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well... it's certainly been a circuitous homecoming!

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well... it's certainly been a circuitous homecoming!

Postby thalassophile » Thu Apr 23, 2015 4:33 pm

Greetings everyone. My story is a little weird so bear with me.

I was a cryptologic linguist in the Navy years upon years ago (the 90s); while on board the ship, after I'd knocked off from duty, I'd read what I then referred to as "long nonfiction books about history" -- I started with books like the Penguin translations of Herodotus, then read Moses Finley's survey of Greek literature, which sent me to Xenophon, at which point I realised I hadn't *really* read Homer and Hesiod. By the end of my tour I had read a pretty nice shelf of Penguin and Oxford editions.

I decided to get out and major in Classics, so in 2000 I matriculated at Rice University as a classics undergraduate, learning basic Greek and Latin. My Greek reached its apex at what could respectably be called the third-year, and dubiously the fourth-year, level, while I was studying abroad in England at Durham University. My professors told me about the doleful state of things in Classics, so I obediently tried out a few other majors as "safeties" and I really fell in love with 19th century British verse, which existed in a state of belatedness with respect to the classical poems I loved and love. My first real scholarly paper as an English/Classics dual major was on William Morris's 1887 translation of the Odyssey. (This is all a little funny to think about now, since my PhD dissertation (in English!) of which I have two of four chapters drafted, is on Morris's translation of Vergil's Aeneid.) This was written in 2003, a year before I entered an MA programme in English Literature. I took my BA in Classics and English lit, but went on in the latter.

What's clear to me now is that English has made me a much wider-read classicist than I would have otherwise been... but I really miss it so much. So much reading in English departments really seems so unconnected to the text in the room... and I'm no political reactionary by any means... I just feel more than a bit fraudulent when I am able to write a seminar paper on, say, a Victorian poem or novel, in which the bulk of the exposition treats not the book itself but instead engages with other authors on more theoretical topics, leaving the set text largely untouched.

Oh, how I've missed my "gobbets."

Now that I'm older and wiser, I've learned the importance of following your heart, instead of what is perceived as an expedient means of getting hired somewhere. If you don't love what you do fully -- if you're always going to be looking over your shoulder, yearning for something you left behind because of economic situation in which the modern university finds itself in America, you're not going to be as happy as you could have been.

So I'm seriously contemplating returning to my roots -- yes, AFTER my PhD is conferred this year and I'm made a full-fledged Victorianist -- and doing some sort of an MA in classics or an MFA in translation. I love teaching literature, and my evals are constistently strong... but I miss teaching and studying grammar so much. I feel like a lost, parched man in a desert who, thinking back fondly of his hearth and home, can only bear the oblivious dulness that remains when one consciously beats back a memory, because he cannot any longer have what that memory recalls. I'm planning to make that right, and I don't care how many people think I am insane because I am going to get another graduate degree after The Big One next spring.

I don't know what I'm going to do after that. What I do know is that there is a part of me that simply cannot and shall not allow myself to leave academe without having proven myself in Greek and Latin both.

I'm hitting Pharr hard, which is mostly easy right now (I was reared on Anne Groton and Mastronarde in undergrad) but which I know will begin to tax me more generously as time plods on.

I'm also reviewing Wheelock.

I know, this seems like going way, way back for a person who already has a good BA in Classics, but I want to be certain that I've reconsolidated my logical first principles before I blunder forth into the dense and difficult texts -- Apollonius, Theocritus, I'm looking at you! -- I so wish to translate in future.

Thanks for reading what must seem an atypical narrative, and for welcoming me. I'll be happy to benefit from your guidance as we go on: you'll all be surprised how much I need to review, particularly in Latin as I always felt a Hellenist. And I apologise, hopefully more convincingly than Karshish does to his master Abib in Robert Browning's monologue, for my introduction being so "prolixly set forth."

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Re: well... it's certainly been a circuitous homecoming!

Postby thesaurus » Mon Apr 27, 2015 5:54 pm


Interesting to read your story. I was in a PhD program to become a Victorianist, but I eventually decided that wasn't how I wanted to spend my life and left with my MA. At the time I was also mixing in graduate classics courses and was contemplating some sort of comparative literature Victorian/Classics dissertation.

I agree that the classics and English literature mix well, especially rennaisance era. A lot of canonical English authors also wrote in Latin. I wrote some papers on some of Milton's Latin texts/diatribes. It's interesting to see how Latin knowledge drops off sharply over the course of the 19th century.

One question: do you have to go back for your MA to study Latin/Greek rather than just catching up on it when and where you can while pursuing your career? (If you can get funded for it, though, go nuts!) Since leaving academia, I just content myself with reading Latin when I can (I've let Greek go, because there're only so many hours in the day!)
Horae quidem cedunt et dies et menses et anni, nec praeteritum tempus umquam revertitur nec quid sequatur sciri potest. Quod cuique temporis ad vivendum datur, eo debet esse contentus. --Cicero, De Senectute
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