Category: Education

laudamus veteres, sed nostris utimur annis

North Higgins Lake State Park

At last, 2020 disappears in our rear-view mirror. In the rush to January and in the quiet of the woods, I forgot to post a couple new reviews for the Latinists, one in Gnomon and another in Commonweal.

At Commonweal, I praise Nicola Gardini’s Long Live Latin, an “unapologetic paean to Latin literary craft,” for its “undiluted accounts of linguistic novelty in Propertius and branching syntax in Livy” and its rich treatments of a dozen other Latin authors. I’m especially interested in Gardini’s intended readership of “young students,” who would seem under-prepared for his wrought and learned prose—but I interpret this orientation as a feature, not a bug:

The positioning of Latin among other emblems of high culture is likely to resurrect the charge of snobbery or even classism—the charge that for Gardini, Latin is a subject championed by, and reserved for, the well-to-do. But the explicit targeting of a young readership might be the best defense against such accusations. Where I grew up, for instance, there are no Latin teachers and no literature professors, and Gardini’s overtly intellectual chapters often made me think what a revelation this book would have been to me if I had read it as a teenager. In that sense, Long Live Latin may be suited less for the young person at the posh prep school in New York or New England. Classics and other humanistic disciplines continue to grapple with their inaccessibility to those outside these topmost echelons of privilege, and in the spirit of the book’s intended readership, I wish it were vigorously marketed to a broader, younger audience.

Read more on Julius Caesar’s theory of analogy and Tertullian’s penchant for “paradox and oxymoron” at Commonweal.

At Gnomon, I recommend Eleanor Dickey’s Stories of Daily Life as a potent and accessible entry point for understanding non-literary dimensions of the ancient world. Dickey “packs into one slim volume quotidian but illustrative stories that show modern students many aspects of life in antiquity—banking, dining, schooling—aspects which can be difficult to excavate from some of the more literary sources students might encounter in secondary school or early university-level courses.” The review text is behind a paywall, but you can read the rest at Gnomon through your institutional library.

opinionization and the hybrid classroom

I was so glad to have an opportunity to write a review of Zena Hitz’s insightful and often lyrical book Lost in Thought for Commonweal (also featured today at Arts & Letters Daily). A member of the faculty at St. John’s College, Hitz offers a plausible diagnosis of some anti-intellectual trends in American higher education, but her book is especially fascinating to read as a precaution against some of the pandemic-related pitfalls awaiting our classrooms this fall. Chiefly, she worries about “opinionization,” a phenomenon she defines as “the reduction of thinking and perception to simple slogans or prefabricated positions,” and I suggest that the scalability of our universities’ technological adaptations will catalyze such adulterated intellectualism:

This kind of mental necrosis has its own underlying causes: like our worst politicians, it’s a symptom more than the disease itself. For Hitz, genuine intellectual work depends upon intimate settings, forthright conversation, and modest-sized “communion.” Thoughtless opinionization, by contrast, stems from our “system of higher education [where] person-to-person teaching belongs only to a handful of liberal arts colleges and to elite doctoral programs.” Hitz, whose background is in ancient philosophy, perhaps takes inspiration here from the observation, in Aristotle’s Rhetoric, that a small-scale setting like a courtroom or seminar table is a precondition for nuanced inquiry. Lecture-hall ostentation—domain of the pundit and the PowerPoint presentation—might make for an entertaining spectacle, but it’s antithetical to real intellectual activity.

Visit Commonweal to read the rest of the review.

Open-Access TLL PDFs and Diogenes

Although De Gruyter has long offered an electronic, searchable version of the Thesaurus Linguae Latinae, access to this lexicographical database requires an institutional/library subscription (not to mention a speedy network connection). It was exciting news, then, earlier this year when the TLL offices at the Bayerische Akademie made freely available PDFs of most of their published volumes for offline access.

Downloading all these files will take up a few gigabytes of your local storage, and these open access PDFs contain uncorrected OCR text — the search function on your PDF reader might not accurately find something you’re searching for. Despite those caveats, however, it’s still worth your time to have these files on hand, especially now that the PDFs have been integrated into the latest version of Diogenes, the popular text database software for research in classical philology. (Thanks to Durham University for this great tool!) It’s worth upgrading your installation of Diogenes to the new version, released just this fall, which can automatically download all the TLL PDFs from the Bayerische Akademie website and which allows you to reference those PDFs while you browse through the PHI Latin texts.

Once you’ve installed Diogenes, you can use a handy shortcut in the menu to download all the PDFs from the TLL‘s website:

You’ll be asked for a download location, and even if you move your files around, you can always manually point Diogenes to the PDFs by clicking on Database Locations in the same menu above. For the database files of the PHI and TLG, you’ll need to ask the librarian or other specialist at your institution for access.

(Side note: You might notice that the new version of Diogenes uses Gentium, which is a great free font that correctly renders all sorts of Greek diacritical marks! It’s one of my favorites.)

When you’re browsing the texts of the PHI, you can click any word, which will bring up the dictionary entry from Lewis and Short, just like older versions of Diogenes. In the new version, however, you’ll notice a new link for the related entry in the TLL:

Assuming all goes well, clicking that link should automatically open page 102 of the PDF containing the entry for declamator: TLL vol. V 1, 180, 61. (For an explanation of the TLL‘s citation format, see this helpful FAQ).

Since the open-access PDFs of the TLL might contain some OCR errors from scanning the pages, it’s probably best to consult the hard copy or De Gruyter database version of the Thesaurus, but the convenience of the Diogenes links is a dream. Big thanks for the Diogenes developers, and happy searching!