The National Latin Survey Needs Your Help!

Elliott Goodman writes in:

Latin teachers and students:
 
I am writing to request your participation in the National Latin Survey conducted by Teachers College, Columbia University. The purpose of this 15-minute survey is to hear from middle and high school students and teachers all across the United States and find out the many different reasons why people study and teach Latin. Your opinion is important because what you say may help authors write new Latin textbooks and provide Latin teachers with valuable information. To access the survey, please click one of the links below:
 
 
 
The last national survey of Latin students and teachers was conducted in the 1920s by the American Classical League. The long-term goals of the project are to produce at least two reports describing the findings; one report will be a full needs analysis study including all the statistical formulae for the applied linguistics community and the other report will be written for an audience of Latin teachers with no knowledge of statistics.  These reports will be submitted to peer-reviewed journals and be made available to the public for free on the project website.  Your participation in the survey is voluntary and your responses will be confidential. Students 12 and younger need parental consent to participate. If you are a teacher and would like your students to participate, please e-mail NationalLatinSurvey2013 AT gmail.com to request student surveys.
 
If you encounter any problems while taking the survey, please contact the principal investigator, Elliott Goodman at NationalLatinSurvey2013 AT gmail.com.

NASA’s Latin Twitter Feed is Active!

A while back we mentioned this project (NASA Wants You to Help With a Latin Twitter Feed!) and now it’s up and running. The BBC reports:

Pictures of the surface of Mars, taken from Nasa’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), are to be captioned in Latin on social media outlets as part of an outreach project.

The Latin captions will be published from 28 August on Tumblr, Twitter and Facebook.

The photography project is known as HiRise (High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment) and has run since 2006.

The Latin translations are being done by 18 volunteers coordinated in the UK.

“We were inspired by the Pope’s Latin feed,” HiRise spokesman Ari Espinoza from the University of Arizona told the BBC.

The then Pope Benedict XVI sent his first tweet in the ancient language at the beginning of the year and also used Latin in his resignation speech.

“Some of the science greats – [Johannes] Kepler, [Isaac] Newton wrote in Latin – this is a tie to the past but we’re looking at the future,” Mr Espinoza added.Start Quote

Captions are already provided in 10 languages as well as English, including Hebrew, Icelandic and Russian.

While some modern scientific terms had challenged the Latin translators, more mundane phrases had also faced scrutiny, said Dr Lorna Robinson, director of the Iris Project, a UK-based Latin language outreach initiative, which is coordinating the team.

“There has been debate over whether to keep the Latin more simple or make it as close to classical Latin as possible,” she said.

“We reached a compromise – wanted to keep it clear and accessible to outsiders without being wrong.”

The word “possible” had divided opinion among the language experts because it had not been used in the same way as it was today, Dr Robinson said.

Mass wasting in Valles Marineris (Lapsus massarum in Valle Marineris)

“We went for ‘possibilis’ – which means ‘possible’ but in terms of classical Latin it wasn’t really used in the way we use it,” she said.

The phrase under scrutiny was a structure described as “with possible ice” which would not have been a format familiar to traditional speakers, Dr Robinson added.

“One of the fascinating things for me has been discovering how many parts of Mars have been named in Latin,” she said.

“It will be interesting for people to see these connections. Terra [is Latin for] terrain, for example – most people will be able to work that out.”

The HiRise camera was designed for continuous use until the fuel on the MRO runs out in 2023, and sends back over 12 images each day, said Mr Espinoza.

“So far we have 30,000 images. Beautiful dunes, defrosting carbon dioxide ice, gulleys and impact craters – it’s Mars,” he said.

“The [translation] group we have created has done a lot of talking. You just don’t learn about impact craters or carbon dioxide ice in Latin at school.”

Follow the feed on twitter: @HiRISELatin

Mindy Kaling on Latin

Tip o’ the pileus to Sarah Bond for pointing us to an interview with Mindy Kaling over at Warby Parker … inter alia:

Favorite school subject

Latin. I loved ancient Rome. It was so violent and sexy and interesting: things like Mount Vesuvius erupting and the remains of Pompeii. When you’re in seventh grade, that’s as close as you get to sex.

via: Dispatches from Warby Parker HQ

… which is one reason I fear proposed legislation in the UK … how many Classics sites/blogs (including this one) will be blocked?

That Ovid Test

You’ve probably already heard about the ‘scandal’ that teenagers were asked to comment on a racy passage from the Amores, but in case you haven’t … here’s a sort of roundup of it all. The original coverage was at the Times, which is behind a paywall, but the Daily Mail — that bastion of moral rectitude — seems to have put on its blinders so as not to have to glance at the stories in its Femail section and started/augmented  the ‘outrage’ reaction (if there was, in fact, such a reaction):

Even the most diligent of AS-level students may not have been fully prepared for one of the questions in their recent Latin exam.

Young classicists – usually aged between 16 and 17 – were asked to read and offer a ‘personal response’ to an ancient but explicit account of sexual intercourse.

The passage from The Amores – one of Ovid’s collection of erotic poetry – describes in the racy embrace of two lovers.

A version of the poem translates on passage as ‘… slip off your chemise without a blush and let him get his thigh well over yours.

‘And let him thrust his tongue as far as it will go into your coral mouth and let passion prompt you to all manner of pretty devices.

‘Talk lovingly. Say all sorts of naughty things, and let the bed creak and groan as you writhe with pleasure.’

The addition of the passage, which was part of a longer section of verse from Ovid’s poems published in the 1st century BC, in the exam for children provoked consternation from one leading academic.

Professor John Ellis, a reader in physics at Cavendish Laboratory, Cambridge, and fellow at Gonville and Caius College, said the exam board was not in their ‘right minds’ to include the passage for children as young as 16.

He told the Times: ‘How would a school react to such material distributed on their premises?

‘Many teachers would have glossed over this extract, assuming no one in their right minds would set it in an exam.’

The text featured in an AS-level Latin paper on Tuesday set by the University of Cambridge OCR board.
Controversial: The inclusion of passages from explicit erotic poetry in AS-level exams – typically sat by pupils aged 16 and 17 – has been criticised by a leading academic. (file picture)

Controversial: The inclusion of passages from explicit erotic poetry in AS-level exams – typically sat by pupils aged 16 and 17 – has been criticised by a leading academic. (file picture)

Students were awarded up to 10 marks out of a total of 100 on the paper for their answers. Mary Beard, Professor of Classics at Cambridge, defended the inclusion of the text, telling the Times: ‘Please, let’s not go back to the days when kids were not supposed to read some poems of, say, Catullus, because some old codger had thought they might get corrupted.’

An OCR spokesman said not including the passages would be tantamount to ‘censorship’ and would deny students the opportunity to study some of the finest elegiac poems ever written.

The elegiac style is a poetic technique where each couplet usually makes sense on its own, while forming part of a larger work.

The spokesman said: ‘Ovid’s Amores poems are considered by professionals to be some of the finest examples of elegiac poetry that there are.

‘To censor such material would only leave young adults with a false perception of their area of study. If such censorship were to be applied to English literature it would preclude coverage of the works of DH Lawrence, Chaucer and even Shakespeare.’

Tip o’ the pileus, by the way, to Nick Lowe for sending me assorted links. His daughter actually sat the exam and just in case you were wondering, the passage was Amores iii.14.21-6 … here’s the text from the Latin Library:

illic nec tunicam tibi sit posuisse pudori
nec femori inpositum sustinuisse femur;
illic purpureis condatur lingua labellis,
inque modos Venerem mille figuret amor;
illic nec voces nec verba iuvantia cessent,
spondaque lasciva mobilitate tremat!

I think I got those right … whatever the case, it really does have to be admitted that there is probably more lasciviousness in a random ten minute television show after 8:00 p.m. than there is here. The incipit of the Guardian’s coverage is rather more fitting with this particular century:

Despite the well-known adage that all literature is about sex and death, the Times and the Daily Mail got rather agitated today about the inclusion of that Playboy-esque filthfest, Ovid’s Amores, in the most recent Latin AS-level exam. “Slip off your chemise without a blush”, reads a translation of the extract. “Say all sorts of naughty things, and let the bed creak and groan as you writhe with pleasure.” All sorts of naughty things? Dear God, spare the innocence of our nation’s teenagers!

Forgive me if I don’t join the moral outrage brigade in this instance, but I’m pretty sure the average UK teenager isn’t going to balk at much in Ovid. Take the UK singles chart – a compilation predominantly controlled by the consumer habits of teens – where the present number one, Blurred Lines, includes the lyrics “Lemme be the one you back your ass up to /… Had a bitch, but she ain’t as bad as you / So, hit me up when you pass through / I’ll give you something big enough to tear your ass in two.” Even at its most risqué, Ovid at least preserved a semblance of mutual pleasure. In a world where “tearing you up”, “smashing you”, and “hitting it” is commonplace, exposure to sensual – rather than violent – language surrounding sex might even do the little scamps some good.

Meanwhile, it would be prudent to bear in mind that this is hardly the first time 16-year-olds have encountered amorous literature in the classroom. Studying sex is almost as old as the act itself – as the list below shows. […]

The list in the Guardian, by the way, includes such items as Solomon’s Song of Songs and the Miller’s Tale. That said, today we read in Cambridge News the reaction to the reaction from some of the head teachers involved:

The headteacher of a Cambridge sixth form has defended an exam question which gave teenagers a raunchy description of sexual intercourse.

Cambridge exam board OCR asked AS-level Latin candidates about Ovid’s Amores, in which the poet tells his mistress she can sleep with other men.

In part of the 16BC elegy reproduced in the exam he tells her to “slip off your chemise without a blush and let him get his thigh well over yours” and to “let the bed creak and groan as you writhe with pleasure”.

The exam board has come under fire from some quarters saying the racy material is inappropriate for AS-level students, who are typically aged 16-17.

Latin sixth formers from Stephen Perse Foundation were among those who have been studying the passage.

Simon Armitage, director of sixth form at the Cambridge private school, said the section they studied was “very tame” compared with other parts.

He said: “It’s not a lad’s mag list of obscentities or provocative statements. It’s not designed to trivialise or titilate. It’s poetry, beautifully constructed.

“The story is all about Ovid explaining how his girlfriend is cheating on him. He is appealing to her not to tell him what she’s up to.

“The students really engage in the way the emotion is being conveyed through the poetry in a way they can’t if they are studying farming practices or bee-keeping.”

He added: “It says a lot about this text that we’re still talking about it thousands of years later.”

Cambridge Classics professor Mary Beard is glad the censoring of some of the greatest Latin poetry has been confined to the past.

She told The Times: “The Amores is a hugely popular text and, inevitably, like many aspects of ancient culture, it prompts all kinds of discussion about gender, mysogyny, eroticism and how these were differently negotiated by the Greeks and Romans.

“Please, let’s not go back to the days when kids were not supposed to read some poems of say, Catullus, because some old codger had thought they might get corrupted.”

An OCR spokeswoman said: “Ovid’s Amores poems are considered by professionals to be some of the finest examples of elegiac poetry that there are.

“To censor such material would only leave young adults with a false perception of their area of study. If such censorship were to be applied to English literature it would preclude coverage of the works of DH Lawrence, Chaucer and even Shakespeare.”

The News reported on Monday how Cambridge law students were confronted with a graphic depiction of oral sex, male rape and naked torture, which the university said was needed to test students’ understanding of criminal law.

A passage from Ovid’s Amores:

“…slip off your chemise without a blush and let him get his thigh well over yours. And let him thrust his tongue as far as it will go into your coral mouth and let passion prompt you to all manner of pretty devices.

“Talk lovingly. Say all sorts of naughty things, and let the bed creak and groan as you writhe with pleasure. But as soon as you have got your things on again, look the nice demure little lady you ought to be, and let your modesty belie your wantonness. Bamboozle society, bamboozle me; but don’t let me know it, that’s all; and let me go on living in my fool’s paradise.”

We might cynically hope that all the publicity from this attracts a few more teens with raging hormones to consider Latin/Classics as study fodder …

From the Mailbag: Telling Tales in Latin

Lorna Robinson sent this along:

The Iris Project delighted to announce the publication of a new Latin course and storybook, Telling Tales in Latin!

Telling Tales in Latin infuses learning Latin with the magic of storytelling. Narrated by the chatty and imaginative Roman poet Ovid, this brand new kind of Latin course takes the reader on a journey through some of the most wonderful tales from the Metamorphoses. Along the way, readers pick up Latin words and grammar and are encouraged to explore the connections between Latin and English, and the ways in which Ovid’s stories still speak to us today. Beautifully illustrated throughout, this Latin course reads like a story book, and as such, will appeal to a wide range of learners. It also contains the necessary vocabulary and grammar needed for the OCR Entry Level Latin qualification, so readers and schools can use this as the only Latin course geared towards this qualification.

Every chapter introduces the reader to a much-loved story from Ovid’s poem, encouraging him/her to start reading Latin which is adapted from the original text straightaway. It leads readers through the story, encouraging connections to be made between English and Latin words, and exploring new aspects of grammar in a playful but clear way. Each chapter ends with suggestions for activities, as well as ways in which the story can be explored from literary and creative perspectives. Emphasis is placed upon thinking about the resonance and universal appeal of mythical stories, and identifying why these stories developed. The book also encourages readers to think about the many ways in which the stories connect to modern ideas and features ranging from scientific advances to climate change and caring for the planet! Alongside all these cross-curricular connections, there is a continual focus on literacy and language.

A free teacher’s guide will be available to download in the summer from the Iris website.

Telling Tales in Latin is written by Iris director Dr Lorna Robinson, with illustrations by Iris illustrator Soham De. Advice on the Latin text is provided by co-ordinator of the Iris Literacy through Latin scheme in Swansea, Dr Evelien Bracke.

ISBN 9780285641792        £10,  illustrated in colour throughout
Also available as an ebook

To order Telling Tales in Latin please send name and address to:
Trade Department, Souvenir Press, 43 Great Russell Street,  London WC1B 3PD.
Please make cheques payable to Souvenir Press Ltd.

For credit or debit card sales call 01235 827702 and use the reference ‘Tales’
For further information call 020 7580 9307 or email: sp.trade AT souvenirpress.co.uk

You can now order the new Iris Latin course at http://bit.ly/Q3oUvK