Thursday, June 21, 2012

Summer Latin Institute - DAY 9, 6:45 p.m.

Great day at the Summer Latin Institute. Selfishly speaking. Because I got to teach Catullus 13, the first unedited, unadapted, unaltered, complete work of Latin literature our students have read from beginning to end with comprehension (all 14 lines of it).

I got to talk about Catullus, his adulterous relationship with his girlfriend Lesbia, his boyfriend Juventius, his sexual relations with slave boys, and, of course, his Phalaecean hendecasyllables.

I taught our students how to scan and elide. We went around the room reading a line each in Latin, with elision. Then we translated the poem tag-team style, with some students being called on to translate, others being encouraged to chime in with help when their fellow student got stuck on a word or phrase.

Fortunately I touched base with program administrator and text book co-author Rita Fleischer before I started teaching my hour. She gave me some handouts that I did not know were in the files. One was a line drawing of an ancient graffito showing a man's face with a nose in the shape of a penis, which is completely relevant to the concluding lines of Catullus 13 (see this translation and you will understand why). Our students got the connection immediately and loved the illustration (and no doubt thought their teacher was pretty cool for giving it to them). The other handout included two fabulous translations, one by Frank O. Copley (1907-1993), the other by Horace Gregory (1898-1982). I first read them aloud and then distributed copies. These very divergent renderings demonstrated to the students both the art of translation and the value of being able to read the poem for themselves in the original Latin. My understanding is that recent Latin Institute faculty have avoided sharing these translations with the students for pedagogical reasons that remain unclear to be. For my money, the translations were a very valuable part of the lesson, and I am grateful to Rita Fleischer for providing them to me (on the sly as it were) and to Floyd Moreland, whose idea I assume it was to include them in the curriculum many years ago (they were handed out to me as an Institute student in 1982).

We are nearing the end of the second week. From here on out, there will be less and less new morphology and syntax, more and more real Latin poetry and prose. We have baked a hearty cake. Now comes the sweet and delicious icing.

More soon... 

Note: The opinions expressed in this blog entry are those of the blogger, and do not represent the opinions of the CUNY Latin/Greek Institute, its students, faculty, or administration.

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