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.

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