Wikipedia:Today's featured article/November 6, 2006

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Eric Havelock was a British classicist. He was a professor at the University of Toronto and was active in the academic wing of the Canadian socialist movement during the 1930s. In the 1960s and '70s, he served as chair of the classics departments at both Harvard and Yale. Although he was trained in the turn-of-the-century Oxbridge tradition of classical studies, which saw Greek intellectual history as an unbroken chain of related ideas, Havelock broke radically with his own teachers and proposed an entirely new model for understanding the classical world, based on a sharp division between literature of the 6th and 5th centuries BC on the one hand, and the 4th on the other. Much of Havelock's work was devoted to a single thesis: that all of Western thought is informed by a profound shift in the kinds of ideas available to the human mind at the point that Greek philosophy converted from an oral to a literate form. The idea has been controversial in classical studies, and has frequently been rejected outright; however, outside his own field, Havelock has been extraordinarily influential. He and Walter J. Ong essentially founded the amorphous field that studies transitions from orality to literacy, and Havelock has been one of the most frequently cited theorists in that field. (more...)

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