The BIG Classics Discussion Thread Watch

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hypnos
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#61
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#61
Maybe Classics is going up while classical languages are going down?

This is an interesting little something I found:
"VII: Homer in the world of "Western Civilization"
This brings me back to the myriad students in Western Civilization Courses who are reading their "Homer" in English translation. There are certainly far more students now reading Homer in English than there were in Greek throughout the l9th century, when Greek was mandatory for a college education. But what are they reading? Is it "Homer", the authentic and genuine article, or something else?

No, they are reading something else, a book with the same basic storyline, but where all the words and sounds and intonations and gestures have been transposed into a different medium. Could I seriously say that a piano version of a Beethoven Symphony was a realistic representation of a concert with a symphony orchestra in a great hall? Could I maintain that a 3 x 8 inch representation of Monet's Water Lilies in black and white in a textbook had any reasonable connection with the great original painting filling a museum wall?

No!

Or to put it more firmly: No way.!

What then is the way into the Homeric Poems? Perhaps I can give an example from my own experience. When I was a student in school I read through the Iliad not as an assignment but out of my own curiosity. I read slowly and carefully, understood it very well, and ended up remarking to myself that it wasn't very good, decent enough as a story from long ago, but nothing really absorbing or remarkable.

Three years later I was reading it (slowly and with difficulty of course) in the original Greek, and noted to myself: "What a difference......". Everything was alive, the words were resonant, even when I wasn't sure of the exact meanings, the dactylic line sang out like spear-thrusts, one after the other, while the speakers had penetrating eyes like the men on black-figured Greek vases. I knew I was not imagining all this, I saw right away that this was the difference between reading in translation and reading a master- work in the original.

I do enjoy teaching ancient literature in translation, first because it has been a way for us Classicists to retain our professorships in a period of academic downsizing, secondly it is fun to lecture to a large class with some histrionic dramatics, before an audience which blinks with surprise....... or goes to sleep in the back row. This can be personally invigorating and it is clearly worth doing!

But it is not a replacement for reading Greek. Then I get worried and begin to feel that perhaps it is not really worth doing, because this is a replacement phenomenon, an Ersatz product, which will finally take over the thing it replaces, as the original disappears from the academic market. We have saved the Field of Classics in the second half of the 20th century by devising Classics in English, but in the process we are in immediate danger of evaporating the very Classical Authors on whom our Neo-Classics Discipline is founded. Some plant and animal species will disappear when the population goes below a certain threshold, and I suggest that this may be true equally with things of the mind."
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d750
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#62
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#62
(Original post by hypnos)
Could I seriously say that a piano version of a Beethoven Symphony was a realistic representation of a concert with a symphony orchestra in a great hall? Could I maintain that a 3 x 8 inch representation of Monet's Water Lilies in black and white in a textbook had any reasonable connection with the great original painting filling a museum wall?
That view has more than a hint of snobbishness about it. It's all very well to say that the Homeric epics can't be adequately reproduced in English, but would you argue that it would be better to deny people any experience of the Homeric poets whatsoever, than provide them with a limited experience?
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naelse
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#63
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(Original post by d750)
That view has more than a hint of snobbishness about it. It's all very well to say that the Homeric epics can't be adequately reproduced in English, but would you argue that it would be better to deny people any experience of the Homeric poets whatsoever, than provide them with a limited experience?
I do agree that classical texts are so much better in their original languages though.
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Alexander
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#64
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(Original post by naelse)
I do agree that classical texts are so much better in their original languages though.
This is definitely true for the shorter poems (e.g. Catullus), and for many texts, but to try and read the epics from cover to cover in the original is making things a bit hard for yourself.

Who else has A2 Latin Literature on Wednesday?
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naelse
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#65
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(Original post by Alexander)
This is definitely true for the shorter poems (e.g. Catullus), and for many texts, but to try and read the epics from cover to cover in the original is making things a bit hard for yourself.

Who else has A2 Latin Literature on Wednesday?
I've made a distinct effort to avoid any epics. Might possibly have to at Uni, but my concentration can't handle them. And everyone's read them, and I like the idea of taking the road far less travelled. Quite a poor excuse, I know.

I've got my Unseen and Verse papers tomorrow afternoon and then Prose/Historical context paper a week on tuesday (AQA).
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hypnos
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#66
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(Original post by d750)
That view has more than a hint of snobbishness about it. It's all very well to say that the Homeric epics can't be adequately reproduced in English, but would you argue that it would be better to deny people any experience of the Homeric poets whatsoever, than provide them with a limited experience?
I agree. I don't think the analogy is very accurate. Reading in English is not like hearing a symphony on a piano, but perhaps more like hearing the Moonlight Sonata on the cello. The ideas - the melody, the rhythm etc. will be there but the actually quality of the transmitting instrument - in this case the Greek language - will be lost.
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naelse
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#67
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(Original post by hypnos)
I agree. I don't think the analogy is very accurate. Reading in English is not like hearing a symphony on a piano, but perhaps more like hearing the Moonlight Sonata on the cello. The ideas - the melody, the rhythm etc. will be there but the actually quality of the transmitting instrument - in this case the Greek language - will be lost.
That's what I used to think, but when I started to work on textual analysis for AS and A2 verse papers, I found so many amazing things- lines with rhythm and aliteration/assonance and word choice and little grammatical nuances etc working in perfect harmony to create something magical.

Of course the fundamental meaning of the words is still there in translations, but poetry is so much more than stories and ideas- it is the sounds and atmosphere and rhythm that pull you in and make an experience. All of that can't be recreated in English because we can't transliterate.
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hypnos
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#68
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#68
Which did you used to think?
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naelse
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#69
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#69
(Original post by hypnos)
Which did you used to think?
that the analogy was a little too extreme
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hypnos
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#70
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#70
Sorry... lol.... which analogy?

Actually I've decided these analogies are all crap
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naelse
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#71
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(Original post by hypnos)
No, they are reading something else, a book with the same basic storyline, but where all the words and sounds and intonations and gestures have been transposed into a different medium. Could I seriously say that a piano version of a Beethoven Symphony was a realistic representation of a concert with a symphony orchestra in a great hall? Could I maintain that a 3 x 8 inch representation of Monet's Water Lilies in black and white in a textbook had any reasonable connection with the great original painting filling a museum wall?

No!
this one.

ugh it's all getting too confusing. my brain hurts. i completely mucked up my unseen paper today. there go my dreams of cambridge... *weeps*
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hypnos
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#72
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#72
Are unseens harder at A2 then? Cos at AS they're the easiest bit by far
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Amrad
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#73
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AS unseens are a joke. A2 are apparently MUCH harder and you have to do English to Latin, which I've never done in an exam before. How much harder is the lit stuff at A2?
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Trolley
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#74
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#74
I could write a better poem than Catullus any day.
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Amrad
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#75
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(Original post by Trolley)
I could write a better poem than Catullus any day.
Catullus is fúckin brilliant. Studying him this year really made me fall in love with Latin again.
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naelse
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#76
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#76
(Original post by Amrad)
AS unseens are a joke. A2 are apparently MUCH harder and you have to do English to Latin, which I've never done in an exam before. How much harder is the lit stuff at A2?
yes, AS was so easy... hardly a step from GCSE at all. But at A2 (on AQA anyway) there is a verse unseen, and the prose in the exam today was harder than anything I've ever seen. I've not had to do English to Latin.

The lit is not harder at all, just twice as long, and the Cicero paper has a historical context bit, but it's not too bad. Definitely a much bigger step from AS to A2 than from GCSE to AS.
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Rathika
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#77
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Yes, latin A2 is certainly a jump.... it's like starting at the beginning again... alas! and I agree Catullus is great, i did it for AS and it's one of the best things i've studied... altho i can agree that at times he appears to be gay lovesick brat!
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hypnos
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#78
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#78
read the name guys: trolley = troll!
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Trolley
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#79
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I'm no troll!

Catullus is not that good, but Cicero is incredible :eek: His orations :eek: I can half read them, but I should actually bother to look up unfamiliar words...

I prefer to write in latin no doubt, at least I know what I am talking about, context etc.
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naelse
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#80
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(Original post by Trolley)
I'm no troll!

Catullus is not that good, but Cicero is incredible :eek: His orations :eek: I can half read them, but I should actually bother to look up unfamiliar words...

I prefer to write in latin no doubt, at least I know what I am talking about, context etc.
Cicero is pretty good. It's sooo painful to see him making such a fool of himself in 2nd Philippics...
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