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Issue V: Cultural Transitions
Illuminating questions of culture with light from the past
Happy 2022! After a late December and early January break, The Classical Futurist returns today with Issue V, in which we discuss cultural diversity, the idea of initiation, and the Iliad.
If we were to find a common theme to these topics, it might be the concept of a cultural transition. Going through an initiation ritual, the topic of Caleb Ontiveros’s essay, means being invited to a new culture, such as adult life, a religion, or a secret society. Your worldview changes, and the rite makes the transition salient. Meanwhile, Étienne Fortier-Dubois discusses the choices people from small, peripheral cultures have to make when dealing with a powerful one like Rome or the United States. Keep to your own or transition into the dominating culture?
Our reading recommendation for this month is a retelling of the Iliad, one of the most famous epics of Greek literature. We also have a short piece on various ways the poem has been interpreted in the past. To enjoy a piece of writing from millennia ago, one has to deal with the cultural and linguistic distance, which can be tricky, but also give depth to the experience.
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Issue V, January 2022: Contents
If you were a non-Roman living on the periphery of the Roman Empire, would you choose to keep to your own culture, language, and gods? Or would you learn Latin and become Romanized? This question is still relevant today to anyone who lives outside the United States or the Anglosphere. Étienne Fortier-Dubois draws from his upbringing in French-speaking Quebec to discuss the tradeoff between preserving cultural diversity and reaping the individual benefits of adopting a stronger culture.
What is the place of rites of passage today? Caleb Ontiveros compares the meaning of initiation in antiquity — in the realms of education, family, and religion — with what remains in our world, mostly in schooling. How does this change affect the way we find purpose?
This anonymous submission details different interpretations of the Iliad: from a hymn to master morality, a celebration of honor and glory, or a plea for peace. Is it primitive poetry or perfection? The meaning of such a masterpiece of literature is always in flux; what will it be in the future?
The Song of Achilles, a novel by Madeline Miller, is an enjoyable interpretation of the Iliad that helps bring to life the classic characters of Achilles and Patroclus. This short essay also includes a few other reading suggestions from around the web about decentralization, golden ages, and predictions for 2050.
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