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.

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