Posted by Dennis » 6 Comments »
In some ways I very much agree with the last part of this, even if I can’t make the same claim for my appreciation of Catullus or my command of Latin:
My Latin wasn’t ever much good, so that I have never enjoyed Catullus. I suppose that means that I have never justified the time I spent trying to learn the beastly language? There seem to be ten good Greek books to every Latin one.
–T.E. Lawrence, Letter 550 to C. Day Lewis, 20 December 1934
More can be learned about his background in Latin and his feelings regarding its value and teaching can be gleaned from a letter of 12 September 1912, no. 57, to a Mrs. Rieder on the education of a certain boy:
I was reading (chiefly police news) at four, and learning Latin at 5, and at 17 I was no more forward than the rest of the school, beginning Latin only at 8 1/2. And the most brillisiant people the early forms (except one) all dropped out of sight before they reached the Sixth: and then, after that in the University, it doesn’t make an atom of difference if one is 22 or 19; ….
. . .
And don’t bother about Latin. I take it Noel is more likely to be Modern than Classical in his tastes, and if one doesn’t want to write Latin verse, and knows French, one can read the Latin one needs in a six-month, and other than that he will only have to write Latin prose, which a mechanical stupidity, ground out of a Grammar and Dictionary, and to be handled at will. If he reaches 10 (an extreme age, probably) without Latin, he will merely be set to occupy his French hours in the older language. And a school is such a slow business that a little special training will overtake its standard in no time. Latin is a very important thing: but there are lots of Latin languages, and if he knows one it will make his way very easy for the rest, (e.g. I can read Italian prose, & even poetry not incorrectly: never having learnt them).
Again, I find myself agreeing with some of what he says, about the futility of much of Latin training, of the slowness of schools, etc. Any thoughts from readers on a more minute level? I do find it funny that 10 should seems an extreme age to begin Latin, when we typically begin today at 14-18.
Posted by Eric » Add Comment »
I’ve been reading the second volume of R. Pfeiffer’s History of Classical Scholarship (which covers 1300-1850) and thought this was interesting (in his discussion of the significance of Petrarch):
We have often been told that humanism arose from the social and political conditions of the consolidated new Italian city states; and it is true that these conditions became more and more favourable to the development and diffusion of Petrarch’s ideas. These ideas, however, originated from his own mind; they did not spring from the spirit of society of his time of which he always spoke with contempt (‘mihi semper aetas ista displicuit’). It was because his studies of antiquity were shortly afterwards termed ‘studia humanitatis’ by the leading members of the Florentine circle that the critical scholarship which he recreated became amalgamated with the concept of humanitas for the whole future, as did no other branch of scholarhip. This union, as we shall see, involved many problems in the course of time; it was due, as we have tried to explain, to the personal impulse of an original poetical genius.
(History of Classical Scholarship, vol. 2, p. 16)
Posted by Dennis » Add Comment »
Freedom from the grind of tap dancing for teenagers and finding some way to make them care about Latin. Time to fix the blog, which had somehow gotten buggy, wasn’t displaying properly, and needed some doctoring on a php file (whatever that is.) Time to read books for pleasure, play video games for nostalgia, get married.
Oh, man … that’s only about a month away.
But even with the wedding (and receptions on two coasts) I’ve got lots to read and plan, both for myself and for the next school year.
For AP Latin: Vergil next year, I’m asking all students to read both Stanley Lombardo’s The Essential Homer and his Aeneid. He’s thoroughly readable, lively, and inexpensive. Parents will surely appreciate the last. My Latin III students will have to pick up their own copies of Wheelock and do a bit to stay fresh over the summer, but I’m still debating the course content. Last year I had envisioned centering Latin III on the Republic (focusing on the Late Republic) and Latin IV on the Empire (focusing on the Principate), but I’m having a great deal of difficulty with finding authors and suitable texts. Any advice would be appreciated.
I’ll be bringing a ton of paperback translations to school in the Fall, each of which I paid no more than 50 cents for, and will assign ‘enrichment’ papers/presentations to the students in Latin III. Each students will read and report on a different piece of classical literature in translation, and we’ll use that as the basis for learning a lot about literature and culture that we otherwise couldn’t fit as neatly into the curriculum. In Latin IV everyone will read Charles Martin’s translation of Ovid’s http://www.amazon.com/Metamorphoses-New-Translation-Charles-Martin/dp/039332642X/, which I’m really looking forward to.
Oddly, though, June has been cold so far. So much for global warming, eh? I guess that’s why they changed it to ‘climate change.’