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.