that classics, by their very own intrinsic power, influence and shape values of the modern western culture. She argues that the heavy influence of classics on modern Western culture is not as a result of influence from religions or powerful groups or individuals. Their influence comes “from their intrinsic qualitythat makes them immortal” (Cowan 7). However, she laments that although classics have been incorporated in the cultural patterns to the extent that “meaning, for us, is hardly separable from them” (Cowan 4), their presence might soon stop being felt. The reason is that “most college curricula now remain sadly untouched by their august presence.such neglect is one of the most serious threats our society faces today” (Cowan, 4). Consequently, she is calling upon educational curriculum designers to ensure that classics form the basis of educational curricula for all students (Cowan 4, 11). Failure to do this would threaten the existence of western societies.
Walker Percy’s Diagnosing the Modern Malaise” supports the argument that classics have an indelible influence on the western culture. However, unlike Cowan who uses Greek and Latin classics, Percy relies on the literary writing of Eastern European short story writer Chekhov. Another notable difference between Cowan’s and Percy’s work is that Cowan seems to be focused on heroism while Percy brings aspects of anti-heroism and suffering, which although not treasured in the western world, are nevertheless present. Percy shows that the portrayal of a character, Nikolai Stepanovitch, in Chekhov’s “ A Dreary Story”, who “ends with him alone in a hotel roomunable to love anyone, himself included, unable to see the slightest value of meaning in life” (Percy 205). Percy seems to be using this classic to explain the reasons why unhappiness and loneliness persist in the Western societies despite efforts to avoid them. It is possible to imagine that the mass shootings and high suicide numbers in the US are as a result of feelings of unhappiness, loneliness, and psychological suffering. Percy uses Chekhov’s work to create an understanding of these issues, while questioning the West’s insistence on materialism at the expense of other important aspects of life. The reason is that Nikolai, notes Percy, is “an eminently successful physician, scientists, professor, he has accomplished all he set out to accomplishall academic honors are his” (Percy 205). Unfortunately, Nikolai never enjoys his worldly success. This is an indication that he “placed his faith in science” at the expense of other aspects of science. If this kind of classic is used in education, students will learn how to balance all aspects of their lives to avoid undesirable feelings and experiences.
In conclusion, Cowan and Percy demonstrate that classics should be used to understand and cultivate the values and experiences in modern Western societies. If classics from different parts of the world form the basis of curricula, it will be possible to transmit desirable values to future generations and equip students with necessary skills and knowledge to balance between pursuit for materialism and recognition on one hard, and happiness and socialization on the other.

Works Cited

Cowan, Louise. “The Necessity of Classics.” The Intercollegiate Review 37.1 (2001): 3-17. PDF file.
Percy, Walker. Diagnosing the Modern Malaise. New Orleans, Louisiana: Faust Publishing Company, 1985. Print.

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"The Impact Of Classics On The Present-Day Western Culture Essay Sample," Free Essay Examples -, 02-Dec-2020. [Online]. Available: [Accessed: 28-Jun-2022].
The Impact Of Classics On The Present-Day Western Culture Essay Sample. Free Essay Examples - Published Dec 02, 2020. Accessed June 28, 2022.

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