mwh wrote:Mastronarde's not exactly easy-access but systematic and very reliable.
I would agree that it is reliable. But I don't think there is much systematic about it. It was developed from lecture materials and it shows. In a thorough Berkeley class with Mastronarde teaching, it may have been perfect. But for self-study, it is quite painful.
It has an identity problem. It is not sure whether it is a textbook, or a reference book. As a text book it fails because there is absolutely nothing user friendly about it. To take one example, when he gives English words derived from the Greek, he quite maliciously chooses English words that are doubly esoteric, e.g, "presbyopia". That is not pedagogy. It is immature pedantic display. It in no way helps the student learn the Greek word. It just distracts the careful student who now has to go to the English dictionary for something that couldn't be more tangential. I'm sorry, but I've probably read a thousand textbooks and I have never seen anything quite like it. As books go, it is on the difficult side. That in itself is fine. It is thorough. The problem is that Mastronarde quite maliciously never ever passes up an opportunity to make things difficult. One really has the feeling in many places that the difficulty is not in the service of the thoroughness, but rather the thoroughness is in the service of the difficulty.
On the other hand, it is terribly organized for a reference book. So, uses of the dative are spread out across different chapters. The treatment of indirect speech is scattered over several chapters, making quick review impossible. Some conditionals are handled in one chapter, others a few chapters later. So, there is nothing systematic about it. Thorough + incremental does not equal systematic. And that's not just a rhetorical flourish. Indeed, I would say that that, in addition to the maliciousness, is the other real shortcoming. Mastronarde hasn't a clue what a systematic pedagogy looks like. If he did, he would have realized at some point that his lecture notes, as good as they were, were just not suitable for a comprehensive book. The chapter structure is derived from what can be covered in a week, rather than from the nature of the material covered. There is no overall architecture, except incrementalism. If it were a dwelling, it would be a windowless earthen mound. And, the binding is not really suitable for a reference book. I am on my third copy.
It is a great addition to any library. But as a student's primary introduction to Attic, it is a very unhappy book. Cold, devoid of charm, and in many places simply hostile to the student. If it were just a bad book, one could easily forget it. But because of its thoroughness and the shine from a dozen polishings, it is seductive. But it is ultimately suffocating, like an unhappy childhood. And just as the child is stuck with the family well into adulthood, the student who learns from this book will be stuck with it for years to come.