I am reading A Great Idea at the Time: The Rise, Fall and Curious Afterlife of the Great Books by Alex Beam. (Full discussion of which coming soon to a blog near you.)
I laughed out loud today after reading this wonderful bit of history from the 1940s:
Dr. Jules Masserman, scientific director of Northwestern University’s Foundation for Psychiatric Research, lashed out at the Great Books in the journal Diseases of the Nervous System. “It is regrettable indeed that certain teachers of our youth revert to this form of medieval scholasticism at a time when old errors should be left to moulder in the dust of history, ” Masserman wrote. The Great Books were a form of escapism known as “substitute behavior,” he insisted. “Other forms of evasion,” he said, are “preoccupation with trivia of fashion, the spurious excitement of spectator sports, the false hopes of reckless gambling, the diversions of profligate sensuality, or the numbing haze of alcohol and drugs.” Masserman scoffed that the books are selected by “intellectual betters and so attempt to solve all the unprecedented problems of today by the ancient artifices of Aristotle or the pert platitudes of Plato.”
Dr. Masserman forgot to take his alliteration medication.
Profligate sensuality, forsooth!