Start a New Chapter in Latin: Resources

By Gilmore, John T. | Times Educational Supplement, February 10, 2012 | Go to article overview

Start a New Chapter in Latin: Resources


Gilmore, John T., Times Educational Supplement


John T. Gilmore explores the scope of the language and what it can bring to the classroom.

Alone on his island, Robinson Crusoe decided to put up a sign to attract the attention of any passing ship. He spent two paragraphs debating with himself which language to use: if he wrote in French or English, those on board a German, Spanish or Portuguese vessel might not understand and would sail on. On the other hand, Latin was known all over Europe and he might hope that on a ship of any nationality there would be someone who would know what he meant when he inscribed the words Ferte opem misero Robinsoni ("Help the unfortunate Robinson").

This story is not in Daniel Defoe's 1719 novel; it comes from Robinson Crusoeus, a Latin adaptation by a French schoolmaster called Francois Goffaux, first published in Paris in 1810, with nearly a dozen further editions appearing in France, Britain and North America over the next 120 years. The anecdote itself, and the publishing history of Goffaux's work, help to show how Latin retained its practical and cultural importance for much longer than we might think and offer a glimpse of the sometimes surprising extent of post-classical Latin.

The teaching of Latin has undergone something of a revival in the past 15 or 20 years. Bloomsbury has even published Harry Potter books in Latin: Harrius Potter et Philosophi Lapis was released in 2003, followed by Harrius Potter et Camera Secretorum in 2007. Both were translated by Peter Needham.

But the emphasis is nearly always on the Latin of classical antiquity. This is, to a significant extent, driven by the demands of examination syllabuses: at both GCSE and A level, OCR set texts are drawn from classical authors such as Caesar, Tacitus, Virgil and Ovid. As a result, it is possible to study Latin at school without being aware of any author later than about the 2nd or 3rd century AD. There is a certain logic to this, as classical Latin is the foundation of all later Latin. As Keith Sidwell says in the preface to his Reading Medieval Latin: "It cannot be stated strongly enough that Latin is Latin. It retained its identity throughout the period when it was the main medium for the transmission of intellectual culture."

Nevertheless, the majority of surviving Latin literary works date from after the classical period. The history, literature and culture of Western Europe for a millennium and a half after the fall of the Roman Empire cannot be properly understood without reference to what was written in Latin.

This is not the case only for the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, for well into the 18th and 19th centuries significant works in the humanities and sciences continued to be produced in Latin in order to ensure the widest possible readership. An obvious example would be Isaac Newton's Principia. Less widely known is the way in which many texts from Asian literatures first became known in Europe through Latin versions, such as the first complete Western translation of the Confucian Book of Odes by the 18th-century French Jesuit Alexandre Lacharme, which was posthumously published in 1830 and was still being used as a crib by Ezra Pound in the early 20th century. Although it was not the first Western version of the Bhagavad Gita, the Latin translation (1823) by August Wilhelm Schlegel was particularly influential.

Medieval and Renaissance Latin are taught on a number of university courses, but some of this material could usefully be used in schools as well. Goffaux reminds us that, for a very long time, Latin in schools involved the study of modern as well as classical texts. One consequence was that in the 18th century, most English readers had little knowledge of literature in Italian, but many were familiar with the Italian Renaissance poets who wrote in Latin and a work like Vida's Scacchia Ludus (the Game of Chess) was used as a school textbook. It had several merits: it was written in hexameters, which would bear comparison with Virgil; it was free of embarrassing descriptions of sexual passion of the kind found in something like the story of Dido and Aeneas; its mock-heroic tone was often genuinely humorous; and it was relatively short - not as long as the Aeneid. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Start a New Chapter in Latin: Resources
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.