Sunday, January 02, 2005

There Are Not Going To Be Many More Dinosaurs

If a live dinosaur dragged its slow length into the laboratory, would we not all look back as we fled? What a chance to know at last how it really moved and looked and smelled and what noises it made! And if the Neanderthaler could talk, then, though his lecturing technique might leave much to be desired, should we not almost certainly learn from him some things about him which the best modern anthropologist could never have told us? He would tell us without knowing he was telling. One thing I know: I would give a great deal to hear any ancient Athenian, even a stupid one, talking about Greek tragedy. He would know in his bones so much that we seek in vain. At any moment some chance phrase might, unknown to him, show us where modern scholarship had been on the wrong track for years. Ladies and gentlemen, I stand before you somewhat as that Athenian might stand. I read as a native [the] texts you must read as foreigners. You see why I said that the claim was not really arrogant; who can be proud of speaking fluently his mother tongue or knowing his way about his father's house?...Where I fail as a critic, I may yet be useful as a specimen. I would even dare to go further. Speaking not only for myself but for all other Old Western men whom you may meet, I would say, use your specimens while you can. There are not going to be many more dinosaurs.
~ C.S. Lewis, Selected Literary Essays, "De Descriptione Temporum" (1955)

On this day:

1914 Lewis and childhood Belfast friend Arthur Greeves begin what would be a lifelong correspondence.

4 Comment(s):

At Mon Jan 03, 12:43:00 PM EST, Blogger Roger R. said...

Don't know whether you know Kathleen, but this is the ending of the lecture that Jack Lewis gave as he was inducted as Professor of Literature in Cambridge. It was known at the time as "The Great Divide"... and coincidentally, I have a copy of the great man himself reading it in an adaptation that he did for broadcast on rht radio.

At Mon Jan 03, 03:18:00 PM EST, Blogger Arevanye said...

I guess I did remember that it was his induction lecture for Cambridge--but I didn't know they had a live recording of it! Very cool. So what is Lewis's voice like? His accent?

And they called it the Great Divide because...? The division between "old school" and "new methods"?

At Mon Jan 03, 07:46:00 PM EST, Blogger Sandicomm said...

It's been a long time since I posted an actual comment here. What a sweet, witty, and poignant passage. Thanks for sharing.

At Tue Jan 04, 03:28:00 AM EST, Blogger Roger R. said...

Will email the details of the recordings this am....


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