Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Latin Choices

Page from a 15th-century manuscript of Augustine's City of God

As this summer's Latin class surges towards its completion, we're once again reaching the point in the curriculum where I need to start coming up with some things for them to read. I do not believe that students should escape Latin 102 without reading at least some unedited ancient works, warts and all. Interestingly, and encouragingly, I've actually had some requests for things to read this year, in addition to my usual choices. So, what are they going to get? Well...

  • Catullus 3. A yearly tradition! I send them away for a couple of weeks to come up with a really nice translation of this poem, in consultation, if they wish, with other scholarship on it.

  • An excerpt from Tacitus' Agricola. Of the "big guns," there's probably not a tougher Latin prose author than Tacitus, so if they can handle him, they can handle anything. I generally roll out some part of the speech of Calgacus before the Battle of Mons Graupius (in addition to being fairly translatable, for Tacitus, it's really good).

  • Something, still undetermined, from St. Augustine. This was actually one of the requests that I had this year, from the philosophy student who's working on Augustine. I still haven't decided what I'm going to give them; something from City of God is tempting, since it's full of fun bits of Roman history and mythology. However, Augustine does not take a postitive view of Roman history and mythology (Paraphrase from Book 2: "So Sallust thought that 'the good and right' in Rome derived from the character of the inhabitants rather than from legal coercion? Excellent! Let's discuss how the rape of the Sabine women fits into that notion."), and the above-mentioned speech of Calgacus probably fills this course's Rome-bashing quota. So perhaps I will go back to The Confessions, and find something there.

  • I've also had a student ask to learn how to scan Latin poetry! I have never before taught that, so I'm working now at getting myself back up to speed on the topic. I'll at least get them introduced to the notion, and walk them through a couple of the more common forms of Latin poetry. I'm leaning towards elegaic couplets, which will also serve to show them how to scan a line of dactylic hexameter, and the from generally known as Phalaecean Hendecasyllabic (hello, Catullus 3!), which sounds horrible but is actually really easy to work with.

Given time constraints, I doubt we'll be able to do any more than that and still cover the required grammar. However, it should enough to get them thinking about how to do translations (and scan poetry), and that's more or less the point!


Chorus said...

There's always Cattus Petasatus in a pinch!

Chunklets said...

Indeed there is! Unfortunately, I've already used it... (there are sections in there which are useful when studying participles). The students did seem to get a kick out of it, though!

Chorus said...

And I suppose it doesn't really qualify as an "unedited ancient work[]," sadly.


Chunklets said...

True enough! Although, had Dr. Seuss been writing in Latin in ancient Rome, he probably would have come up with something quite similar! I don't know if you've read the appendix at the end, where the translators explain how they went about the project, but it really is an amazing piece of translation. They based it on a medieval "Stabat Mater," if I recall correctly.