Advanced Greek Prose Composition, Donovan

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daivid
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Advanced Greek Prose Composition, Donovan

Post by daivid » Fri Apr 14, 2017 3:28 pm

I have been looking through the Advanced Greek Prose Composition by Donovan. The nice thing about his book is that it does endeavor to teach how to compose rather provide English to Greek exercises.

That needs a bit of qualification. He really tries to do is equip the student to translate any English text into Greek. Hence there are a lot of the examples of English phrases that require a Greek form that is anything but literal. In a sense then he is teaching how to avoid interference from English. It has a second effect of teaching a native speaker of English about their own language - I suspect if Donovan was still around to ask, he would say that was one of the points of learning Greek.

This is quite different from a Living language approach which aims to so immerse the learner in Ancient Greek that while writing they forget about their native language altogether (that's the ideal anyhow).

This kind of approach is of less use if you are not a native English speaker (though judging from the native speaker quality of the English of some non-native speakers maybe they need to worry about interference from English when writing Greek). Also it was written a 100 years ago so he is warning the reader off some things that people would not say and he is unaware of modern idioms that a modern writer is in danger of reproducing.

His aim is to teach how to write Greek that is indistinguishable from the extant texts. He makes no mention of writing simple Greek so I can't be sure but suspect that the silence is due to him being unable to comprehend anyone doing anything so wicked. Indeed, in the introduction, he gives as an example a monstrous sentence from Isocrates ( Isoc. Paneg. 93-96.) that is longer than any Ancient Greek sentence that I have ever before encountered.

Any thoughts?
λονδον

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Re: Advanced Greek Prose Composition, Donovan

Post by jeidsath » Fri Apr 14, 2017 9:12 pm

Joel Eidsath -- jeidsath@gmail.com

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Re: Advanced Greek Prose Composition, Donovan

Post by rmedinap » Sat Apr 15, 2017 7:26 am

Magnificent! I've taken a quick and superfluous look at it and I like very much what I see, for the reasons already mentioned by daivid. (volume 3 is to be found here by the way, and there's a much nicer version of volume 2 as well.)
“Don’t mind the words, translate the ideas,” is a warning to be found in any rational book of Greek or Latin Composition, but nowhere have we seen the principle so fully and thoroughly exemplified as in Fr. Donovan’s Theory.

In these days of utilitarian education there are many schools and universities in which Classics are fighting for their life. If they are to be saved, the teaching of them must be more efficient, and it must be made more attractive to the learner.


Says the anonymous reviewer of the Irish Monthly, and I couldn't agree more.

Since this is as already a Theory of advanced Greek Prose Composition (also, not for beginners) I can readily forgive its "not-living-language approach", it does make sense to compare Greek with another language so as to best describe and highlight idiomatic and structural differences.

My greatest praise (from what I have seen so far) is the amount of quotes from authors to illustrate what he means to explain. And so far my only reticence is that its sheer size may make it very difficult to use the books speedily and adequately in a private class or even in an normal institutional high-school or university course, for it presupposes 1) a very considerable knowledge of Greek 2) Much interest and patience in the part of the student (who is the one that ultimately will have to compose).

I understand the value and oft-times necessity of composition, but in a context where you get few to hours to teach and your students often have too heavy an academic burden I would probably dedicate more time to reading actual authors than to immerse into the nuances and complexities (however interesting and useful they might be) of prose composition.

On the other hand, as long as the interested person has a solid grasp of Greek, time and patience he should be able to profit enormously from this book. The book may be used at any rate effectively as a source for examples to illustrate grammatical and syntactical phenomena.

______

While looking for volume 3 I found this very interesting list of Greek Composition material of the University of Tokio :shock:. I didn't know that they taught Greek there, now I'm curious about it. Anyone know a student there?

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Re: Advanced Greek Prose Composition, Donovan

Post by jeidsath » Sat Apr 15, 2017 10:45 pm

It has required close reading, but I am finding Donovan rewarding. His examples are great.
83. The uses of the Substantive for purposes of Greek Prose Composition are extremely limited. Substantives may be classified as abstract or concrete. The latter fulfil the same functions as in English. All concrete objects expressed by a noun in English will readily pass into Greek under their corresponding concrete names. A vocabulary of this class of words will be easily acquired from reading. Should the student's memory fail to furnish the proper word for any material object, reference may be made to an English-Greek Lexicon; and this is the only useful purpose to which such books may be put.
Pt. 1. seems to be missing pg. 34 in my pdf.
Joel Eidsath -- jeidsath@gmail.com

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Re: Advanced Greek Prose Composition, Donovan

Post by Victor » Sun Apr 16, 2017 4:27 pm

jeidsath wrote:It has required close reading, but I am finding Donovan rewarding. His examples are great.
83.Should the student's memory fail to furnish the proper word for any material object, reference may be made to an English-Greek Lexicon; and this is the only useful purpose to which such books may be put.
If that's literally intended, you have to wonder why the lexicons contain anything other than concrete nouns in the first place. Presumably he's deliberately exaggerating the point.

It would perhaps have been more useful if he'd simply given the usual warning found in composition guides about the dangers of composing in Greek solely on the basis of what you find in an Engl.-Gk. lexicon and not rather on what can be found in the actual writings of Greek authors. Maybe he has somewhere.

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