Virginia Woolf on Not Knowing Greek

In her 1925 essay “On Not Knowing Greek,” Virginia Woolf laments our weak understanding of Greek language, and how even the best translations leave behind critical inflections and allow misconceptions of Greek culture to overshadow the truth. Leave it to Woolf to understand the importance of the smallest details- just as she shows the reader the trivialities and magnitude of any given day in Mrs. Dalloway, she seems to yearn for the smallest details in these Greek plays that could betray the greatest meanings. Almost insistent on chasing the Greek language, Woolf claims that “In spite of the labour and the difficulty it is this that draws us back and back to the Greeks; the stable, the permanent, the original human being is to be found there.”

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