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What makes a written work eternal—its message still so fundamental to the way we live that it continues to speak to us, hundreds or thousands of years distant from the lifetime of its author? Why do we still respond to an ancient Greek playwright’s tale of the Titan so committed to humanity’s survival that he is willing to endure eternal torture in his defiance of the gods? To the cold advice of a 16th-century Florentine exiled from the corridors of power? To the words of a World War I German veteran writing of the horrors of endless trench warfare?
Most important of all, what do such works—”Great Books” in every sense—mean to us? Can they deepen our self-knowledge and wisdom? Are our lives changed in any meaningful way by the experience of reading them?
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