What is a Classic Text?
What is the relation between classic texts and time? One obvious answer that has often been suggested is that classic texts are ones that have lasted a long time. Thus Longinus, a classic author if there ever was one, claims in his work On the Sublime that "To speak generally, you should consider that to be beautifully and truly sublime which pleases all people at all times" (7.4). But is longevity a necessary condition for classic status, or a sufficient one, or in fact perhaps neither necessary nor sufficient? I will propose that the relation involved is in fact both more complex and more essential than this traditional answer implies, and that considering the classic illuminates fundamental aspects of human temporality, above all its insufficiency and its asymmetry.
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