Vomitorium: Someone Gets it Right

The incipit of a piece in the Bradenton Herald:

What the heck is “vomitory seating”?

That’s a question readers had after seeing the Bradenton Herald’s Oct. 18 story about future renovations at McKechnie Field.

It contained a Fawley/Bryant architectural rendering that included the term vomitory seating.

“Will someone please tell me what that is?” John Crawford wrote.

Its origin is in the Latin word vomere — disgorging spectators — and its derivative is vomitorium, which, the dictionary says, pertains to “an entrance piercing the banks of seats of a theater, amphitheater or stadium.”

Vomitory seating is above the entrance.

It does not necessarily have to do with hurling.

Although, joked Trevor Gooby, the Pirates senior director of Florida Operations, “The Romans were big drinkers.” […]

For some comparanda

Good News from Royal Holloway!

Anne Sheppard has posted to the Classicists list:

It has now been decided that no reduction in staff numbers in Classics at Royal Holloway will take place until the end of the academic year 2013-14. Moreover if we recruit good numbers of students with AAB or above at A-level for 2012 and our plans to increase our numbers of Master’s students, both for our MA programmes and for our new MRes programmes, are successful, the proposal for a reduction in staff numbers is likely to be reviewed. Validation of our two new MRes degrees, one in Rhetoric and one in Classical Reception, is in train. For more details, see the Department’s blog at:


and the Departmental website at:


We will be very pleased to receive good applications for Master’s and PhD degrees as well as for all our undergraduate programmes for September 2012.

Some background from last summer: Classics Threatened at Royal Holloway

d.m. Allen Mandelbaum

From the Winston-Salem Journal:

Allen Mandelbaum May 4, 1926 – October 27, 2011 Allen Mandelbaum left this earthly light for the Bright Light on Thursday, October 27, 2011. Born in Albany, New York on May 4, 1926, he left that city at the age of one and was raised in Louisville (Kentucky), Toronto (Canada), Troy (NY), and Chicago (Illinois). He came to New York at thirteen and stayed until 1951, when he entered the Society of Fellows at Harvard. He completed his Ph.D. at Columbia University while teaching at Cornell and Columbia Universities. He was also a Fellow in Humanities of the Rockefeller Foundation and a member of the Society of Fellows at Harvard. In 2002, Rev. Edward A. Molloy, President of University of Notre Dame, applauded Mandelbaum for “the way that [his] scholarly efforts encompass the European tradition in a way that grasps the fraternal connections between its Jewish and its Christian strand without effacing the differences between them.” Mandelbaum strongly believed that it was his duty to apply the talents he was given and devote his lifework to honoring those gifts as a poet and translator. The list of his works of poetry and translation is large. As a translator, he began with an English version of Giuseppe Ungaretti’s Life of a Man and Salvatore Quasimodo’s Selected Writings before completing The Aeneid of Virgil, which won the National Book Award in 1973. Those accomplishments were followed by The Selected Poems of Giuseppe Ungaretti in 1975 and the major work of his lifetime: the Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso of Dante, completed in 1984. In addition to the volumes entitled Ovid in Sicily and Ungaretti and Palinurus, Mandelbaum’s translations culminated in The Odyssey of Homer in 1990 and The Metamorphoses of Ovid in 1993. Mandelbaum’s poetry collections include Journeyman (1967), Leaves of Absence (1976), Chelmaxioms: The Maxims, Axioms, Maxioms of Chelm (1978), A Lied of Letterpress (1980), The Savantasse of Montparnasse (1988) and Le porte di eucalipto in 2007. During his Harvard years, Mandelbaum spent most of his time in Italy, not returning to the United States until 1964. During these years, he devoted most of his time to the translation of Italian poets, which earned many awards. Upon his return, he joined the doctoral faculty of the new Graduate Center of the City University of New York, teaching and chairing the English graduate faculty for some twenty years as University Professor of English and Comparative Literature. In 1989 he began serving as Kenan Professor of the Humanities at Wake Forest University (Winston-Salem, NC) and remained in that position for almost two decades. A man of many awards, Mandelbaum was the recipient of the Order of Merit from the Republic of Italy, the Premio Mondello, the Premio Leonardo (at the Guggenheim Museum in New York), the Premio Biella, the Premio Lerici-Pea, the Premio Montale at the Montale Centenary in Rome, and the Circe-Sabaudia Award. In 1994, he was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in poetry for his translation of Ovid’s Metamorphoses. After that, he received one of Italy’s most coveted honors, the Presidenza del Consiglio’s prize, the National Award for Verse Translation in 1998. In 2000, the 735th anniversary of Dante’s birth, Mandelbaum was awarded the Gold Medal of Honor of the City of Florence, Italy for his translation of Dante’s Divine Comedy. He was the first American to be given this honor. Three years later, Mandelbaum was awarded the Presidential Prize of the President of Italy in May 2003. In 2004 he received Italy’s highest award, the Presidential Cross of the Order of the Star of Italian Solidarity. He was also the first American to earn the title of Professore Ordinario per Chiama Fama, teaching at the University of Torino for five years. He received a Doctor of Letters Honoris Causa at Purdue University in 1987, and similar honorary degrees at the University of Torino (1994), the University of Cassino (1996), and the University of Notre Dame (2003). During his eighteen years as Kenan Professor of the Humanities at Wake Forest, Allen Mandelbaum was a prominent defender of all that is best in a Liberal Arts education. He was committed to supporting his colleagues in many disciplines in any way he could, and helped with the publication and advancement of a number of the faculty in the English Department in particular. He was regularly present at the musical events on campus and always attended the lectures and presentations from departments as various as English and Philosophy to those in the sciences. His classes were always filled with committed students eager to absorb his profound knowledge of Dante, Virgil, and the other classical writers, and he invariably devoted his full attention to their needs. In the years since he retired in 2007, he regularly responded to inquiries from past students across a lifetime of teaching, always striving to further the best that is thought and known. Allen Mandelbaum is among the last of a generation of learned individuals whose likes will not be seen again. Master of many languages, a man whose breadth and depth of learning was unparalleled, he also possessed an aesthetic sensibility that allowed his translations to capture the essence of some of the world’s greatest poetry with beauty and grandeur. One of the most moving moments in his translation of Virgil’s Aeneid comes when a character asks his friend: “Euryalus, is it / the gods who put this fire in our minds, / or is it that each man’s relentless longing / becomes a god to him?” Mandelbaum’s life and work blazed with that fire and testified to the power of restless longing that is at the heart of all great endeavors. Allen Mandelbaum is survived by his wife Marjorie, their son Jonathan Mandelbaum and his wife Anne, and two grandchildren, Elisa and Nicholas Mandelbaum. The family is deeply indebted to his doctors, Franklyn Millman and Julie Williams; the staff of the Sticht Center (Wake Forest Baptist Hospital); his devoted private nurses Karen Harding, Kenan Carter, Lisa Landon, Josephine Littlejohn, Robert Goodman, Judy Hairston and Cathy Peay. Contributions to be made to the Mandelbaum Fund, Z. Smith Reynolds Library Wake Forest University PO Box 7777 Winston-Salem, NC 27109 A Memorial Service will be held at a date to be determined.

Allen Mandelbaum (Winston-Salem Journal)

Rush Limbaugh and Classical Studies

The Classical blogosphere (or at least some blogs on the periphery of it) is all agog because Rush Limbaugh has gone on a rant about Classical studies and everyone seems to be taking it personally and/or as a chance to bash Rush Limbaugh. Full disclosure: years ago I used to listen to Rush regularly but haven’t in years because my teaching job no longer gives me the time to do so. Even so, while I don’t agree with everything he says (far from it), he does make good points from time to time and — probably most importantly, especially in regards to this situation — he knows his audience very well and knows exactly what they want to hear. He also develops/forms his opinions very frequently on air — thinking out loud — and this is a prime example of that. That said — and I hope I don’t lose readers because of this — I really didn’t find what Rush said to be ‘unexpected’, and as such, it really didn’t bother me much; my reasoning follows …

At the outset of my own little analysis, I’d strongly suggest that folks read the entire transcript of the segment(s) from the show: Deciphering the Sad-Sack Story of a Classical Studies Scholar to get the complete picture of what Rush is actually saying. In a nutshell, an Occupy Wall Street participant of sorts posted a photo of her (him?) self on which was scrawled (this is the description from the show; there’s a photo there as well):

  “I graduate college in seven months with a useless degree in Classical Studies.  I have worked very hard and am on track to graduate with Latin.  I am in a Greek organization with many volunteer hours under my belt.  My job prospects, zero.”

Rush’s initial comments are:

Now, do you think somebody going to college, borrowing whatever it is in this case, $20,000 a year to get a degree in Classical Studies ought to be told by somebody at a school that it’s a worthless degree? (interruption) Well, I don’t know what the minor was. It might be Latin. It’s a lousy picture; I can’t read the woman’s printing or handwriting. But at any rate, why is it that no one in her life told her that getting a degree in Classical Studies would not lead to employment? In fact, how many college students do you think believe that just getting a degree equals a high-paying job? Probably a lot of them. Not that you can blame ’em. That’s what they’ve been sold on. That’s what they’ve been told. Ergo, that’s what they expect. A college degree equals success, riches, whatever. Not work. This is key, now.

After one of his self-dialogues trying to figure out the student’s thought processes on this one, he continues:

Tell me, any of you at random listening all across the fruited plain, what the hell is Classical Studies?  What classics are studied?  Or, is it learning how to study in a classical way?  Or is it learning how to study in a classy as opposed to unclassy way?  And what about unClassical Studies?  Why does nobody care about the unclassics?  What are the classics?  And how are the classics studied?  Oh, cause you’re gonna become an expert in Dickens?  You’re assuming it’s literature.  See, you’re assuming we’re talking classical literature here.  What if it’s classical women’s studies?  What if it’s classical feminism?  Who the hell knows what it is?  One thing I do know is that she, the brain-dead student, doesn’t know what it is, after she’s got a major in it.  Because all she knows to do with it is go down to Occupy Wall Street and complain and write a note for the cameras.

… Many commentators, it seems, have used this as a point of departure to bash Rush for not knowing what our discipline is. But it must be realized that this is patent-Rush-knows-his-audience. If one were to go out on the street, Rick Mercer-like, and question regular  folks about what they think Classics or Classical Studies is, you’ll get a mix of answers like the above. But Rush does know what Classical studies are and later in the show he says such:

I got an e-mail from a friend of mine who’s a renowned newspaper columnist whose name it’s probably best I don’t mention (for her sake). She says, “Rush, I have a degree in Classical Studies. It’s Greek and Latin. I worked my way through college. I only borrowed a thousand dollars to do it. I can’t agree with you that the degree is worthless. In a world with so many less-than-literate people Classics majors have an edge.” I can understand that. But where? I really question some of these people graduating with a major in Classical Studies if they really are learning anything.

… and, of course, you can wonder if anyone anywhere is really learning anything and especially if you’re part of Rush’s typical demographic this especially applies. As my Italian  immigrant grandfather frequently said (I am told): “More jecation, less smart”.

Rush then mentions some famous folks with Classics backgrounds — Karl Marx and Winston Churchill — then visits UPenn’s  website and reads the description of their Classics program. He doesn’t find it to be something he’d be interested in, which is fine. He then returns, inter alia, to his central theme:

There’s no degree that’s gonna change a useless person into a useful person. No college degree is gonna turn anybody into a useful person. In fact, one of the big problems, I think, that a lot of people have with a college degree is that they expect it is the ticket. Not the work. That it is the ticket. Victor Davis Hanson, by the way, he’s another classicist. He teaches classical studies. He is an expert on ancient Greek history, by the way. But he’s a farmer. Victor Davis Hanson is a farmer, and he is a writer, columnist and so forth. He’s at the Hoover Institute, the campus at Stanford; writes for National Review Online and other things and that’s where he derives his income. He doesn’t go to the Classical Studies office.

I’ll close the excerpting with a bit that includes a caller’s comment, just so folks can get an idea of Rush’s primary demographic, in case they don’t already know it:

CALLER:  What we need to do is these classical study people, we need to send them to me, and I will pay them how to study the classified ads to get a job after college.

RUSH:  (laughing)  Well, you know, it’s obvious as I look into this Classical Studies business it is obvious at one time it was something of great esteme, something of tremendous import and value.  I have to think like everything else in higher education today that it’s been dumbed down.  In fact, about Victor Davis Hanson, he actually created the classics program at California State University Fresno in 1984, and he was a professor there until recently.  He created it because of the deterioration in the whole field because of how it’s lost whatever specialness that it once had.  But I think there’s all kinds of theories to explain what’s going on in higher education.  For example, it’s not new that college graduates don’t know anything.  That’s not really that new.

Now, I think it is relatively new, two generations, that worthless degrees are being constructed and taught and awarded.  But generally what’s happened is that American employers have taken these ill-educated graduates and they’ve turned ’em into productive employees after a lot of investment.  But in this economy, in the Obama economy, employers don’t have the money, they don’t have the wherewithal, and they don’t have the confidence or the money or the time or the patience to go out and hire uneducated people and turn ’em into something.  Because they can’t get a handle on what faces them next year with Obamacare, what other regulations might be awaiting them.

So that’s Rush and Classical Studies. For my part, I didn’t really get the visceral reaction that many others seem to have had. Am I surprised that Rush buys into the suggestion that people should go to college to ‘get a job’ rather than to ‘get an education’? Not really … there are plenty of  university presidents that seem to be buying into that exact model (which is, of course, why Classics departments seem to be perpetually under threat in this or that part of the world). Am I surprised that Rush links all this to the dominance of the ‘left’ in Universities? Hardly … that dominance is there and is definitely there in Humanities in general and Classics in particular (as veterans of the Classics list — the first Classics ‘social network ‘ —  can attest in regards the numerous disputes we had ages ago about political posts on the list — there were plenty of folks who were clearly on that side of the spectrum; most of us (not me; I was a naive grad student) on the other side tended to be quieter and or chat amongst ourselves offlist). But the latter really is irrelevant to the issue at hand.

What did actually bother me in all this was not Rush, but the student who started this whole brouhaha. Did she honestly go into Classical Studies without a plan for employment after? Heck, my own son is currently filling out the paperwork to apply to various universities — in Classics, no less (and no, I never once suggested it to him; a couple of high school courses and he found it all to be inherently interesting, as I’m sure most of you do) — and his earliest questions were “What kind of job can I get with that?”.  Does our OWS honestly consider her degree to be useless? If so, she mustn’t have been internalizing much of anything she learned in class or, perhaps she just sees her situation as an opportunity to ‘further’ the OWS movement and didn’t think much about what effect her little photo might have had on the perception of Classics.

For what it’s worth, when I first read the transcript earlier in the week (after piles of folks sent it to me via twitter, email, and facebook), I dashed off an email to Rush himself (or, more likely, to the interns who read his ‘official’ email), pointing them to one of my semi-regular features on What To Do With a Classics Degree. I kind of wish our OWS-Latin student had visited that page in the past few months and/or had followed the category tag to see that plenty of people have financial success in addition to their supposedly useless Classics degree — nay, rather, perhaps they actually have success because they have that degree. I haven’t had a response to my email, of course (not that I expected one).

So that’s my take on this whole thing — not surprised at Rush and more disappointed in the Latin student than anything else. Here’s some of the other blog reactions I’ve come across over the past few days: