Introducing the Latin Reading Club!

Cato

Consularis

  • Consularis

In the hope of generating some fun and interesting Latin discussion, I've decided to start the Latin Reading Club. My hope is that everyone from beginner to advanced will enjoy discussing some readings in Latin.

The Latin Reading Club will be a weekly thread where a selection from a Classical/Mediaeval/Christian Latin author is discussed. I'm a firm believer that everyone--novice to expert--can benefit from seeing how Latin was used by the masters of the language; it is the difference between reading a book on sailing and experiencing the thrill of braving the waves. Fortunately with Latin you're not in danger of breaking your neck if you get it wrong :)

However, I'm aware that not everyone has the Latin expertise to easily read literary selections, and I truly want beginners to feel at ease participating. So here's how I plan to present the club:

* The thread will start with the selection itself and will include links to (if available) the Perseus Project text at Tufts university. This on-line collection is hyperlinked for vocabulary; if you see an unfamiliar word, you can click on it and get a quick definition along with possible declension/conjugation forms. It's an extremely useful resource for intermediate students.

* In addition, a link to a good (read: faithful) online English translation of the text will be available. Some may think this defeats the purpose of reading in Latin, but I strongly disagree. Students should always test their abilities, but the frustration that comes from "getting lost" in a particular passage is too high a price to pay for failure, especially since (1) the goal is to gain an appreciation for the literary qualities of the language, and (2) it may frustrate the student to the point that they turn away from the subject altogether.

The approach would allow advanced students to read the text directly along with very limited notes for unusual vocabulary. At the risk of sounding pompous, my rule of thumb is that if I don't know the word immediately (or--gad--have to look it up) I include it in notes at the end (unless the unusual word could be inferred from obvious cognates). Intermediate students might find the Perseus linked text more useful, and even here I'll include a minimum of grammatical notes to illustrate unusual constructions or stimulate thought on how the grammar worked. Finally, beginners would lean heavily on the English translation, perhaps merely pairing it directly with words in the Latin text; they wouldn't be translating the selection, but they'd at least have a good chance to understand what was going on.

My hope is that the ensuing discussion would center on the literary topics the text presents. To encourage posting ideas, I'll also include some discussion questions--more as a starting point rather than a quiz--concealing as much as possible my own thoughts about the selection. Of course, comments about unusual points of grammar, ambiguity in the text, or the derivation of odd vocabulary would be welcome, but I'd like to stay away from turning the thread into a translation exercise.

Why am I doing this? My chief complaint about the teaching of Latin is that it is treated as a puzzle even at very late stages in the student's development. Given the typical classroom exposition, students can be forgiven for wondering how anyone could have ever spoken Latin as a living, breathing tongue. My hope is that a casual discussion--in which a broad range of expertise can listen and participate--will overcome this experience, and prove to be enlightening for all levels of classicists.

Look for the first selection this Friday; I think just to get the idea started, I'll choose something short and self-contained from the Aeneid. Also, if this idea gains enough traction, I'd welcome other experts to present one of the weekly threads, letting the board have-at one of your own favorite
pieces.

Please feel free to send me a direct message if you have any other suggestions; as I said, look for this to start on Friday. Ut Quintilianus rhetor scripsit, "Paucos enim vel potius vix ullum ex iis (auctoribus) qui vetustatem pertulerunt existimo posse reperiri quin iudicium adhibentibus allaturus sit utilitatis aliquid." ("I think there are but a few--or more likely scarcely any--of these (authors) who have survived for a long time that can be found who will not contribute something useful to those who study.") Gratias tibi ago.
 
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Anonymous

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Thank you for starting this. I've been looking for something like this for a while and am glad I received your email announcing the creation of the reading group. When I read your op, I visited the Perseus Project site but kept getting a server error every time I tried to bring up text such as the one you mentioned, so I'm also looking forward to that.

How long do you intend your reading selections to be more or less?

Anyway, thanks again for setting this up!
 

Cato

Consularis

  • Consularis

mike duron dixit:
Thank you for starting this. I've been looking for something like this for a while and am glad I received your email announcing the creation of the reading group. When I read your op, I visited the Perseus Project site but kept getting a server error every time I tried to bring up text such as the one you mentioned, so I'm also looking forward to that.
I appreciate the positive feedback. Perseus has been acting up a bit lately. There is a mirror site in Berlin, which I would probably include as well as the US site.
How long do you intend your reading selections to be more or less?
We're going to start with something small--probably under 200 words--just to get the concept going. I'm all for increasing this if the response to the thread warrants it.

Please look for the first selection early Friday morning (I live in Chicago, so may be afternoon for posters in Europe). I've made a decision to stay off the thread for at least a day, just to see where things are going. Please feel free to participate, thx:)
 
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