Agamemnon of Aeschylus

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Re: Agamemnon of Aeschylus

Post by cb » Mon Sep 24, 2012 5:47 pm

hi, i think it would be a good idea to collect at least the online resources that we've found for agamemnon, as a future reference for everyone in the group. i'll start a new thread on this and people can add to it. cheers, chad

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Re: Agamemnon of Aeschylus

Post by pster » Sat Sep 29, 2012 9:01 pm

OK, I'm in. I ordered the book and the CDs. I've put aside a couple of hours a day for it, so I should be able to contribute a lot of...questions! Indeed, I don't even have the book yet and here are a few that come to mind:

1) What are the main differences between tragedy and for example Plato and Demosthenes? I have never read a tragedy in the original. Is there a convenient discussion somewhere? Is it like the difference between Hobbes and Shakespeare? Or more like the difference between contemporary academic prose and say Wallace Stevens?

2) What is the right way to go about it? So suppose you get stuck on a line. OK, so you look up any words you don't know. After a while, say an hour or two, I start looking at the translations on Perseus. Then, if I am still confused, I start looking at commentaries. But I get the sense listening to some of you folks that you don't look at the translations until much later, perhaps even after you have put questions to the forum. Is there any consensus about this? What do they tell upper level undergraduates to do? Do any of you have any method or rule(s) of thumb?

Thanks in advance.

OK, I'm starting to answer 1) for myself by reading the chapter on tragedy in the Blackwell Companion to the Greek Language.

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Re: Agamemnon of Aeschylus

Post by spiphany » Sun Sep 30, 2012 11:43 am

1) Tragedy uses a fair amount of vocabulary that you don't see in Attic prose -- when I did prose composition in Germany a couple of years ago the prof kept marking my word choice as "poetic" because most of my reading had been epic and tragedy. You'll see forms that are familiar from reading Homer, and generally the syntax is not as full of subordinate clauses and paragraph-long sentences that you get with some prose authors.

2) My methods depend on what I'm reading and why. If when I was reading texts for a class, I would go through the text pretty thoroughly, making a note of everything I didn't understand &c. If I'm reading for personal satisfaction, I'm more inclined to read for comprehension & enjoyment and not worry too much about determining whether a particular construction is a genitive of separation or attributive or or or. Unless I need to in order to figure out the meaning of a passage. When I refer to a translation it's mostly as a way to figure out the Greek when I've gotten stuck, but this varies, too. In some genres (philosophy, history) it can be really important to understand everything or you lose the thread of the argument and then a translation can be helpful in determining not so much the sense of the individual sentences but how they connect with each other. With plays I generally know the overall plot beforehand so a translation doesn't provide so much additional information in this respect.

I have occasionally used a bilingual edition, referring to the translation to get the vocabulary rather than looking it all up in a dictionary. This can be a nice break from dictionary slogging, if I want to just read for a change, but it's definitely a less intense way of engaging with the text & I'm not sure I actively learn as much vocabulary this way in contrast to looking it up and writing it down.

ETA: My experience is also that once you've read a lot of a language (or in Greek, a lot of a particular genre of literature) it becomes less important to refer to translations and other aids to comprehension because you've become accustomed to the style and know how to construe stuff that would have puzzled you before. I don't see anything wrong with using whatever references you need to make sense of a text -- as long as you're still learning and engaging and making progress (even if "making progress" is something that can be hard to judge yourself).
IPHIGENIE: Kann uns zum Vaterland die Fremde werden?
ARKAS: Und dir ist fremd das Vaterland geworden.
IPHIGENIE: Das ist's, warum mein blutend Herz nicht heilt.
(Goethe, Iphigenie auf Tauris)

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Re: Agamemnon of Aeschylus

Post by Paul Derouda » Sun Sep 30, 2012 5:49 pm

My approach to reading Greek is (usually) this: I try to read as much as I can as fast as possible. I first use a dictionnary, and if I don't get it, I don't hesitate to look up in translation and/or a commentary almost at once. As soon as I think I have really understood the meaning of a sentence, I go on. My aim is to get an instinctive feel of the language by being exposed to as much Greek as possible. I believe this is a natural way of learning a language. It certainly is for children (this is how I learned English as kid, by playing computer games), and I believe up to certain points it works for adults too. I've often wondered if I should go on even faster, if I should set a time limit after which I go on even if I haven't understood the meaning of passage.

I have never spent an hour of my life in Greek class, and I have read textbooks and grammars as little as possible; but I think relative to the amount of time spent studying Greek, my ability read, understand and translate a passage is good, probably above average. On the other hand, my grasp of grammatical concepts is rather poor and often I can't explain what a particular construction is or why it has been chosen for the particular occasion, although I can understand it. I understood an epic τε when I encountered one long before I knew there was a name for that. I don't mean it's ok not know your grammatical concepts; on the contrary, I think's it's especially beneficial when we're talking about a dead language. It's just that it has not been my number one priority.

So, that's my method. A systematic reading of Agamemnon like we're starting is of course quite different from what I usually do - and I welcome it!

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Re: Agamemnon of Aeschylus

Post by C. S. Bartholomew » Sun Sep 30, 2012 7:01 pm

Paul Derouda wrote:My approach to reading Greek is (usually) this: I try to read as much as I can as fast as possible. I first use a dictionnary, and if I don't get it, I don't hesitate to look up in translation and/or a commentary almost at once. As soon as I think I have really understood the meaning of a sentence, I go on. My aim is to get an instinctive feel of the language by being exposed to as much Greek as possible. I believe this is a natural way of learning a language. It certainly is for children (this is how I learned English as kid, by playing computer games), and I believe up to certain points it works for adults too. I've often wondered if I should go on even faster, if I should set a time limit after which I go on even if I haven't understood the meaning of passage.

I have never spent an hour of my life in Greek class, and I have read textbooks and grammars as little as possible; but I think relative to the amount of time spent studying Greek, my ability read, understand and translate a passage is good, probably above average. On the other hand, my grasp of grammatical concepts is rather poor and often I can't explain what a particular construction is or why it has been chosen for the particular occasion, although I can understand it. I understood an epic τε when I encountered one long before I knew there was a name for that. I don't mean it's ok not know your grammatical concepts; on the contrary, I think's it's especially beneficial when we're talking about a dead language. It's just that it has not been my number one priority.

So, that's my method. A systematic reading of Agamemnon like we're starting is of course quite different from what I usually do - and I welcome it!
Sounds a little like Randall Buth and his friends. I find it ironic that Buth, a linguist who taught workshops in discourse analysis with Stephen Levinsohn now parades around making "analysis" sound like the original sin of language study. What is natural for ESL students isn't natural for linguists who habitually analyze texts even if they can read them without analysis.

In my humble opinion, using Buth's second language learning (SL) method to read Agamemnon of Aeschylus would probably be about as successful as giving the Cantos of Ezra Pound to a student from Turkmenistan who is trying to learn to speak English. In other words, Agamemnon isn't a good text for SL learners. For one thing none of the secondary literature will be intelligible to an SL learner, I find the the 19th century stuff difficult to comprehend just because the linguistic frameworks I use are from the second half of the 20th century. I have a number of old grammars, but I read them with difficulty.

I am not say that Paul or anyone else shouldn't read Agamemnon. I suspect that no one would be reading posts in this forum if they were not interested in hearing language analysis of some form. I'm just taking another shot at the SL purists. There is no question that humans learn language without the aid of metalanguage. Everyone one in Europe who grows up talking to people from neighboring countries can attest to the fact that metalanguage is not required for children to grow up multilingual. On the other hand until recently large portions of the USA were monolingual unless you lived in port city.
Last edited by C. S. Bartholomew on Sun Sep 30, 2012 7:49 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Agamemnon of Aeschylus

Post by arthad » Sun Sep 30, 2012 7:48 pm

C. S. Bartholomew wrote: Sounds a little like Randall Buth and his friends. I find it ironic that Buth, a linguist who taught workshops in discourse analysis with Stephen Levinsohn now parades around making "analysis" sound like the original sin of language study. What is natural for ESL students isn't natural for linguists who habitually analyze texts even if they can read them without analysis.

In my humble opinion, using Buth's second language learning (SL) method to read Agamemnon of Aeschylus would probably be about as successful as giving the Cantos of Ezra Pound to a student from Turkmenistan who is trying to learn to speak English. In other words, Agamemnon isn't a good text for SL learners. For one thing none of the secondary literature will be intelligible to an SL learner, I find the the 19th century stuff difficult to comprehend just because the linguistic frameworks I use are from the second half of the 20th century. I have a number of old grammars, but I read them with difficulty.
It's all about level. My ESL students wouldn't know what to do with Pound, but they all read the literature in their fields, since as graduate students they have to. On the other hand, a student whose English is at a very high level and who perhaps is studying comparative literature would profit from Pound, or Shakespeare, or any other complex English text.

CS, you seem to be distinguishing between "second language learners" and "linguists" -- but in fact we're all second language learners of Greek or Latin or both, unless there are some time travellers from Rome or Athens lurking on these boards. Buth advocates using a language in order to learn it, rather than memorizing paradigms and grammatical rules. The idea is that internalization, the ability to use a language, is essential. In his view, there's nothing wrong with analysis and close reading of texts -- Buth's posts on B-Greek make that clear -- it should just come at the right time. No learner of English would likely read Shakespeare without knowing how to get directions or order food, so why should it be different with Greek?

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Re: Agamemnon of Aeschylus

Post by C. S. Bartholomew » Sun Sep 30, 2012 7:57 pm

Buth advocates using a language in order to learn it, rather than memorizing paradigms and grammatical rules.
On this I totally agree. I never learned any paradigms by rote, I was spared the experience of taking seminary greek by doing an end-run around biblical languages. Reading has been my method from the beginning. Started reading phrases, moved up to clauses and moved up to sentences and paragraphs. Read read read. There was and is no one to talk greek with. Buth's method assumes you can find other people to talk with. Bad assumption. There a hundred language groups within a 10 mile radius of my place. Not one of them speaks ancient greek.

I should qualify this, I haven't been reading Buth's posts for quite a while. He may have toned down his rhetoric or softened his positions on some subjects. I just kind of tuned him out about a decade ago. Now days I perhaps look at a post of his once a month or less.

I spent this morning reading James and Matthew in the NT. It's really easy reading. Makes me wonder why I want to do Agamemnon. Reminds me of the guy I know from the park who climbed Curtis Ridge on the north east corner of Mt Rainier. I have friends who have done Liberty Ridge and Ptarmigan Ridge but this man who walks very slowly up the the hill from Puget Sound did Curtis Ridge in the '60s. If you meet two people who claim they have done Curtis Ridge, at least one of them is lying. Agamemnon is the Curtis Ridge of Attic Tragedy.
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Re: Agamemnon of Aeschylus

Post by arthad » Sun Sep 30, 2012 10:07 pm

Yeah, I won't go to bat for Buth specifically because I don't know every aspect of his position. My sense, though, is that there's no contradiction in advocating language use (not analysis) for beginners, so they can internalize the language, and also teaching linguistic analysis to people who either can already use the language communicatively or have no desire to learn how.

Regarding having a community of Greek speakers -- it's certainly nice if you do, but it's not a prerequisite to using materials by Buth or Rico successfully. Comprehensible input and producing the language yourself, whether through speaking or writing, goes a long way. I really doubt that Buth would say his materials are useless if you don't have someone to talk with in Greek.

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Re: Agamemnon of Aeschylus

Post by Paul Derouda » Sun Sep 30, 2012 11:43 pm

I can't comment those earlier discussions, since I haven't followed them. Above I said "A systematic reading of Agamemnon like we're starting is of course quite different from what I usually do". When I read that again now, I notice it doesn't sound quite like what I wanted to say. (English is not my native tongue, that's my usual excuse...) Almost all the texts I read in Greek I read with a commentary. Probably I spend more time reading commentaries and other side literature than the texts themselves. You just can't read these texts out of context, they are all about the context. I hope nobody thinks I think I can just read Agamemnon and pick up Greek as I go like I was reading some kind of Ancient Winnie the Pooh!

Let me put it like this: I don't believe in being stuck. Thorough reading has it's place, and there is probably no point in reading Agamemnon without it in the original or even in translation. I want to analyse Agamemnon, otherwise I wouldn't be posting here. But I don't believe in endless analysis - it makes me think of the guy in Camus' The Plague who was writing a book; the plague killed him and they found out that he'd never gotten beyond the first sentence, which he had been writing again and again hundreds of times.

There aren't actually so many authentic ancient "easy reader" texts for the beginner, because only the good works have survived. I suppose Plato is often rather easy from a linguistic point of view, but that's not the whole picture. The only thing that comes to my mind now that sort of qualifies is the Batrachomyomachy, which has probably survived because it was used as a student's introduction to Homer.

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Re: Agamemnon of Aeschylus

Post by pster » Fri Oct 05, 2012 7:30 pm

Since it is still the first week of October, I am assuiming that we are officially working on lines 1-39. Am I correct? I have been working hard on Agamemnon, but I just want to make sure that I am on schedule. :D

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