Dickinson Summer Latin Workshop 2014 Comments


002Participants in the 2014 Dickinson Summer Latin Workshop (left to right): Christine Kahl, Will Darden, Peter Rook, Catherine Zackey, Faye Peel, Wells Hansen, Ashley Leonard, Scott Paterson, Paul Perrot, Kaori Miller, Jennifer Larson, Hugh McElroy, Janet Brooks, John Landis, Will Harvard, Daniel Cummings, Andrea Millius, Jacqueline Lopata, Bernie Gygax, and Laurie Duncan.

003We met for the week of July 13, 2014, and read selections from Lucretius, led by Wells Hansen and Chris Francese. Two new elements were a daily happy hour, with drinks and light refreshments in front of East College from 4:00-5:00; and the optional session to work on the Dickinson College Commentaries project in the afternoons from 2:00-4:00, helping harvest notes for the projected multimedia edition of the Aeneid. Here are some of the comments from participants:

Thank you! For the wonderful workshop this year. Of course–I enjoyed the reading this year–very interesting selection. I enjoyed reading and socializing with my colleagues. I think the commentary and the daily happy hour provided a great venue to get to know people better.

I very much enjoyed the opportunity to collaborate with other Latin teachers. Good times.

I enjoyed the camaraderie . . . the laughter . . . the intellectual stimulus.

I enjoyed the pace and friendly collegiality

I had a lovely time–favorite workshop yet.

The readings were fantastic! I enjoyed preparing the text every day and the discussions in class. Having the afternoons free was great, too–it allowed me to prep and recharge so I didn’t get too tired out.

I enjoyed spending time with a diverse group of teachers and Latin aficionados. Getting a chance to read one text in depth with knowledgeable instructors and colleagues. Just generally hanging out with Latin people and making jokes about the Dative.




Sander Goldberg on the new Virgil Encyclopedia

The Bryn Mawr Classical Review has just published a fine and very positive review of the new three-volume Virgil Encyclopedia edited by Richard Thomas and Jan Ziolkowski. After praising it and describing its emphases in comparison with its Italian predecessor, the Enciclopedia Virgiliana, the reviewer, Sander Goldberg of UCLA, makes what has become something of a standard plea in reviews of such print reference works that they could be better done on line. But he makes it in a characteristically eloquent way:

Students in particular have already found an inviting and increasingly popular alternative, though the VE‘s editors are not kind to it: ‘a printed encyclopedia of this sort is also a world apart from the web. It offers material that does not have to be unearthed by sorting through a dung-heap in which pearls of truth are buried amid mistakes, exaggerations, and misunderstandings. The volumes have been vetted and edited for accuracy and clarity’ (lxx). I share their dedication to vetting and editing. Virgil may have had to search for pearls in a dung-heap, but his modern readers should certainly be spared that experience. Yet the editors invoke what is, or ought to be, a false dichotomy: an encyclopedia of this sort is a world apart from the web largely because no effort has been made to unite the accuracy and clarity of the former with the flexibility and accessibility of the latter. It is clearly not (or not yet) in Wiley-Blackwell’s interest to do so, but it is most certainly in our interest to have it done, and at some point the editors and contributors to projects like this one are going to have to demand that their labor, their expertise, and their sheer love of the enterprise be given a more progressive format. Their own dedication to the field, so richly displayed in these volumes, deserves nothing less.

Well said, Prof. Goldberg. He also points out that the current print publishing model militates against the detailed exploration of language:

Nuances of Latin vocabulary are not as easily grasped as what even a Google search will quickly supply regarding “Accius” and “Alcuin”, while a philological question that goes unanswered is all too likely in time to become a question that goes unasked. Other technical matters are not so fully ignored, but can be significantly compressed: details may then be difficult to locate and extract. WhereEV foregrounded such matters as ablativo assoluto, accusativi plurali in –is, eīs ed es, and accusativo alla grecaVE relegates them to entries on “syntax” and “morphology”, with other, briefer treatments in “Grecism” and “Hellenism, linguistic”. These are, I hasten to add, very good and useful entries, but the compressed attention to linguistic form and structure is again indicative of a shift away from the tools of close reading and the basic philological information that modern readers increasingly require to read Virgil in Latin with a depth of understanding that the editors may too readily be taking for granted in their audience.

These are problems that DCC is committed to tackling and solving to the extent that we can. In the coming weeks we will publish a database of Vergilian vocabulary, based on the superb work of Henry Frieze, with comprehensive, accurate word frequency information for the Aeneid supplied by LASLA. This tool will be part of a larger planned multimedia edition that will have as much linguistic and stylistic help as we can pack into it for readers who want to dig in to the Latin. More information about the overall plan is here and here. Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you would like to get involved. I know for certain we will have our copy of the Virgil Encyclopedia handy as it develops!

Summer Projects 2014


(l to r) Laurie Duncan, Wells Hansen, Jacqueline Lopata, Hugh McElroy (foreground), Daniel Cummings, and Will Harvard, collecting notes for Book 6 of the Aeneid (photo: Chris Francese).


Jennifer Larson and Paul Perrot working on the DCC edition of the Aeneid in the Info Commons of the Waidner-Sparhr Library, Dickinson College (photo: Chris Francese)


DCC summer research assistants Lucy McInerney, Tyler Denton, and Nick Stender in the Alden Room of the Waidner-Spahr Library, Dickinson (photo: Chris Francese)

The DCC gang is hard a work this summer on several projects, including the multimedia edition of Vergil’s Aeneid, for which we are currently choosing notes. Several members of the 2014 Dickinson Summer Latin Workshop are helping this week in the afternoons (after a morning of translating Lucretius), by selecting notes for Book 6. Two DCC summer research assistants are involved in the same task, over a number of weeks: Lucy McInerney (Book 1) and Tyler Denton (Book 2). All this is taking place on Dickinson’s campus, in the Alden room of the Waidner-Spahr Library. Three other teachers are helping from elsewhere: Sarah Buhidma (Vandegrift High School, Austin, TX; Book 3), John Siman (The Old Stone School, Hillsboro, VA; Book 5), and Richard Davis (The Hotchkiss School, Book 4).

Meanwhile, Nicholas Stender (Dickinson ’15) has finished the vocabulary lists for Callimachus’ Aetia, and is now moving on to revisions to the Lucian True History site, which should go live shortly.

Very exciting things are happening at Haverford, under the direction of Bret Mulligan. Grammar links in the notes fields of the Nepos and Ovid Amores commentaries are now going straight to the new DCC version of Allen & Greenough’s New Latin Grammar, and are opening in an attractive color box, thanks to the team at Haverford. Most exciting is the Bridge, an app being developed to help take learners from the vocabulary they know (be that a particular textbook, the DCC core, or something else), to the specific vocabulary for the text or author they want to read. Just finished Wheelock and want to know what more vocabulary you need to master the DCC core or to read Cicero’s Pro Caelio? The app will tell you, and give you spaced repetition flash cards to get you there. Watch this space for further details!

The new Allen & Greenough is up, though still undergoing final revisions by Meagan Ayer at Dickinson. You will see that the first several hundred chapters look great, but it’s still slightly rough towards the end. A key advantage of our version is that it includes the index of the print book. No other version has this, and it makes a big difference when trying to find a specific construction. You can also search by chapter number, and do a straight word search as well.

With Derek Frymark (Dickinson ’13), I am editing a new digitization of Henry Frieze’s Vergilian Dictionary, and coordinating its head words with the lemmatizations of LASLA’s Dictionnaire fréquentiel Index inverse de la langue latine. In combination with some data kindly provided by LASLA, this will allow us to soon create full and accurate vocabulary lists for the whole of the Aeneid.

If you would like to get involved in any way, please don’t hesitate to drop me a line. We’re hoping to have the AP Aeneid selections up in spring 2015, but covering the whole Aeneid is the longer term goal. There is plenty to keep us busy!

–Chris Francese

Choosing notes on the Aeneid

The ideal book must contain enough material to insure an adequate presentation, yet not so much as to dismay the beginner by its amount or to perplex him by its subtlety. It is a question of perspective and proportion which must be adapted to the learner’s point of view; he alone is to be considered. The progress of the pupil, not the display of the editor’s erudition, must be the constant objective.1

As mentioned in an earlier post, we are in the process of creating a multimedia edition of the Aeneid, to include

  • Notes, drawn mostly from older school editions, that elucidate the language and the context
  • Images, art, and illustrations, annotated to make clear how they relate to the text
  • Complete running vocabulary lists for the whole poem
  • Audio recordings of the Latin read aloud, and videos of the scansion
  • A full Vergilian lexicon based on that of Henry Frieze
  • Recordings of Renaissance music on texts from the Aeneid
  • Comprehensive linking to Allen & Greenough’s Latin Grammar
  • Comprehensive linking to Pleiades for all places mentioned in the text

Here is a list of the editions we are focusing on when compiling the notes. The most promising so far seem to be those of Fairclough and Brown, Greenough and Kittredge, Bennett, and Frieze. I thought it might be interesting to post the evolving  list of criteria we are using to select notes, mainly because there is such a dearth of written discussion about the process of writing annotations on classical texts. True, there are book reviews of commentaries, but few commentators themselves seem to come out with positive statements of the sorts of notes they are trying to write.

We have already published guidelines for contributors that speak to this issue, but the practical task of selecting useful notes from older editions (and omitting the dross) has prompted me to re-phrase and focus that discussion. So here, for what they are worth, and in hopes of prompting a discussion, are the rules of thumb designed to create a useful and consistent set of notes for those who have some Latin but not much acquaintance with Vergil and his style:

Choosing Notes

Include notes that explain

  • idiomatic words and phrases
  • complex word order, where the syntactical connections between words may be for whatever reason less than clear to a first-time reader (prefer notes that re-arrange the Latin to make the logic clearer)
  • unusual grammatical constructions. Choose a note that most economically and specifically elucidates the sense and helps the reader to understand the original language. Use and Allen & Greenough reference where possible. There is no need to repeat grammatical explanations that can be found in the standard grammars.
  • cultural, historical, and literary context, such as personal and geographical names, clear and important allusions to other texts, and customs and historical items that would have been familiar to the imagined audience of a text but are not familiar to non-specialists now.
  • style and tone: Notes that observe tone, nuance, and implication are more valuable than notes that simply point out a nameable stylistic feature. When naming rhetorical or poetic figures, seek out a note that discusses the effect, rather than simply points out the figure.

Avoid notes that

  • paraphrase or translate large chunks, since this only obviates the necessity of understanding the original language;
  • simply name a grammatical construction when a judicious paraphrase or translation is also required. If an Allen Greenough reference is available, give that instead.
  • give an un-translated parallel passage in place of the other types of elucidation
  • cite parallel passages without explaining why a passage is parallel and important
  • merely say “cf.” followed by something whose relevance is not clear.
  1. H.R. Fairclough and Seldon L. Brown, Virgil’s Aeneid Books I-VI with Introduction, Notes and Vocabulary (Chicago: Benj. H. Sanborn, 1919), p. iii. []

Western Classics in China

The recent vigorous revival of interest in the Western Classics at universities in China was the subject of a fascinating panel at the 2014 APA, “Classics and Reaction: Modern China Confronts the Ancient West.” In the latest edition of Amphora Yongyi Li of Chonqing University surveys the latest developments with regard to Latin, noting that now more than ten universities are regularly teaching Latin, and pointing to the new Center for Studies in Western Classics founded in Peking University and to Latinitas Sinica, an institute devoted to Latin studies at Beijing Foreign Studies University. He ends the article with a moving summation and analysis of the meaning of this trend:

“Most importantly, this outburst of passion for the Western classics has been parallel to, and following a similar historical logic as, our belated reconciliation with our own ancient tradition. After a century’s sterile radical nihilism regarding our heritage, many of us have begun to treat our classics with the respect and care they deserve, refraining from simplified assumptions and searching through painstaking negotiations with the texts for intelligent readings that are relevant both to the original contexts and to our contemporary concerns. Likewise we believe that it is high time we discarded stereotyped generalizations of Western values, ceasing to take modern Euro-American civilizations as the “medicine” for for the “diseases” of an “inherently” diseased Chinese culture, a conviction shared by most advocates of the May Fourth Movement in the 1910s and carried to catastrophic extremes by the Red Guards half a century later. Studies of the Western classics help us understand the roots and ramifications of this drastically different tradition, and reveal ways in which any tradition can be questioned, revised, and transformed in an ongoing dialogue that steers clear of both servile dogmatism and arrogant dismissal.

“Therefore, this new life of Latin in China is not a pale ghost shunning the vital energies of the sun, or a mummy in the museum holding interest only for the curious. Rather, its pulsing arteries and flexing muscles promise active engagement in a labor of love, the building of a bridge across times and traditions, spanning the bitter divide that has stranded people in the cultural East and the Cultural West.”

Yongyi Li, “A New Incarnation of Latin in China,” Amophora 11.1 (Spring 2014), p. 14.

How can classicists living in the West further this exciting cultural dialogue? What resources are most needed? Grammars? Language texts? Translations? Articles and monographs? Academic exchanges?

A Degree in English

By request, a reprise of my 2009 Op-ed on Latin college diplomas.

Published: May 14, 2009
Carlisle, Pa.

NYT op-ed art

CONGRATULATIONS. You are graduating this month with a Baccalaureatus Scientiae in Compertis ad Salutem Pertinentibus Administrandis. It sounds impressive, but what does it have to do with your degree in health information management? Almost no one knows, and that’s why the Latin diploma needs to go.

Latin is a beautiful language and a relief from the incessant novelty and informality of the modern age. But when it’s used on diplomas, the effect is to obfuscate, not edify; its function is to overawe, not delight. The goal of education is the creation and transmission of knowledge — not the creation and transmission of prestige. Why, then, celebrate that education with a document that prizes grandiosity over communication?

A disclosure: Diploma Latin has caused me some personal pain and humiliation. I am in charge of adjusting the complicated Latin dates on the diplomas at the college where I teach, a project I’ve always taken pride in.

Last year, I was asked to update the text, and I made a mistake; the details are almost too painful to recall. An extra keystroke of mine changed “anno” into “annno.” This went unnoticed — because most people couldn’t read the Latin anyway — until the diplomas had been printed and distributed. Later, some people did catch the mistake, including one of my best students, who assumed that a king’s ransom in tuition guaranteed her a proofread diploma. The college had to spend $4,000 to print new diplomas.

So, yes, I am scarred. But even before the recent unpleasantness, I had my doubts about the wisdom of using the language of Livy for this particular purpose.

I know that getting rid of the Latin diploma will not be easy. While most colleges and universities now issue English diplomas, some prominent holdouts — including Yale, Princeton and the University of Pennsylvania — still use Latin. Many students and alumni cherish the tradition. In 1961, when Harvard switched to English diplomas, about 4,000 students protested in the “diploma riots,” and criticized the new documents as “Y.M.C.A. certificates.”

We Latinists have also been resistant to change. Like most keepers of arcane knowledge, we savor our rare moments of prominence.

I say this from personal experience: Once, the hardened leader of the local SWAT team asked me for a Latin version of his team’s credo, “The strength of the wolf is in the pack, the strength of the pack is in the wolf.” I told him: “Robur gregi in lupo, robur lupo in grege.” He thanked me and then said the nine most comforting words a SWAT team leader could say to anyone: “Let me know if you ever need a favor.”

Admittedly, this pales in comparison to the fame gained by the Columbia University Latin scholar who had the high honor of translating for the press the tattoo of the woman at the center of the Eliot Spitzer scandal from “Tutela valui” to “I use protection.”

This all sounds very exciting, but these stories of linguistic derring-do obscure the fact that Latin diplomas have outlived their usefulness.

Originally, diplomas were letters of introduction given to travelers by the Roman government. For centuries, Latin served as a convenient common language among educated people around the world. This is no longer the case. Graduates don’t pull diplomas out of their glove boxes, and fraud is resolved by checking college records. But diplomas are still supposed to convey information, and Latin diplomas fail to fulfill that function. When one Dickinson College alumna recently applied to work at a public school, she had a photocopied version of her Latin diploma returned as foreign and illegible.

I’ve heard some argue that Latin is on diplomas because it’s beautiful and the language of Virgil and Cicero. The sad fact, though, is that diploma Latin is a far cry from Cicero’s Latin.

Roman writers composed some of the world’s most thrilling verse and were masters of historiography, oratory and philosophy. But diploma Latin is some of the most depressing and long-winded legalese you can find. Hiding behind the lovely calligraphy are maddening syntax and appalling neologisms. How do you say the name of every college town in Latin? You shouldn’t have to.

(Nor should you have to struggle to read the text in the illustration that accompanies this piece, so let me help you out. It says: “I can’t understand this either.”)

As a college professor, I try to tell my students that education is more than a status symbol. Its purpose is the development of the mind and social usefulness through the clear communication of information and ideas. Why contradict that with the very piece of paper that is meant to represent the work they’ve done? A college education is something to be proud of, but its prestige should lie in its content, not its form.

I love Latin, but when the last American diploma is finally converted to English I will say, “Ita vero.” Right on.

[A version of this article appeared in print on May 15, 2009, on page A39 of the New York edition of the New York Times, and on the Times' web site.]

Dickinson College Summer Latin Workshop 2014

Dickinson College Summer Latin Workshop

July 13-18, 2014


DIRECTIONS TO CARLISLE AND MAPS OF THE DICKINSON COLLEGE CAMPUS: are available on the Dickinson College web site: http://www.dickinson.edu

ARRIVAL: arrive no earlier than 1:00 p.m., no later than 6:00 p.m. Sunday, July 13. Our first meeting will be dinner, Sunday at 6:00. Meet in the lobby of the Holland Union Building (map). Check in at the Department of Public Safety at 400 W. North St. (See map. Their phone number is 717-245-1349). There you will receive a key and directions to your residence (Goodyear Building, see map), along with a card which will allow you to get meals, use the library and the Kline Center athletic facilities and pool, as well as other useful information about the campus and the town of Carlisle.

PARKING: park free on the streets around campus. Public Safety asks that you register your car with them at arrival. A map of parking on campus is available here: http://www.dickinson.edu/about/visit/maps-and-directions/Street-Map-with-Parking/

DEPARTURE: the final event will be the farewell dinner, 6:00 Friday, July 18. Please let me know as soon as possible if you will need lodging on the night of July 18th.

MEETING SCHEDULE: the group will meet in the morning (8:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.).

Meetings will take place in East College building on Dickinson’s campus (map). The plan is to read and translate selections from Lucretius, in the edition of Leonard & Smith.

OPTIONAL AFTERNOON SESSION: An optional session in the afternoon will be held for those who would enjoy participating in the Dickinson College Commentaries project. We will be collaboratively selecting and editing notes for an edition of Book 8 of Vergil’s Aeneid. This will meet from 2:00-4:00, with happy hour to follow from 4:00-5:00.

MEALS: will be taken in the Dickinson College Cafeteria (“the caf”) in the Holland Union Building on first block of North College Street (map). Vegetarian dishes are available. The Quarry is a coffee bar right across the street from the cafeteria, but your meal card will not work there, only cash.

WI-FI ACCESS: You will be issued a group password that will allow you to log on to the campus wireless network. There is also guest access, which lasts for a few hours before requiring a log in.

THINGS TO BRING: participants from previous years have suggested that you may want to bring: a desk lamp, an extra blanket, a swimsuit.

Schedule (Revised June 10, 2014)

Day One Book One
Read the first 214 lines of book one, then skip the section on conservation of matter, and pick up again at 265 and read to 429. Skip the arguments against particular philosophers and read from 921 to the end of the book, the argument for the infinite size of the universe.

Day Two Book Two
Read the first 164 lines of book two, skip a section on atomic speed and motion, then read
216-293 on the clinamen. Next, skip and summarize the sections on the qualities, number and arrangement of atoms and atomic shapes, and read from 991 to the end of the book on our mundus as one of many mundi.

Day Three Books Three and Six
Read the proem, lines 1-30 of book three, then skip and summarize the relationship of the
animus, anima, and corpus in order to concentrate on book three lines 830-1094, the
arguments against the fear of death. If time remains, let’s read in book six from line 1138 to the end, the disturbing description of the plague at Athens.

Day Four Book Four
Read the proem to book four, lines 1-25, skip and summarize the sections on seeing and
perception to concentrate on 907 to the end of the book, the interestingly interrelated
arguments on sleep and love.

Day Five Book Five
We’ll briefly summarize the description of our world within the universe and then read in
Latin from 772 to the end of the book, the history of the world, and beyond.


Vergil, XML-TEI Markup, linked annotation data, and the DCC

Organizing our received humanities materials as if they were simply informational depositories, computer markup as currently imagined handicaps or even baffles altogether our moves to engage with the well-known dynamic functions of  textual works.1

This sentence from Jerome McGann’s challenging new book on digitization and the humanities (part of a chapter on TEI called “Marking Texts in Many Directions,” originally published in 2004) rang out to me with a clarity derived from its relevance to my own present struggles and projects. The question for a small project like ours, “to mark up or not to mark up in XML-TEI?” is an acutely anxious one. The labor involved is considerable, the delays and headaches numerous. The payoff is theoretical and long term. But the risk of not doing so is oblivion. Texts stuck in html will eventually be marginalized, forgotten, unused, like 1989′s websites. TEI promises pain now, but with a chance of the closest thing the digital world has to immortality. It holds out the possibility of re-use, of a dynamic and interactive future.

McGann points out that print always has a twin function as both archive and simulation of natural language. Markup decisively subordinates the simulation function of text in favor of ever better archiving. This may be why XML-TEI has such a profound appeal to many classicists, and why it makes others, who value the performative, aesthetic aspects of language more than the archiving of it, so uneasy.

McGann expresses some hope for future interfaces that work “topologically” rather than linearly to integrate these functions, but that’s way in the future. What we have right now is an enormous capacity to enhance the simulation capacity of print via audio and other media. But if we (I mean DCC) spend time on that aspect of web design, it takes time away from the “store your nuts for winter” activities of TEI tagging.

Virgil. Opera (Works). Strasburg: Johann Grüninger, 1502. Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland City Libraries

Virgil. Opera (Works). Strasburg: Johann Grüninger, 1502. Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland City Libraries

These issues are in the forefront of my mind as I am in the thick of preparations for a new multimedia edition of the Aeneid that will, when complete, be unlike anything else available in print or on the web, I believe. It will have not just notes, but a wealth of annotated images (famous art works and engravings from historical illustrated Aeneid editions), audio recordings, video scansion tutorials, recordings of Renaissance music on texts from the Aeneid, a full Vergilian lexicon based on that of Henry Frieze, comprehensive linking to a newly digitized version of Allen & Greenough’s Latin Grammar, complete running vocabulary lists for the whole poem, and other enhancements.

Embarking on this I will have the help of many talented people:

  • Lucy McInerney (Dickinson ’15) and Tyler Denton (University of Kentucky MA ’14) and Nick Stender (Dickinson ’15) will help this summer to gather grammatical and explanatory notes on the Latin from various existing school editions in the public domain, which I will then edit.
  • Derek Frymark (Dickinson ’12) is working on the Vergilian dictionary database, digitizing and editing Frieze-Dennison. This will be combined with data generously provided by LASLA to produce the running vocabulary lists.
  • Meagan Ayer (PhD University of Buffalo ’13) is putting the finishing touches on the html of Allen & Greenough. This was also worked on by Kaylin Bednarz (Dickinson ’15).
  • Melinda Schlitt, Prof. of Art and Art History at Dickinson, will work on essays on the artistic tradition inspired by the Aeneid in fall of 2014, assisted by Gillian Pinkham (Dickinson ’14).
  • Ryan Burke, our heroic Drupal developer, is creating the interface that will allow for attractive viewing of images along with their metadata and annotations, a new interface for Allen & Greenough, and many other things.
  • Blake Wilson, Prof. of Music at Dickinson, and director of the Collegium Musicum, will be recording choral music based on texts from the Aeneid.

And I expect to have other collaborators down the road as well, faculty, students, and teachers (let me know if you want to get involved!). My own role at the moment is an organizational one, figuring out which of these many tasks is most important and how to implement them, picking illustrations, trying to get rights, and figuring out what kind of metadata we need. I’ll make the audio recordings and scansion tutorials, and no doubt write  a lot of image annotations as we go, and do tons of editing. The plan is to have the AP selections substantially complete by the end of the summer, with Prof. Schlitt’s art historical material and the music to follow in early 2015. My ambition is to cover the entire Aeneid in the coming years.

Faced with this wealth of possibilities for creative simulation, for the sensual enhancement of the Aeneid, I have essentially abandoned, for now at least, the attempt to archive our annotations via TEI. I went through some stages. Denial: this TEI stuff doesn’t apply to us at all; it’s for large database projects at big universities with massive funding. Grief: it’s true, lack of TEI dooms the long-term future of our data; we’re in a pathetic silo; it’s all going to be lost. Hope: maybe we can actually do it; if we just get the right set of minimal tags. Resignation: we just can’t do everything, and we have to do what will make the best use of our resources and make the biggest impact now and in the near future.

One of the things that helped me make this decision was a conversation via email with Bret Mulligan and Sam Huskey. Bret is an editor at the DCC, author of the superb DCC edition of Nepos’ Life of Hannical, and my closest confidant on matters of strategy. Sam is the Information Architect at the APA, and a leader in the developing Digital Latin Library Projects which, if funded, will create the infrastructure for digitized peer reviewed critical texts and commentaries for the whole history of Latin.

When queried about plans to mark up annotation content, Sam acknowledged that developing the syntax for this was a key first step in creating this new archive. He plans at this point to use not TEI but RDF Triples, the lnked data scheme that has worked so well for Pleiades and Pelagios. RDF triples basically allow you to say for anything on the web, x = y. You can connect any chunk of text with any relevant annotation, in the way that Pleiades and Pelagios can automatically connect any ancient place with any tagged photo of that place on flickr, or any tagged reference to it in DCC or other text database. I can see how, for the long term development of infrastructure, RDF triples would be the way to go, in so far as it would create the potential for a linked data approach to annotation (including apparatus).

The fact that the vocabulary for doing that is not ready yet makes my decision about what to do with the Aeneid. Greg Crane too, and the Perseus/OGL team at Tufts and the University of Leipzig, are working on a new infrastructure for connecting ancient texts to annotation content, and Prof. Crane has been very generous with his time in advising me about DCC. He seemed to be a little frustrated that the system for reliably encoding and sharing annotations is not there yet, and eager to help us just get on with the business of creating new freely available annotation content in the meantime, and that’s what we’re doing. Our small project is not in a position to get involved in the building of the infrastructure. We’ll just have to work on complying when and if an accepted schema appears.

For those who are in a position to develop this infrastructure, here with my two sesterces. Perhaps the goal is someday to have something like Pleiades for texts, with something like Pelagios for linking annotation content. You could have a designated chunk of text displayed, then off to the bottom right somewhere there could be a list of types and sources of annotation content. “15 annotations to this section in DCC,” “25 annotations to this section in Perseus,” “3 place names that appear in Pleiades,” “55 variant readings in DLL apparatus bank,” “5 linked translations available via Alpheios,” etc., and the user could click and see that content as desired.

It seems to me that the only way to wrangle all this content is to deal in chunks of text, paragraphs, line ranges, not individual words or lemmata. We’re getting ready to chunk the Aeneid, and I think I’m going to use Perseus’ existing chunks. Standard chunkings would serve much the same purpose as numeration in the early printed editions, Stephanus numbers for Plato and so forth. Annotations can obviously flag individual words and lemmata, but it seems like for linked data approaches you simply can’t key things to small units that won’t be unique and might in fact change if a manuscript reading is revised. I am aware of the CTS-URN architecture, and consider it to be a key advance in the history of classical studies. But I am speaking here just about linking annotation content to chunks of classical texts.

What Prof. Crane would like is more machine operability, so you can re-use annotations and automate the process. That way, I don’t have to write the same annotation over and over. If, say,  iam tum cum in Catullus 1 means the same thing as iam tum cum in other texts, you should be able to re-use the note. Likewise for places and personal names, you shouldn’t have to explain afresh every time which one of the several Alexandrias or Diogeneses you are dealing with.

I personally think that, while the process of annotation can be simplified, especially by linking out to standard grammars rather than re-explaining grammatical points every time, and by creating truly accurate running vocabulary lists, the dream of machine operable annotation is not a realistic one. You can use reference works to make the process more efficient. But a human will always have to do that, and more importantly the human scholar figure will always need to be in the forefront for classical annotation. The audience prefers it, and the qualified specialists are out there.

This leads me to my last point for this overlong post, that getting the qualified humans in the game of digital annotation is for me the key factor. I am so thrilled the APA is taking the lead with DLL. APA has access to the network of scholars in a way that the rest of us do not, and I look forward to seeing the APA leverage that into some truly revolutionary quality resources in the coming years. Sorry, it’s the SCS now!

  1. Jerome McGann, A New Republics of Letters: Memory and Scholarship in the Age of Digital Reproduction (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2014), pp. 107-108. []

Lucretius on Google Books

Corrections in the ‘Oblongus’ copy of Lucretius’ De Rerum Natura, VLF 30, f. 20r (Photo: Julie Somers)

Corrections in the ‘Oblongus’ copy of Lucretius’ De Rerum Natura, VLF 30, f. 20r (Photo: Julie Somers)

Herewith the morning’s harvest of commented Lucretius editions on Google Books, beginning with Lachmann (1850), who first demonstrated the importance of the Leiden codices VLF 30 and VLQ 94 (both Carolingian, from around 825) as the oldest and most reliable manuscripts.

Lachmannus, Carolus. T. Lucreti Cari De Rerum Natura Libri Sex. Berlin, Georg Reimer, 1850. Google Books

Munro, H.A.J. T. Lucreti Cari De Rerum Natura Libri Sex, with Notes and a Translation. 2nd ed. Vol. I: Text and Notes. Cambridge: Deighton Bell and Co., 1866. Google Books. Vol. II 1864. Google Books.

Warburton Lee, J.H. T. Lucreti Cari De Rerum Natura Libri I–III, edited with Introduction and Notes. London: MacMillan and Co., 1893. Google Books.

Kelsey, Francis W. T. Lucreti Cari De Rerum Natura Libri Sex, with an Introduction and Notes to Book I, III, and V. 4th ed. Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 1896. Google Books

Giussani, Carlo. T. Lucreti Cari De Rerum Natira Libri Sex, Revisione del Testo, Commento e Studi Introdittivi. Vol. 3, Libro II e IV. Torino: Ermanno Loescher, 1897. Google Books

Duff, J.D. T. Lucreti Cari De Rerum Natura Liber Tertius, edited with introduction, notes, and index. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1903. Pitt Press Series. Google Books.

Pascal, Carlo. T. Lucreti Cari De Rerum Natura Liber Primus, Introduzione e Commentario Critico. Rome: Società Editrice Dante Alichieri, 1904. Google Books.

Medieval Latin Online Summer 2014: Malchus and Brendan


Whale, ink and pigment on vellum, anonymous illustrator from the Harley Bestiary, c 1235. Source: http://goo.gl/NtDvvA

In the summer of 2014 Professors William Turpin (Swarthmore College,
Classics) and Bruce Venarde (University of Pittsburgh, History) will
offer a second free online Latin translation course, meeting as a Google
Hangout. The class will meet once a week starting on Monday, June 2nd,
from 8:00PM to 9:15 or 9:30 PM EST, and will continue for perhaps ten
weeks. We will be translating and discussing Jerome’s “Life of Malchus”
and the anonymous “Voyage of St. Brendan.” Both texts are interesting in
themselves (at times they are downright exciting), and they are
important documents in the history of Medieval monasticism. The course
is intended for students who have completed a year or so of classical
Latin at the college level, or the equivalent in high school. It should
also be suitable for those whose Latin may be a little rusty, or for
more accomplished Latinists with an interest in medieval Latin.

To participate or to receive updates on the course it will necessary to
have a Google account, and to join the Google Plus “Community” called
“Medieval Latin (Summer 2014): Malchus and Brendan.”

Google Hangouts will allow eight active participants (i.e. people who
may wish to translate a particular section of text) and an unlimited
number of auditors, who will be able to follow on YouTube and submit
questions and comments using the messaging function. The sessions will
also be archived on YouTube (sessions from 2013 can be found if you
search “Gesta Francorum”); this will make it possible for people to
catch up for missed sessions if they wish to, and of course it will make
the sessions easier for people in different time zones.

Anyone wanting to be an active participant will need a computer with a
webcamera and microphone, and perhaps also a quiet room. We will provide
a webpage for interested participants to sign up for particular sections
of the text; such participants will then be invited to translate and to
raise questions or comment as seems appropriate. The “instructors,” and
other active participants will offer assistance and comments as
necessary, just as in an ordinary class with participants sitting around
a table.

The basic intention of this course is to replicate to the extent
possible the experience of a student in (say) a college Latin class at
the early intermediate level, minus the quizzes, tests, and continuing
assessment; at present we have no mechanism for awarding credit or
certificates of attendance. The most immediate model, in fact, may be an
informal reading group devoted to a particular ancient or medieval text.
The basic premise, as with those reading groups, is that a small
community of interested participants can both encourage and enhance what
is essentially a private encounter with a text.

For texts and signup sheet go to

Questions may be addressed to  wturpin1 at swarthmore.edu