Login/Sign up

World Association of International Studies

PAX, LUX ET VERITAS SINCE 1965
Post Boris Johnson Recites the Iliad: A Critique
Created by John Eipper on 10/03/19 3:12 PM

Previous posts in this discussion:

Post

Boris Johnson Recites the Iliad: A Critique (David Pike, France, 10/03/19 3:12 pm)

I passed Enrique Torner's post (October 3) on to the Senior Professor of Classics at The American University of Paris and received this assessment of Boris Johnson's recital:

To me this looks like typical Boris Johnson upper-class theatrics.

He does recite the correct words (the text is so famous that every decent classicist knows it more or less by heart), but there is no sign that he actually takes in what they mean. I would presume that as a trained classicist he can translate the passage; the question is whether the words that he understands on such an intellectual level actually speak to him. You see he makes a funny show of a narrative about destruction and countless pain, heroes killed, their dead bodies spread out to be eaten by dogs and birds. Picture that and listen to the recitation.

So, to me it sounds rather like: Look how educated I am. The "great classics" serve here, as they often do, as a status marker and a sign of elite identity.

In terms of pronunciation, not perfect, but OK, especially for an Anglophone. However, he doesn't care much about quantities and recites with the old-fashioned and anachronistic stress-accent hexameter. It is easier to do and sounds less strange to our modern ears, and that's probably how he learned it at Eton. So that's again not taking the poem seriously, but rather showing off.

JE comments:  Pass along our thanks to your colleague, David.  Was BoJo showing off?  Absolutely.  And do I prefer this cerebral brand of theatrics to the kind we get on this side of the Pond--a partially literate tweetstorm?  Absolutely.


SHARE:
Rate this post
Informational value 
Insight 
Fairness 
Reader Ratings (0)
0%
Informational value0%
Insight0%
Fairness0%

Visits: 226

Comments/Replies

Please login/register to reply or comment: Login/Sign up

  • Enrique Torner, Declaimer Extraordinaire (Enrique Torner, USA 10/04/19 3:17 AM)

    I want to thank my friend David Pike (October 3rd) for passing my post to his colleague in the Classics Department: that was a compliment! I want to extend my appreciation to David's colleague as well. However, from the perspective of my 25 years of experience hosting international poetry recitals (where elementary language students to native speakers, even faculty and poets sometimes, with an average of 40 participants per year--about 1000 total, oh my goodness!), I would assess BoJo's performance among my top 5%.


    Yes, he would get deducted for showing passion when he should be expressing sadness or anger, but the easiness with which he recited by memory, his fluidity, and his passion are very hard to match, and I can guarantee his audience would roar at his recitation, despite the fact that our students are hard to get excited about anything.


    Regarding our dear editor's question about memorizing big chunks of poetry, that's a great question! While being raised by the Jesuits, we were required to memorize long passages of poetry and recite them in public for the families. I may have done that for hundreds when I was a kid. Here we get a much smaller audience, from 60 to 120. I have memorized lots of poems through my life, mostly in Spanish, but some in other languages. One some WAISers might know is "Fern Hill," by Dylan Thomas, which I learned when I was about 18 and spent one month improving my English in Canterbury. I still remember Big John and Little John, the names we students gave our teachers: one was short; the other... tall. Little John had a big voice and a great passion for poetry. Forty years later, I still owe him the learning of the recitation of this greatly melodic, fast-moving poem. Thank you, Little John! I re-memorized it some years ago, but the original rhythm never left me!


    I have memorized one new poem each of these 25 years. I have recited in
    Spanish, Catalan, French, Italian, German, Russian, and Náhuatl. This next event
    will be the first time I recite in Greek, a language I studied in high
    school and have been reviewing this past year during spare time in my
    sabbatical with a course from The Great Courses. I love Homer! However,
    I stopped requiring students to memorize their poems: it was too
    stressing for them, and one girl, years ago, started crying in the
    middle of her recitation out of panic from having forgotten her lines.
    From then on, I give them the option of bringing a copy of their poem
    and just reading it. Either way, Boris Johnson would not have received a
    pass in my recital, because, behind the presenter, there are two
    screens: on one we show the poem in its original language; on the other,
    the English translation. People would have noticed that his emotional
    state did not match the poem's!


    JE comments:  Outstanding, Enrique!  I'd love to know what Russian poet received the honor.  Pushkin is usually first and foremost, and is eminently memorizable because of his rhyme and meter.  As for Náhuatl, did you learn the verses of the Texcocan poet-king Nezahualcóyotl?


    Declaiming poetry has lost favor as a pedagogical tool.  Not only is it stressful, it's also not considered a "critical thinking" activity.  Perhaps we should tell the kids that poetry is exactly like rap, but without the infernal racket in the background?

    Please login/register to reply or comment:


Trending Now



All Forums with Published Content (41979 posts)

- Unassigned

Culture & Language

American Indians Art Awards Bestiary of Insults Books Conspiracy Theories Culture Ethics Film Food Futurology Gender Issues Humor Intellectuals Jews Language Literature Media Coverage Movies Music Newspapers Numismatics Philosophy Plagiarism Prisons Racial Issues Sports Tattoos Western Civilization World Communications

Economics

Capitalism Economics International Finance World Bank World Economy

Education

Education Hoover Institution Journal Publications Libraries Universities World Bibliography Series

History

Biographies Conspiracies Crime Decline of West German Holocaust Historical Figures History Holocausts Individuals Japanese Holocaust Leaders Learning Biographies Learning History Russian Holocaust Turkish Holocaust

Nations

Afghanistan Africa Albania Algeria Argentina Asia Australia Austria Bangladesh Belgium Belize Bolivia Brazil Canada Central America Chechnya Chile China Colombia Costa Rica Croatia Cuba Cyprus Czech Republic Denmark East Europe East Timor Ecuador Egypt El Salvador England Estonia Ethiopia Europe European Union Finland France French Guiana Germany Greece Guatemala Haiti Hungary Iceland India Indonesia Iran (Persia) Iraq Ireland Israel/Palestine Italy Japan Jordan Kenya Korea Kosovo Kuwait Kyrgyzstan Latin America Liberia Libya Mali Mexico Middle East Mongolia Morocco Namibia Nations Compared Netherlands New Zealand Nicaragua Niger Nigeria North America Norway Pacific Islands Pakistan Palestine Paraguay Peru Philippines Poland Polombia Portugal Romania Saudi Arabia Scandinavia Scotland Serbia Singapore Slovakia South Africa South America Southeast Asia Spain Sudan Sweden Switzerland Syria Thailand The Pacific Tunisia Turkey Turkmenistan UK (United Kingdom) Ukraine USA (America) USSR/Russia Uzbekistan Venezuela Vietnam West Europe Yemen Yugoslavia Zaire

Politics

Balkanization Communism Constitutions Democracy Dictators Diplomacy Floism Global Issues Hegemony Homeland Security Human Rights Immigration International Events Law Nationalism NATO Organizations Peace Politics Terrorism United Nations US Elections 2008 US Elections 2012 US Elections 2016 Violence War War Crimes Within the US

Religion

Christianity Hinduism Islam Judaism Liberation Theology Religion

Science & Technology

Alcohol Anthropology Automotives Biological Weapons Design and Architecture Drugs Energy Environment Internet Landmines Mathematics Medicine Natural Disasters Psychology Recycling Research Science and Humanities Sexuality Space Technology World Wide Web (Internet)

Travel

Geography Maps Tourism Transportation

WAIS

1-TRIBUTES TO PROFESSOR HILTON 2001 Conference on Globalizations Academic WAR Forums Ask WAIS Experts Benefactors Chairman General News Member Information Member Nomination PAIS Research News Ronald Hilton Quotes Seasonal Messages Tributes to Prof. Hilton Varia Various Topics WAIS WAIS 2006 Conference WAIS Board Members WAIS History WAIS Interviews WAIS NEWS waisworld.org launch WAR Forums on Media & Research Who's Who