Monday, July 30, 2012

Summer Latin Institute - DAY 34

Day 34 was Friday, July 27.

The last day of the prose survey section of the second half of the course. It's all over except for the prose final exam on Monday.

It was a lighter day for me. 8:30 a.m. optional review and 3:40 p.m. optional sight reading of a passage from Boethius' Consolation of Philosophy.

In between, Patrick and Akiva led our students through the end of Sallust's Bellum Catalinae, some Latin prose composition, and the afternoon prose survey, a story from the medieval Gesta Romanorum. I remember reading that passage as a student in the program in 1982!

Starting Monday, it's time to begin the poetry portion of the program. Book 4 of Vergil's Aeneid in the mornings; poetry survey beginning with Livius Andronicus in the afternoons.

Does all of this sound too good to be true? Tell your friends. Tell your students. Just think—You could be doing this next summer!

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.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Thomas Eagleton, the Summer of 1972, and Me

In a Nutshell: A story about Thomas Eagleton on NPR reminds me of what I was doing in the summer of 1972, a bittersweet and melancholy summer that in some ways set the tone for the rest of my life.

I was just listening to a story on NPR's On the Media about the Thomas Eagleton affair, during the presidential election campaign of 1972, when democratic candidate George McGovern chose Eagleton, a senator from Missouri, as his running mate without knowing that Eagleton had undergone electroshock therapy for depression on several occasions in the 1960s. When a tipster alerted both the media and the campaign, the campaign went public with the story; Eagleton of course withdrew from the race, and he was replaced on the ticket by Sargent Shriver. And, of course, the McGovern-Shriver ticket went down in a landslide reelection victory for President Richard M. Nixon and Vice-President Spiro T. Agnew. Reminiscences about the affair have been in the media this week as Mitt Romney prepares to announce his choice of vice-presidential running mate, and the media consensus seems to be that his main concern is to avoid any potential surprises in the current hyperactive media environment.

But what the story made me think about, perhaps not surprisingly, was myself, forty years ago, in the summer of 1972, when I was eleven years old. My father had just died, on July 7, 1972, at the age of 52, of colon cancer. I lived in a middle-income co-op apartment building in the Luna Park housing complex, in Coney Island, just across the street from the New York Aquarium and the Cyclone Roller Coaster, and of course the boardwalk and the beach. And about a 20-minute walk from the Brighton Beach Branch of the Brooklyn Public Library. I was an avid reader in those days, but not a particularly precocious one—that is, I enjoyed juvenile literature, including fantasy and science fiction for young readers. That summer I remember reading books in the Mushroom Planet series, by Eleanor Cameron (1912-1996), including the first book in the series, The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet, written in 1954. Other titles in the series included Stowaway to the Mushroom Planet (1956), Mr. Bass's Planetoid (1958), A Mystery for Mr. Bass (1960), and Time and Mr. Bass (1967). I can't honestly tell you which or how many of the sequels I read, but I know it was at least one or two, and I enjoyed their escapist fantasy adventure very much, especially under the terrible circumstances of that summer.

I believe that was also the summer that I found the Famous Writers Course books at Nostrand Books, the used bookstore on Brighton Beach Avenue (apparently it had been on Nostrand Avenue in a previous incarnation). In seeking to confirm the title of the series just now, I was surprised to find that the course is still in business. I believe I found only the first four volumes of the six-volume series, Principles of Good Writing (Volumes I and II) and Fiction Writing (Volumes III and IV). I devoured those books. I started writing short stories. I wish I could say that my stories were fabulous and I kept on writing and before long I was publishing in literary journals and beginning a successful fiction writing career. But that's not what happened. I was unfocused. I mostly wrote journal entries rather than stories. I had trouble finishing things that I started. I didn't know what to do with any work that I did happen to finish. I had no connection with other burgeoning writers, of my own age or any age. And even though I went on to have some fabulous English teachers (see my post on Post-Punk Pedagogy for a tribute to some of them), none really encouraged me or nurtured me or mentored me with a view towards publishing my work—in their eyes, I think I was just a sensitive, creative, precocious, very bright little boy who would probably go on to very successful careers in high school and college, go on to study law or medicine, and have a brilliant professional career. I always had difficulty getting the kind of mentorship and support I needed for what I really wanted to do and what I really wanted to be.

Well, I want to go for a run now, so I'm going to put this post aside. I'm not really sure what the point of writing this was, but it was nice to write about something other than the Summer Latin Institute.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Summer Latin Institute - DAY 33

Day 33 was yesterday, July 26, 2012.

Not that it's all about me, but I had a FABULOUS day. I was on for second hour of morning drill, Sallust's Bellum Catilinae, section 20, which is the speech of Catiline. My students did a wonderful job and we even took about three minutes at the end to discuss Sallust's characterization of Catiline compared with that of Cicero in the First Oration Against Catiline.Three minutes of Latin Institute time is about 30 minutes of traditional class time, so it was quite an in-depth discussion!

Then in the afternoon I led prose survey reading, selections from Einhard's Life of Charlemagne, where we got a taste of early medieval Latin as well as of the bathing practices of the Frankish nobility. In fact, what with my Petronius passage about Seleucus and his reluctance to bathe daily, bathing seems to be emerging as a major theme of the CUNY Summer Latin Institute. Let's just hope our very busy students are finding time to attend to their own daily hygiene needs! From what I can determine, they have managed it well.

The rest of the day I prepped: for next week's reading of Book 4 of Vergil's Aeneid, for today's afternoon optional sight reading of a passage from Boethius' Consolation of Philosophy.

In the evening I answered questions from students, both in person here at the Grad Center, and on the phone once I got home, where I did manage to watch three episodes of the old Dark Shadows daytime soap opera while my husband Jason fed me a very nice dinner.

Does all of this sound too good to be true? Tell your friends. Tell your students. Just think—You could be doing this next summer!

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.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Summer Latin Institute - DAY 32

Day 32 was yesterday, July 25, 2012.

Akiva, 8:30 a.m. optional. Questions about the previous night's Sallust assignment. Michael (me), first hour of morning drill, Sallust's Bellum Catalinae, from where we left off in section 5 on the previous day to the beginning of section 7. Patrick, second hour of morning drill, Sallust's Bellum Catalinae, from where I left off in section seven to the end of section 12 (skipping 8, 9, and 10—we're intense, but even we are not THAT intense). Michael, lunchtime optional sight reading, another stab at Vergil's first Eclogue. Afternoon prose comp, Patrick, focusing on a comparative analysis of the style and rhetoric of Cicero and Sallust. Tricolon vs. antithesis; concinnitas vs. inconcinnitas; Cicero's emphasis on oratorical structure; Sallust's use of archaism. Afternoon optional sight reading, a special treat, Rita Fleischer teaching further (and perhaps even more salacious) excerpts from Petronius' Satyricon.

The prose survey portion of the second half of the program is winding down. We on the faculty side of things are beginning to focus our preparations for the poetry survey that begins next week.

Does all of this sound too good to be true? Tell your friends. Tell your students. Just think—You could be doing this next summer!

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.

Summer Latin Institute - DAY 31

Day 31 was Tuesday, July 24, 2012.

Oh, my...I let a whole day go by without a post. Shame on me. OK, here goes, but it'll have to be a quick one.

Patrick, 8:30 a.m. optional. Questions about the previous night's Sallust and St. Augustine assignments. Akiva, first hour of morning drill, Sallust's Bellum Catalinae, sections 1-3-ish. Michael (me), second hour of morning drill, Sallust's Bellum Catalinae, from where Akiva left off to the middle of section 5. Akiva, lunchtime optional sight reading, another selection from the works of Tacitus. Afternoon prose comp, Michael, focusing on the "too big too fail" construction (comparative adjective + quam ut + subjunctive). Patrick, afternoon assigned reading, selections from the Confessions of St. Augustine. Michael, afternoon optional sight reading, Vergil's first Eclogue.

A lot for one day, wouldn't you say? Wouldn't you agree that our students study at least one week of traditional Latin in one day of the Summer Latin Institute?

Does all of this sound too good to be true? Tell your friends. Tell your students. Just think—You could be doing this next summer!

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.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Summer Latin Institute - DAY 30

Day 30 was yesterday, July 23, 2012.

It was the beginning of Week 7. If there is a "hump" week in the Summer Latin Institute, we are now over it. Six weeks down, four weeks to go.

We finished reading Cicero's First Oration Against Catiline. I covered the 8:30 a.m. optional homework review and graded the daily quiz. These days, quizzes consist of a sentence or two from the previous night's reading, plus a syntax question or two, plus occasional principal parts. All in ten minutes. The Day 30 quiz was a doozy: the Cicero passage was a full 50 words and we asked three syntax questions. Some students did not have enough time to finish. But most did very well.

Starting this week, lunchtime optionals are sight reading, not grammar review. On Day 30, Patrick led students in reading a selection from the Rhetorica ad Herennium, a first-century BCE text on rhetoric formerly attributed to Cicero but of unknown authorship.

After lunch, Akiva presented a lecture on postclassical Latin, which is what we are reading this week in our afternoon prose survey. Today's afternoon prose was a selection from Tacitus' Annals, but later this week students will be reading selections from Augustus' Confessions, Einhard's Life of Carlemagne, and the anonymous Gesta Romanorum, a medieval compendium of anecdotes and tales probably compiled around the beginning of the 14 century and providing source material for vernacular authors including Chaucer, Boccaccio, and Shakespeare.

I led the afternoon optional sight reading of Pliny's letter to Tacitus about writing on his wax tablets while sitting at his hunting nets, encouraging Tacitus to bring a loaf of bread, a jug of wine, and a stylus and notebook next times he goes hunting, and ending with the memorable declaration, "Diana wanders the woods no more than Minerva."

Does all of this sound too good to be true? Tell your friends. Tell your students. Just think—You could be doing this next summer!

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.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Summer Latin Institute - DAY 29

Day 29 was Friday, July 20, 2012.

Optional 8:30 a.m. review, morning Cicero, lunchtime optional grammar review on the ablative case, and postprandial prose composition, taught by Michael (me), Akiva, Patrick, Akiva, and Patrick, respectively.

Then at 2:00 p.m. I had my most fun of the whole summer, teaching three sections of Petronius' Satyricon. It may be the most salacious two hours of the entire curriculum. As an intro, I read our students the passage in Tacitus' Annals where the author describes the forced suicide of Petronius, Nero's arbiter elegantiae, widely assumed to be the author of the Satyricon. That's the one were he slits his wrists and then binds and unbinds his bandages all afternoon, prolonging his death while his friends read him poetry and sing him songs, and he gives some of his slaves gifts (or perhaps freedom?) and others beatings, and writes up a chronicle of the sexual crimes of Nero, naming male and female partners alike, which he signs, seals, and delivers to the emperor as his last will and testament. A highlight for me was explaining the word exoleti, which is Latin for (queer) beef cake: grown-up, muscular pretty-boys, a term generally used in the context of homosexual liaisons, although I suppose Nero could just have cocktails with his exoleti as well as, well, you know.

Then onto the the Satyricon itself, where we read about Trimalchio and his charming (slave?) boys playing catch while one eunuch supplies new balls (so none need ever be picked up off the ground) and another eunuch affords a chamber pot to Trimalchio so he need not interrupt his play to void his bladder (washing his fingers in a bowl of water and wiping them on the head of a boy). Then we read about the part of this famous literary dinner in which a roasted boar is served, with baskets of figs hanging from his tusks as party favors, and little piglets fashioned out of pound cake all around him, as if they were reaching for their mother's teats, so that our boar looks for all the world like a sow (one student exclaimed gleefully, "So the Romans, just like the British, loved a man in a dress!" which indeed they did). In the final brief passage, we read about Seleucus, recently returned from the funeral of his charming friend Chrysanthus, who expounds on life, death, the mortal risks of daily bathing, and the perniciousness of women, whom he calls "a race of kites" (birds of prey, not the Ben Franklin kind of kite).

As if that wasn't enough fun for once day, Patrick led a late-afternoon optional sight reading of selections from Catullus 64, the mini-epic about the marriage of Peleus and Thetis.

Does all of this sound too good to be true? Tell your friends. Tell your students. Just think—You could be doing this next summer!

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.

Summer Latin Institute - DAY 28

Day 28 was Thursday, July 19, 2012.

We continued pushing through Cicero's First Oration Against Catiline in the morning. Over lunch we reviewed dependent clauses with verbs in the subjunctive. After lunch we did some prose composition. Later in the afternoon we read some Livy.

The big event of the day, however, was not Cicero, or Livy, or any Latin language or literature at all. The big event of the day was the Hoplite Challenge Cup, an annual verb morphology bee in the Summer Greek Institute, our neighbors down the hall. Greek students (mathetai) faced off against Greek faculty (didaskaloi Hardy Hansen, Bill Pagonis, and Aramis Lopez) in a series of one-on-one match-ups.

In each round, the student calls the verb and the form, and the faculty member has 20 seconds to generate the correct verb form on the blackboard. If the didaskalos gets the form wrong, the round is over and the mathetes earns a point for his/her team. If the teacher gets the form right, he announces two changes (choosing among person, number, tense, mood, and voice), and hands the challenge back to the student, who has 30 seconds to generate the correct form on the blackboard. Play goes back and forth for up to three turns per set until either a student or a teacher gets the form wrong. Sets continue for a full hour. There is a time keeper and a judge—vital roles this year performed by the Latin program's own Aaron Shapiro and Patrick Gaulthier respectively. I served the novel role of videographer.

Teachers trounced students by a score I will not commit to print, but a good time was had by all: it is a great honor and privilege for a Graecus (Greek student) even to step up to the Hoplite Challenge Cup blackboard with chalk in hand and face off against the likes of Hardy, Bill, and Aramis. It's not winning or losing, it's playing the game that counts. For Greeks at least. If there were a similar contest in the Latin program, I think the loser might have to lie down in the middle of the room and submit to being run through with a sword by the winner, à la Turnus and Aeneas in the final lines of Vergil's Aeneid.

Here's some video of a round in which student Daniela Bartalini goes up against against faculty member Bill Pagonis. The student chooses the verb timaō (to honor). Apologies for the narrow image—this was taken with my iPhone. But I hope it gives you a feel for the excitement of the event.

Does all of this sound too good to be true? Tell your friends. Tell your students. Just think—You could be doing this next summer!

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.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Summer Latin Institute - DAY 27

Day 27 was yesterday, July 18, 2012.

Sections 7-12 of Cicero's First Oration Against Catiline in the morning, an optional review of genitive and dative noun syntax at lunch time, a few chapters of Sallust's Conspiracy of Catiline in the afternoon, along with a lecture on the Indo-European background of Latin, and an optional sight reading of some Caesar.

Now don't think I was teaching all of that stuff. I'd be in a coma right now if I had. No, the Latin Institute is a team-taught affair. I share teaching responsibilities with my two illustrious colleagues, Patrick Gaulthier and Akiva Saunders. The instructional day is divided into seven "hours" (ranging in actual length from 30 minutes to 80 minutes). Students and teachers move around the building throughout the day, with classes being held in five different rooms, both to meet our various instructional needs and to keep us from going stir crazy. So, as a student, you might be in one room on the third floor of the Graduate Center with Michael at 10:40, and in another room on the sixth floor with Patrick at 1:20, and so on.

Of course, the whole thing is possible because of the tireless efforts of Rita Fleischer, the Latin/Greek Institute administrator, and Laila Pedro, our fearless and tireless administrative assistant.

To remind us that the Romans were not the only players in classical antiquity, we share our program with the Summer Greek Institute students, and their incomparable faculty, Hardy Hansen, Bill Pagonis, and Aramis Lopez.

Right now, the Greeks are preparing for the Hoplite Challenge Cup, an annual Greek verb morphology bee in which a student team competes with a faculty team. Our own intrepid Patrick Gaulthier is serving as a judge (I love my Greek verb morphology, but I'm nowhere near ready to touch that particular opportunity for shame and humiliation this summer!).

Does all of this sound too good to be true? Tell your friends. Tell your students. Just think—You could be doing this next summer!

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.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Summer Latin Institute - DAY 26

Day 26 was yesterday, July 17, 2012.

I led the morning optional review of the previous night's homework. Akiva and Patrick led our students in two hours of morning drill, reading sections 1-6 of Cicero's First Oration Against Catiline. I led a lunchtime optional review of conditional sentences and independent uses of the subjunctive.

In the afternoon, Patrick led an hour of prose composition, and I led the prose survey hour. We were back to Cicero, but this time an excerpt from the Pro Caelio. Emphasis on Cicero's principles of elegance (elegantia), balance (concinnitas), and rhythm (numerus). Specifically, such rhetorical devices as personification (prosopopoeia), rhetorical questions, anaphora, asyndeton, tricolonic structure, and antithesis.

After the instructional day, students returned to their corners to begin work on sections 7-12 of Cicero's First Oration Against Catiline for the next morning, and an excerpt from Livy's Ab Urbe Condita for the afternoon.

Does all of this sound too good to be true? Tell your friends. Tell your students. Just think—You could be doing this next summer!

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.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Summer Latin Institute - DAY 25

Day 25 was yesterday, July 16, 2012.

First day of the second half of the program. The second half of the program, five weeks, is like the second year of college Latin. The first 10 days are like the first semester. The prose survey. Mornings: Cicero's first oration against Catiline for one week, Sallust's account of the Catilinarian conspiracy for another. In the afternoons, a prose survey (Ennius, Cato, Livy, Petronius).

Yesterday, Day 25, our students were reading all of their prose at sight, and doing an excellent job. After the instructional day, they broke up into groups, as usual, to start preparing the following day's assigned reading. We faculty members were in our offices to answer their questions, as usual. Questions were asked; answers were given. I find that sometimes what gets in a student's way is thinking that something is more complicated than it really is or more difficult than it needs to be. They know most of the answers. They just don't know they know, or cannot believe they already have the tools they need to build this house. But they do. They'll figure it out. They're a smart bunch.

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.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Advocating for Public Education in Indiana

Yes, I teach college and graduate students; but I care about all education, including K-12, and I am concerned about the pernicious education policies currently being pursued by the federal government and many state governments, including privatization, increased reliance on standardized tests, and use of standardized test scores to evaluate schools and teachers and to make decisions about who stays and who goes.  That's why I follow Diane Ravitch's blog, among others (see my links list).

On a recent post on Diane Ravitch's blog, I learned about a group of parents and educators in Northeast Indiana that has drafted a statement in opposition to the policies of Governor Mitch Daniels and State Superintendent Tony Bennett. The statement not only expresses opposition to these harmful policies; it also offers a platform advocating measures to save public education in the state of Indiana. Diane Ravitch recommends helping this statement go viral, as a recent anti-high-stakes testing resolution in Texas has gone viral. So I'm doing my part, here on Pedagogishness, to join with my friends, neighbors, and fellow educators to awaken the American public to support good education policies that strengthen our public schools and our democracy.

Summer Latin Institute - DAY 24

Day 24 was yesterday, July 13, 2012.

Our students took their grammar final (which in previous posts I called their midterm exam). This exam marks their successful completion of the first half of the course, which is equivalent to successfully completing their first year of Latin. Really. Truly. It's like they've studied two semesters of Latin in the past five weeks.

This weekend they are on the Latin Institute equivalent of intercession. Pure unadulterated vacation. No homework. No studying. Unless, of course, they want to take a peek at their vocabulary flashcards while they are lying on the beach, just to keep in shape. But it's not required. They can read a newspaper instead, or Vanity Fair, or Vogue, or The Onion. Or see a movie. Or watch T.V. Or just sleep. Some of them will probably just sleep.

These folks could walk into an intermediate Latin class at any college or university in the country, tomorrow, and know as much Latin as, or more Latin than, students who have been studying Latin since last September.

And in fact, they will walk into just such a class on Monday morning, at 9:30 a.m., when the second half of the course begins. Patrick Gaulthier will give them a one-hour lecture on Cicero, focusing on the genre of forensic oratory and the kinds of rhetorical devices that characterize such speech and writing. In the next hour, I will lead the class through the beginning of Cicero's first oration against Catiline, at sight. For the next five days, they will be preparing six chapters of the First Catilinarian for homework, and reading it in morning drill, the way they previously did with exercises from their intensive introductory text book.

All next week, lunchtime will be a systematic grammar review of major topics like noun syntax, subjunctives in subordinate clauses, and independent subjunctives. In the afternoon, we'll be doing some prose composition and a prose survey. Students have been writing two or three English-to-Latin sentences every night for homework since the beginning of the course, but now they will be imitating the style of Roman authors like Cicero and Sallust. In prose survey, they will be reading healthy chunks of Ennius, Cato, Livy, Petronius, and even some more Cicero. On Monday, their afternoon prose reading will be at sight; but for the remainder of the course, afternoon prose survey will be assigned reading, so students will have one assignment to prepare for morning drill, and another for afternoon survey.

After a couple of weeks, will will switch from prose survey to poetry. Mornings will be book four of Vergil's Aeneid (hence all the sentences in Moreland & Fleischer about queens, sailors, and fama [fame, reputation]). Afternoons will be a poetry survey.

In the final week, they will have an elective (choices this year will include Tacitus, Vergil, and Augustine).

Fun times, huh? Tell your friends. Tell your students. Think about it yourself. You could be doing this next summer!

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.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Summer Latin Institute - DAY 23

Day 23 was yesterday, July 12, 2012.

Our students surprised us, flying through their Caesar faster than we expected, getting through the passage planned for afternoon sight during morning drill!

It's amazing to watch not only their skills develop, but their enthusiasm heighten, and their insight become more penetrating. The structure and function of Latin is making more and more sense to them every day. Caesar and his strange pluperfect indicatives (and this happened prior to...what?), his relentless near and far demonstrative pronouns (these men, those men...which men is that, now?), his frequent ellipsis of the preposition "in" with ablatives of place, and so on.

Students were also surprised to find the content become more interesting and the narrative more exciting than it may at first have seemed, as they began reading about the Gauls' religious practices of human sacrifice, including the wicker men, large wicker statues filled with people who were burned alive (inspiring a 1973 cult classic British horror film and a schlocky 2006 remake with Nicolas Cage and Ellen Burstyn).

We were privileged to have a visit by Brooklyn College classics professor John Van Sickle, who not only observed our classes in action, but took a place at the seminar table for a few minutes to kibbitz with us, in his inimitable way, adding his own syntax questions to my own, listening to our students' responses with interest and engagement, and sharing with us his endless well of knowledge about etymology ("Druid" comes from "dru-," "tree" plus "wid-," "to know" [cf. Latin verbs like videō and English words like "wit"], therefore meaning "tree knowers"and related to the English word "witch").

Class ended a bit early, giving students perhaps an hour or two to relax before studying in earnest for their midterm exam on Friday. 

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.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Summer Latin Institute - DAY 22

Today was Day 22. The 18 instructional units of the beloved first-year Moreland and Fleischer text book rapidly receding light years behind us! Caesar's Gallic Wars charging over the horizon! Book 6, Chapter 12 in the morning; Book 6, Chapters 14, 15, and 16 in the afternoon. Chapters 17 and 18 tomorrow morning. One of the many virtues of Moreland and Fleischer is that it includes substantial unadapted passages of Caesar as part of the last two units, so students, whether at the Institute or in traditional classrooms nationwide and worldwide, can make the transition from text-book Latin to ancient Roman texts while enjoying the comforting presence of their familiar first-year text book in their own two hands.

Some grammar review in the afternoon. On Friday, Day 24, our students have their midterm exam. First thing Monday morning, Patrick Gaulthier delivers an introductory lecture on Cicero, and we dive into the first oration against Catiline. That keeps us busy for a few days. Then it's Sallust's Bellum Catalinae, with an emphasis on stylistic differences between Cicero and Sallust. Then our prose survey begins, with generous chunks of Ennius, Cato, Livy, Tacitus, Petronius, Saint Augustine, Einhard, and the medieval Gesta Romanorum. 

Our students are doing great. They don't even realize how much Latin they have learned or how proficient they are. I get the impression they feel like the proverbial rats on a wheel. But you should have seen and heard them tearing into Caesar today. Great work, guys!

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.

Summer Latin Institute - DAY 21

Day 21 was yesterday, July 10, 2012.

We reached Unit 18 of Moreland & Fleischer! The end of the text book. Our students have now successfully completed first-year Latin in five weeks. Staring on Day 22, it's off to the races with Caesar's Gallic Wars.

In the later afternoon, Patrick Gaulthier led our students in a reading and discussion of Catullus 11, a great companion piece to the poem I did with them the day before, Catullus 45. The sex and gender stuff going on in Catullus 11 is amazing. I'm going to have to write something about this poem. I was very pleased to see how enthusiastic our students were about it.

One final great treat before leaving Unit 18 behind us was having Rita Fleischer, text-book co-author and Latin/Greek Institute Administrator, come to our classroom and do a special, augmented Vocabulary Notes presentation. After running gracefully and effortlessly through the short vocabulary list at the end of Unit 18, Rita regaled our students with a presentation on Latin word formation, putting words on the blackboard that they had never seen before, and demonstrating to them that they can guess their meanings based on their current knowledge of verb, noun, and adjectival stems, and the suffixes that turn nouns into verbs, verbs in nouns, concrete words into abstract ones, etc. Her concluding message: You do not always need to run right to the dictionary to look up every unfamiliar word. You can figure it our for yourself, at least well enough to continue reading whatever passage you are reading. You can always go to the dictionary later to confirm what you already gathered and learn about the word's full range of meanings and usage. This was a great lesson for our students and they were able to put it to use immediately.

Well, quick post, but the more our students learn, the more real Latin prose and poetry I need to prep, so talk about off to the races...I'm right behind them!

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.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Summer Latin Institute - DAY 20

Day 20 was yesterday, Monday, July 9, 2012.

It's amazing to watch our students' abilities grow. They began their study of Latin a scant month ago. Now they are reading passages from Caesar, Cicero, Catullus, Vergil, epigrams of Martial, odes of Horace and, of course, sentences of varying complexity and trickiness in their exercises for homework. Sure, they make mistakes, they forget things they learned a week ago, they miss the obvious, they need reminders...but all in all, these folks have learned a lot of Latin, and it shows. And they keep learning more.

I had great fun teaching them Catullus 45 in the afternoon, the one about Acme and Septimius. This followed another stunning grammar lecture by my colleague Patrick Gaulthier.

OK, not a very dense post, but enough for now.

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.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Hot Latin for Guys & Guys: Catullus 99

Surripui tibi, dum ludis, mellite Iuventi,
     suaviolum dulci dulcius ambrosia.
verum id non impune tuli: namque amplius horam
     suffixum in summa me memini esse cruce,
dum tibi me purgo nec possum fletibus ullis
     tantillum vestrae demere saevitiae.
nam simul id factum est, multis diluta labella
     guttis abstersisti omnibus articulis,
ne quicquam nostro contractum ex ore maneret,
     tamquam commictae spurca saliva lupae.
praeterea infesto miserum me tradere amori
     non cessasti omnique excruciare modo,
ut mi ex ambrosia mutatum iam foret illud
     suaviolum tristi tristius elleboro.
quam quoniam poenam misero proponis amori,
     numquam iam posthac basia surripiam. 

I just found a very compelling translation by Julia Haig Gaisser from her 2012 book, Catullus, in the Blackwell Introductions to the Classical World series, and I am going to reproduce it here while I think about how to write a verse translation that is anywhere near as good as this prose rendering.
I stole from you while you were teasing, honey-sweet Juventius, a little kiss sweeter than sweet ambrosia. But I did not get away with it unpunished. For I remember being nailed to the top of a cross for more than an hour while I apologized to you and could not for all my tears diminish a bit of your fury. For as soon as it was done, you washed your lips with many splashings of water and wiped them off with your dainty fingers, in case any contagion from my mouth remain, like the filthy spittle of a pissed-on whore. Besides, you did not hesitate to hand me over, wretched, to cruel love and to torture me in every way, so that changed from ambrosia that little kiss was now more bitter to me than bitter hellebore. Since this is the penalty you hold over my wretched love, I'll never steal kisses anymore.
Working on my own verse translation; this is likely to change...

I stole while you played, Juventius honey,
     a little kiss sweeter than sweet ambrosia.
Nor did I go unpunished, but for over an hour
     I remember hanging nailed atop the cross
atoning for my sin, nor for all my tears
     could I diminish a bit of your rage,
but before your lips could dry you rinsed them clean,
     wiped them with the back of your hand,
lest any contagion from my mouth remain,
     like the filthy spit of a piss-soaked whore,
all the while making me sick with hateful love,
     subjecting me to every possible torture,
until that little kiss transformed from ambrosia
     to something more bitter than bitter hellebore.
And since you levy this fine on my wretched love,
     never anymore any more kisses shall I steal.

Why I Love This Poem
You might not be surprised to learn that I love this poem because of its queer/camp sensibility. Again, queer means it's messing around with normative constructions of sex, gender, and kinship. Camp means it uses incongruity, theatricality, and humor to embrace stigmatized identity, particularly stigmatized gender identity. (See other posts in the Hot Latin for Guys & Guys category for further elaboration on these notions of queer and camp.)

To me, this poem is one of the clearest examples of Catullus-as-queer-poet in a strikingly modern sense. He loves another man, and not in some me-Tarzan-you-Jane-its-not-gay-as-long-as-I-stay-on-top kind of way. Yes, Catullus is, presumably, big and hard and hairy, and Juventius is, presumably, little and soft and smooth. But Catullus is Juventius's sexual plaything. Juventius is scornful and contemptuous; Catullus is lovesick, humiliated, degraded, and devastated by rejection, nor for all that does he desire Juventius any the less. To paraphrase Anne Bancroft to Dustin Hoffman in The Graduate, "Now if this is not a queer poem in a completely modern sense, then I don't know what."

So what's the so-what factor in my love of this poem and poems much like it? Well, we queers have long been told that we delude ourselves if we think we see ourselves among the ancient Greeks and Romans. There was no homo/hetero binary in classical antiquity, only a dominant/submissive binary, according to which there is nothing "queer" about a manly man having sex with a girly man or boy, as long as the manly man stays on top. I don't think, however, that the literary and material facts bear out that argument in quite the form to which we are accustomed to seeing it. Sure, homo/hetero is a nineteenth-century idea; and sure, dom/sub is a fairly accurate way to describe ancient Greek and Roman sex and gender dynamics. But no, that does not mean that there is nothing queer about an ancient Roman man having sex with another ancient Roman man, or boy, or slave. And you wanna know why not? It's because, in context after context, in poems by Catullus, Martial, Juvenal, and others, we see the whole dom/sub dichotomy totally break down. It all goes flippity flip, and soft little sissy boys end up on top, while big hard manly men end up on the bottom. Much like they do every day, right here, right now, in New York, and San Francisco, and Paris, London, Rome, Athens, and Tel Aviv, and Johannesburg, and Sophia, Bulgaria.

Summer Latin Institute - DAY 19

Day 19 was yesterday, July 6, 2012.

Morning drill was fun...some nice chunks of slightly adapted Cicero on old age (De Senectute).

Afternoon sight was fun, too. We did Propertius 2.11, in which Propertius is really mean to Cynthia. Don't tell anyone, but I snuck some renegade Martial in, too. When I did sight on Day 18, there was not enough material in the text to fill the time, so I scribbled Epigrams 9.63 on the board, and the kids loved it. We got to talking about how Phoebus made a living as a sex worker, and I told them there was another poem indicating that he did quite well for himself. So we looked at that one yesterday, Epigrams 1.58.

I understand perfectly well why poems like these were not included in the curriculum when the program debuted 40 summers ago, but I think their time has come. I realize that introducing new material into the curriculum formally needs to be done very deliberately and by faculty consensus; but in this instance I feel like I was just sending up a couple of trial balloons with a small number of students with whom I have a very good rapport. They really enjoyed the poems. They're not only raunchy; they also introduce a lot of important social history regarding sex and gender dynamics and aspects of ancient socioeconomic reality that might otherwise go unaddressed.

Anyway...afternoon lecture was another stunning performance by my colleague, Patrick Gaulthier. He is a simply excellent Latin grammar teacher. Our students learned about all sorts of impersonal verbs, including verbs of emotional distress and verbs of necessity and propriety, and what constructions they take. Then Akiva Saunders led them them through Catullus 3, in which Lesbia's sparrow dies. I did a quick romp through Vocabulary Notes, and we were off to the weekend.

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.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Summer Latin Institute - DAY 18

Day 18 was yesterday, July 5, 2012.

Back from a one-day Independence Day holiday.

I was "on" for both hours of morning drill, optional lunchtime sight reading, and afternoon poetry. We read Catullus 5 and 7, two of the most iconic poems in all of Latin literature, IMHO.

Grammar wise, it was a day for cum clauses, other ways of saying "when, since, although" with either indicative or subjunctive, clauses of proviso, and the accusative of exclamation (ō tempora, ō mōrēs!).

I had a great Fourth of July holiday. Went for my run. Ended my run at my favorite local cafe for an iced Americano and toasted sesame bagel with cream cheese. Had a relatively quiet and relaxing day. Visited a couple of new wine and liquor stores in my Bedford Stuyvesant neighborhood on Franklin Avenue and Bedford Avenue. Noted that a few new bars and restaurants are on the way. It's pretty awesome. The neighborhood is finally becoming what we (Jason and I) always wanted it to be. Home and commercial construction has picked up its pace, too. It feels like the East Village around 1990. Of course, I moved to the East Village back then, but I was a bit late in arriving and did not really belong in that ambiance at that time. Now, I feel like I am in exactly the right place at exactly the right time. I'm happy.

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.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Summer Latin Institute - DAY 17

Day 17 was yesterday, July 3, 2012.

I taught the 8:30 a.m. optional, which is a time for students to ask specific questions about specific sentences they read and translated for homework. Their assignment for yesterday included a sizable chunk of lightly adapted Caesar talking about the druids.

The teacher who does the 8:30 a.m. optional generally grades the daily quiz, which I did. This was the first of four quizzes that I wrote (faculty members rotate the writing of quizzes on a weekly basis). The main focus of the quiz was indefinite pronouns (aliquis, quis, quisquam, quisque) as well as dative with intransitive verbs (placeō, parcō, etc.) and dative with compounds (praesum, praeferō, praeficiō, etc.). I was surprised by the number of students who got my present contrary-to-fact conditional sentence wrong: how quickly they forget! Conditional sentences are Unit 2; we are up to Unit 14. Be that as it may, they cannot forget their basics, so we need to keep asking them syntax questions to remind them of all their grammar, all the time. Welcome to the Institute.

My colleague Patrick Gaulthier did another masterful job with a complicated afternoon grammar lecture, this time covering result clauses, substantive result clauses, relative clauses of characteristic, relative clauses of result, relative clauses of purpose, purpose clauses introduced by adverbs, and, oh yes, indirect reflexives. I learn a lot every time I watch Patrick give a grammar lecture. He's really good at this.

In the second hour of the afternoon session, my colleague Akiva Saunders led the students in reading and translating Catullus 12, the one about the stolen napkin. It's a somewhat mystifying poem about which I had not thought very much before, but about which I want to think more now. I'm sure Catullus is talking smack about Asinius' brother Pollio (he's a "boy," he's "full of charm and wit," and he would gladly requite his brother's pilferies for a sum; in my world, that amounts to calling Pollio a poof), and threatening to talk more smack (to the tune of 300 hendecasyllables) unless Asinius returns the pilfered napkin. But nobody else seems to read it that way. That's okay; I'm accustomed to my queer/camp readings of Roman texts being novel and meeting stiff resistance (as it were), which is in part what makes performing these readings worth my while. But I need to figure out how to make a persuasive case for my reading.

I did vocabulary notes, a short session at the end of the instructional day where we read through the night's vocabulary word by word and make sure the students say the principal parts of all the new verbs. It's also an opportunity to call attention to any potential pitfalls (intendō and ostendō have perfect active stems that are identical to their present stems, so confusion is possible in some forms, such as intendit and ostendit) as well as to interesting bits of etymology and derivation (we get the English words senate and senator from the Latin noun senex, "old man," by way of the Latin nouns senatus, "council of elders," and senator, "member of the council of elders").

Finally, the instructional day was over, and we were on the brink of our July 4th holiday. Some students stayed at the Graduate Center, as they do every weekday, working through their homework sentences as a group, occasionally coming into our offices to ask us questions.

At about 6:16 p.m., I left to go to Bryant Park, where my husband, Jason Schneiderman, was reading in the Word for Word poetry series. After the reading we joined the series host and the other readers for dinner at the Bryant Park Grill. Of course, I thought about the days in the early-to-mid 1980s when I studied at the Summer Latin/Greek Institute at it's old home across the street from Bryant Park (the building that now houses the SUNY College of Optometry). As full of drug dealing and other miscreancy as it was, it was nice having a park to stroll in during lunch breaks. Now, at the Graduate Center housed in the old B. Altman's building, there's not much around beyond your choice of three Starbucks. 

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.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Summer Latin Institute - DAY 16

DAY 16 was yesterday, July 2, 2012.

On Sunday, July 1, I led the optional Sunday exam review from 2-4 p.m.

Yesterday, our students took their third exam from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

After lunch, I taught Unit 13: Indefinite pronouns and adjectives; dative with intransitive verbs; dative with compounds; fīō; and the numerical adjective duo, duae, duo.

After the grammar lecture, my colleague Patrick taught two Catullus poems, Poems 8 (Quem basiabis?) and 85 (Odi et amo).

Regular readers will note that I did not post blogs about the weekend this past weekend. That reflects the extent to which the program is becoming more routine for me, and my weekends are becoming more about myself, my husband, my home, my regular, non-Institute life. Jason and I had a great weekend, seeing Shakespeare in the Park (As You Like It) on Friday night, doing all sorts of brunch and crosswords and window shopping (Ikea) and actual shopping (Fairway) on Saturday. Jason went to karate class on Sunday and worked on his dissertation at the Graduate Center, while I covered the optional exam review. In the evening, we ordered in pizza from the local gourmet pizza joint, Nice (that's "Nice," the French town, not "nice," the English adjective).

And of course, as some of you may be aware, I started my new feature on Pedagogishness, Hot Latin for Guys and Guys.

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.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Notes Toward A Post-academic Humanism, 2

Thinking more about my humanities manifesto-in-progress. Article in the NY Times about how small farmers are creating a new business model for local agriculture. Makes me wonder: as the American small farmer goes, so goes the American non-academic humanist?

Take the names of great institutions of the arts in New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art; Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts; Brooklyn Academy of Music. What if we re-imagine these: The Metropolitan Museum of the Humanities; Lincoln Center for the Humanities; Brooklyn Academy of the Humanities.

What would that mean? What would these institutions do?

Imagine a Brooklyn Academy of the Humanities. An organization that supports humanists in their research and writing about language, literature, art, architecture, music, theater, history, religion, etc. But no teaching. An organization that publishes books and journals, sponsors exhibits, stages performances, and offers public lectures. But no teaching. To a degree, it overlaps with what the Brooklyn Academy of Music already does. And the Metropolitan Museum of the Humanities and the Lincoln Center for the Humanities would overlap with what the existing Met and the existing Lincoln Center do. But no teaching.

Why do I hate teaching so much?

I don't. I love teaching, in fact. But what, if any, is the natural and inevitable connection between research and teaching? The modern research university in the United States began with Johns Hopkins in 1876. It has not existed from time immemorial. And there is no reason it must have a monopoly on the humanistic enterprise in perpetuity, especially when a case can be made that it has not done such a hot job with the humanistic enterprise for the past century and a half.

As per usual when my addled mind drifts back to this manifesto-in-progress, I'm not sure where I'm going with this. But I keep having these thoughts...and here is where they get parked...

Help shape my thoughts, anyone?

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Hot Latin for Guys & Guys: Juvenal 6.33-37

aut sī dē multīs nūllus placet exitus, illud
nōnne putās melius, quod tēcum pūsio dormit?
pūsio, quī noctū nōn lītigat, exigit ā tē
nūlla iacēns illic mūnuscula, nec queritur quod
et laterī parcās nec quantum iussit anhēlēs.

Of the many ways out of marriage, if none pleases you,
don't you think it is better to sleep with a boy?
A boy, who at night does not argue, does not lie there
demanding little gifts,  and does not complain
that you slack off or don't pant on command.

Pusio dormit - "He sleeps with a boy," especially a pretty young boy, a twink
Pusio non dormit - "He doesn't sleep with a boy," that is, he's not into younger guys

Noctu litigat -  "He argues at night," he's difficult, argumentative (cf. English "litigate, litigious")
Noctu non litigat -  "He doesn't argue at night," he's easy, he lets his man do whatever he wants

Exigit munuscula - "He demands little gifts," he's sexually demanding or a pushy bottom

Queritur - "He complains," he's high maintenance
Non queritur - "He doesn't complain," he's low maintenance

Lateri parcas - "You slack off," sort of like "You spare the rod; you're all meat, no motion."
Lateri non parcas - "You don't slack off," you give it all you've got, you really put your hips into it

Quantum iussit anheles - "You pant as much as he orders," you're very verbal, you moan a lot in bed

Why I Love This Passage

As with most of the passages (complete poems or excerpts) that I will feature in Hot Latin for Guys and Guys, I love this passage because of its queer sensibility, which I also call a camp sensibility.

What do I mean by "queer"? I can answer that on different levels. It's about same-sex desire. It resists heteronormative conceptions of sex, gender, and kinship. To borrow Esther Newton's terminology for analyzing camp drag performance, it uses incongruity (as a subject matter), theatricality (as a style), and humor (as a strategy) to embrace stigmatized identity.

Now, there is a dark underbelly to the "fun and artifice and elegance" (to quote Christopher Isherwood on camp) in this brief passage; namely, the reputation for misogyny that has accrued to Juvenal's sixth satire for hundreds of years. On the surface, Juvenal 6 seems to be a virulent screed against women and marriage. But camp employs a rhetorical strategy that translation theorist Keith Harvey has called ambivalent solidarity: feigning adherence to moral principles that the camp speaker in fact rejects, principles that are in fact the very opposite of what he actually believes. As Maria Plaza has argued (in her book, The Function of Humour in Roman Verse Satire: Laughing and Lying, although the title and the subtitle really should have been reversed), the misogyny of Juvenal 6 completely falls apart—the misogynistic speaker's fear and hatred ultimately subvert and undermine his attack, so that he is left demonstrating not the inferiority of women, but rather the inferiority of men.

Plaza seems to think, if I read her correctly, that this subversion is a function of the satirist's humor getting the better of him; that is, the poem ends up saying something opposite to what the historical Juvenal intended. But while I revel in Plaza's point-by-point analysis, I come to a completely different conclusion: the subversion of misogyny is precisely what Juvenal intended, because his sixth satire is a camp text. Of course, in the long wake of Wimsatt and Beardsley, we are not supposed to pay any attention to authorial intention. And indeed, authorial intention does not really matter to my camp interpretation of this or any other text. But the fact is, I think we need to revisit the intentional fallacy, because nobody ever picked up a pen or sat down in front of a computer keyboard without having an intention.

Other objections to my reading of this passage have to do with debates among classicists and historians of sexuality about categories like queerness, masculinity, and stigma. The standard line is that the speaker of this poem is not a stigmatized figure, because he is a masculine, sexually dominant man talking about sex with a feminized, sexually submissive boy. But, once again, as you may have seen me argue elsewhere, I have a one-word response to this claim: Really?!?

That is to say, sure, the speaker would appear to be masculine and sexually dominant, while the boy (who is only hypothetical, I should probably hasten to add) appears to be feminine and sexually submissive. But the operative and very crucial word here is appears. As Antonin Scalia once said from the bench of the Supreme Court, acknowledging a constitutional right to commit sodomy opens the door to all sorts of madness, including gays in the military and same-sex marriage. And so it did (Google Lawrence v. Texas if you want to know more). Similarly, and by the laws of camp duplicity, Juvenal's conservative-looking scenario in this passage, where an older man is sexually dominant and a younger boy is sexually submissive, opens the imaginary door to all sorts of madness, like sissy boys on top and manly men on the bottom, not to mention gays in the military and same-sex marriage.

Trot Gloss, Vocab, and Commentary to come...

Trotting Glossary

NOTE: I've yanked some words out of their original order and put them together into meaningful groups, since the objective of this trotting glossary is to help you see how the Latin works.

aut, or
sī, if
dē multīs, from among the many (understand "suggested ways out of marriage")
nūllus exitus, no exit
placet, pleases (you)
nōnne putās, don't you think?
illud melius, that (i.e., the following course of action; understand "would be") better
quod, (namely) the fact that