After docketing so many departures, it is a pleasure to announce a new arrival, In Medias Res, a new online journal devoted to the Classics. Published by the Paideia Institute (if you don’t know about the Paideia Institute, stop reading now and look it up), In Medias Res is edited by John Byron Kuhner, a name that may be familiar to readers since he is also a contributor to The New Criterion. In fact, he is the author of the lead feature in this very issue: turn the page to see.
The name of the magazine is of course so familiar a Latin tag that it doesn’t need translating. Not everyone, however, will recall that it comes from Horace’s reflection, in Ars Poetica, on what made Homer such a good storyteller. Homer began his tale, Horace noted, not at the beginning—with the birth of Helen of Troy, say—but rather semper ad eventum festinat et in medias res/ non secus ac notas auditorem rapit: “he always hurries to the main event and into the middle of things, as if they were already well known, snatches the audience away.”
The appearance of this vital new journal is like the sudden epiphany of crocuses.
In Medias Res, like the Paideia Institute itself, is a welcome bright spot on the otherwise gloomy cultural horizon. It is one of several quiet reminders that a passion for permanent things, though submerged under a heavy blanket of idiot trash, is not dead but merely biding its time. We cannot yet celebrate the advent of vernal cultural daffodils, let alone tulips, but the appearance of this vital new journal is like the sudden epiphany of crocuses, or at least snowdrops, on the still snow-fringed, nearly frozen lawn.
It should also be said that, again like the Paideia Institute, In Medias Res is not about amo-amas-amat Latin or conjuring with the aorist subjunctive of παιδεύω in Greek. On the contrary, this is classics as a living, breathing enterprise. The first installment of the journal (available at www.medium.com/in-medias-res) includes an amusing translation of the 1915 Israeli folk song “Hava Nagila” (“one of the greatest party songs in the world”), a fascinating essay about Dickens and Literae Humaniores—“more humane letters,” the phrase the Brits use to denote the classics—a brief reflection on Hollywood’s renditions of the Roman World (“Hannibal on Houston Street”), and—for the aspiring Latinist—“Ten Hacks for Getting Better at Latin,” Part I. Some good advice there. As the editorial statement accompanying the journal notes, “We are immersed, from one end of our life to another, in paideia, in the ancient Greek sense: the age-old, never-ending work of the transmission of culture.” In Medias Res promises to be a vibrant and welcome contributor to that neglected task.
This article originally appeared in The New Criterion, Volume 36 Number 6, on page 3
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