DuBois (a professor of classics at UC-San Diego and author of Sappho Is Burning) proffers a highly polemical attack on what she believes are ill-founded attempts by conservatives to use the literature, history and mythology of Greco-Roman antiquity to advance their moral agendas. Some of her targets are well known, like William Bennett (the book's main villain) and Allan Bloom; others will be familiar primarily to those who follow academic discourse. The arguments against the offending conservatives are many, but the book's major target is the claim that there are enduring moral and political lessons to be learned from ancient wisdom that we can use to improve our own society. DuBois disputes these conclusions by arguing that those with whom she has issue distort through simplification the context and meaning of much of their evidence—evidence that is open to a more nuanced and sophisticated interpretation. The book concentrates on evidence from " the sexual practices of the classical period in Athens, the radical democracy of ancient Athens and the polytheism of the ancient Greeks." The author argues that, when looked at in detail, the ancient wisdom used by conservatives is culled from a brutish, warlike and sexist culture that offers little of the ethical comfort to the modern world that conservatives claim. (Mar.)
Forecast:Despite the heat of the cultural debate, duBois's scholarly text may generate some controversy but it is not likely to be read outside the academy.