Dickinson College, Martial, 2019

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Dickinson College, Martial, 2019

Post by RandyGibbons » Fri Jul 19, 2019 4:40 pm

Bedwere has done such a nice job reporting on the 2019 ΣΘΝΟΔΟΣ ΕΛΛΗΝΙΚΗ in Kentucky, I thought I would briefly do the same for the annual Dickinson College summer workshop (or "Latin camp" as my daughter finds amusement in calling it), in Carlisle, PA, which I attended for the second year in a row and which just finished.

The event is organized and led by Dickinson's Chris Francese and co-led by a guest professor with expertise in the author being read. This year we read Martial, and the co-instructor was Professor Bret Mulligan from Haverford College. (Chris and Bret are also senior editors of the excellent Dickinson College Commentaries which many of you are familiar with.)

The event is targeted at elementary and high school Latin teachers who would like to use a bit of their summer break to bone up on their own Latin. (Chris generously allows me and a friend of mine to attend, though we are not teachers.) On average about twenty-five attend, from as far away this year as Connecticut, the Carolinas, and Oregon. A number of the attendees are folks who stayed on from the spoken-Latin conventiculum held at Dickinson the previous week. The $400 fee covers dorm accommodations and breakfast, lunch, and dinner in the college cafeteria (some of us though opt to do dinner in the many nice and relatively inexpensive restaurants in the very pleasant town of Carlisle).

The group meets 8:30 am to noon each of five mornings, self-selected into sharks (more advanced or confident in their Latin abilities) and dolphins. The rest of the day is free, presumably in part to prepare for the next day's reading. Many of the attendees form little afternoon and/or evening study groups to prepare together.

While we split into sharks and dolphins, the atmosphere is by Chris's design entirely non-competitive and non-threatening. The spirit in intention and in practice is to help one another. In fact this year we had jars into which anyone busted for being overly assertive ("I really think this is an ablative of means") had to put a dollar, to be given to a local charity - all in good humor.

So as I said, this year we did Martial. For many, including myself, it was really our first foray into Martial. We used Bolchazy-Carducci's A Martial Reader by Craig Williams. Rough consensus: the commentary is adequate, not great. Williams' Roman Homosexuality: Second Edition is supposed to be excellent, and I intend to read it. Personally, if you want to read a selection of Martial on your own (few will ever want to read all 1560 epigrams), I would recommend Cambridge's green & yellow edition, which I perused prior to the "camp" (there's very little overlap in the two editions' selections).

But, if you're on the prudish side, don't read Martial! (Not that all of the epigrams by any means come under the "obscene" heading.) Like Catullus, Martial reminds his readers that his epigrams are not about his personal morals but reflect the way Romans really speak and what they sometimes speak about; they are epigrams, they are Saturnalicia (many, including all of Book XI, are dedicated to or in the spirit of the famously bawdy Saturnalian festival); and if you want precedent, look to none other than Caesar Augustus himself (Martial 11.20).

So that was Dickinson "Latin camp" 2019. If you are a Latin elementary or high-school teacher, I highly recommend it.

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