Your Personnel Committee Has Questions

The following derives from SCS 2020 panel Evaluating Scholarship, Digital and Traditional, Organized by the Digital Classics Association and Neil Coffee (University at Buffalo, SUNY). I would like thank Neil and my fellow presenters for a stimulating session (fairly well-attended and lively given that it was in the very first slot of the conference, 8:00 a.m. Friday Jan. 3!)

The lack of regular procedures and opportunities for peer-review for digital work poses a serious threat to the future of digitally based scholarship and publication in the academy. The absence of routine peer-review is already acting as a brake limiting the time and energy which scholars with a healthy regard for their own professional futures will spend on digital work. Even those committed to the ideals of openness, access, and collaboration that draw us all to this area often don’t fully commit because of the lack of serious peer-review, and I put myself in this category. What kind of amazing open digital projects would be created if scholars could get the same recognition for this kind of work as they get for books and journal articles? Think of digital humanities as a faucet turned three-quarters off  by the disincentive resulting from lack of regular peer-review. The NEH and the Mellon Foundation have done much not only to finance expensive projects, but also to create structures of evaluation and prestige around digital humanities. But what if Mellon and NEH turn to different priorities in the future? Much of what impedes the progress of digital humanities is beyond the power of any individual to change: the dominance of legacy print publishing houses and print journals, the conservative nature of graduate training, the expense required to mount an effective digital project, the scarcity of grant money. These are intractable structures and economic facts. What can an individual scholar do but wait patiently for things to change? My message today is that there are two things we can, as individual scholars, do immediately: initiate conversations with personnel committees at our institutions about evaluating digital scholarship, independent of our own personnel reviews; and ourselves review a project through the SCS digital project review series.

I served on my institution’s personnel committee for two recent years and participated in reviews that included digital scholarship (2016–18). Before that, for four years I chaired a committee that distributed DH funding that came in a grant from the Mellon Foundation. In the process I helped to evaluate proposals from many different fields (2012–16). These grants were mostly quite small, typically a few thousand dollars for a course release or the labor of a student assistant, or to purchase some software. I have managed a medium-sized digital classics project myself for about 10 years. I currently chair the group that produces the SCS digital project reviews (2017–pres.). Depending on the day, then, I’m involved both as a gate crasher (advocating for the acceptance of digital scholarship, my own or others’) and as a gate keeper (turning a critical eye to digital scholarship). My experience leads me to a certain optimism that DH scholars can make the case for acceptance, and succeed in the academic personnel process, if they consider the legitimate needs of institutions to evaluate and assess their faculty.

How should personnel committees approach evaluating digital scholarship? Sam Huskey and his colleagues at OU arrived at two lists of evaluation criteria. The first list gives the essentials: conference presentations or publications related to the project, the use of accepted coding standards, openness of data, and a strategy for data preservation. The second list gives optional elements, the nice-to-haves: grant support, collaboration, contribution to the field, pedagogical applications, and evidence of adoption and use. This framing is an unquestioned advance. We can argue about the relative importance of each item, and whether some items might be moved from one list to the other. Contribution to the field, for example, seems like it might be an essential. But the powerful OU formulation deserves to be adopted, adapted to local conditions, and widely used. If there is problem with the OU approach it is that some of its central elements, coding standards, data preservation, open data, and the advisability of collaboration, derive from preoccupations within the DH community, priorities that may not be shared by personnel committees; other aspect of the OU criteria, like pedagogical applications and contribution to the field, are things that the committee undoubtedly wants to know, but cannot simply find out from the candidate alone. Independent peer-review is the only real solution. Committees routinely consult outside experts at tenure reviews and full professor reviews, and having the OU lists as a way to prompt reviewers on what to talk about is a huge help.

I want to come at the problem from a different angle, not from the perspective of the evaporators, but from that of the candidate. How should we best present our work to the committee? How can we persuade the persuadable and placate those who are not completely implacable? I applied to be on this panel because it so happens that the personnel committee at my institution drafted guidelines on how it would like to be talked to regarding digital work, and I think their list of questions is a good one. It is more diffuse than the OU lists of criteria, but I think it has the merit of coming from non-specialists. I suspect that the questions they formulated are representative of the types of questions many other non-specialist committees would have.

The Dickinson guidelines are based on work by Todd Presner and were developed after a consulting visit by him to campus. They deal with topics such as platforms and technical requirements (how do I as a committee member actually examine your work?); user experience (how might a user use the tool or progress through the site?); scholarly context (what kind of research did you do, what’s the scholarly argument? Who is the audience? Where does this fit in the scholarly landscape?); the relationship of the project to teaching and service (has it been used in courses or other contexts within the institution?); impact (how have others used the project?); the life cycle of the project (how has it evolved? What are future plans? What about data preservation?); defining roles within a project (what, specifically, did you do, and what did other team members do? What kind of new technologies did you have to learn?). The Dickinson document covers some of the same issues as the OU document, but poses them as questions that can be used a guide to create a persuasive story about your project, its life, and its value.

Good rhetoric means knowing your audience, its desires, its fears, and its values. Assuming they are trying to do their jobs, which I think is generally a fair assumption, most committees want above all to make the right decision, and to avoid having to render a verdict on the quality of academic work by themselves alone. This is something which they correctly feel unqualified to do, and which they do not have the time even to attempt. The job of evaluation is hard enough, given the field-specific criteria for length, venues, genres, and styles of scholarship (to say nothing of field-specific pedagogy and the hard-to-assess complexities of institutional service). DH adds yet another element of field-specific complexity, which is perplexing and anxiety-producing, given the stakes and the potential downsides of making a bad decision. Allaying that anxiety is the key task of the candidate, as much as making the case for one’s own work.

There is no denying that all this discussion and rhetorical framing takes effort. The dispersed, evolving nature of DH imposes added burdens on DH scholars to explain and justify their field, their work, and their chosen modes of publication. This is not fair. One does not have to explain the desire to write a journal article. On the other hand, seen from the committee’s perspective, it is undeniable that there are people who publish on the internet mainly as a way of avoiding the hassles, scrutiny, and compromises of peer review. We all know that there are projects that, for whatever reason, are poorly conceived, vaporous, or over-ambitious. There are some projects that are methodologically blameless, but not terribly interesting or useful to anyone but the scholar who decided to undertake them. There are projects that seem to neglect the manifest needs of their potential audience, projects that have no clear sense of audience at all, projects that mainly repackage material readily available elsewhere, projects that needed a lot more work, but the author got distracted, projects that were good in their day but fell into neglect, tools that produce error-filled results, tools that mislead and mystify rather than elucidate, tools that over-promise, or don’t explain clearly how they work and what they are for. It is not unreasonable for committees to be wary.

Of course, the same intellectual flaws and more can be seen in print scholarship, mutatis mutandis. The immaturity of digital scholarship creates problems of assessment for those not familiar with the medium. The professional apparatus of evaluation is underdeveloped. But the intellectual values are not different: relevance, usefulness, contribution, and significance. As Greg emphasizes, in many cases DH is actually truer to the core missions of humanistic scholarship than much of what is produced by print culture. Finding and articulating that common ground and those shared values is the surest strategy when speaking to a traditionally minded personnel committee. The act of engaging in this dialogue about evaluation on an institutional level will also, I believe, have salutary effects on digital projects themselves, as they come to better articulate their purpose and place in the intellectual landscape. If you have trouble talking about the purpose of your project in these terms, it may be time to rethink the aims and methods of the project.

In the end, a lively culture of public peer-review will be the single most important factor in making it easier for personnel committees to distinguish confidently between the good, the better, and the best. A question arises, however. When it comes to a DH project, who are the peers, really? Is the proper context for public evaluation of digital scholarship the traditional academic discipline, or the emerging DH discipline itself, the average user rating, or some combination? Several review projects have arisen within DH and attempt to sidestep traditional disciplinary identities, the latest being Reviews in Digital Humanities, the first issue of which is dated Jan. 2020. But even these folks admit ominously in their about text that “similar endeavors have been largely unsuccessful in the past.” Perhaps print journals could pick up the slack? The journal American Quarterly announced a digital review series in American Studies with some fanfare in 2016, but it has produced as far as I can see only one actual review. Print journals in general seem like a strange venue for such reviews. Reading a print digital project review is a bit like looking at a stuffed bear at the zoo. It fails to satisfy.

I would argue that professional associations like SCS have a valuable role to play. Many of the projects in question aim to help students and scholars of traditional academic subjects, and the associations themselves are collections of field experts in those subjects. The scholars there may be less than current in DH methods, but they can certainly evaluate how useful a project is to students and scholars in their own disciplines. The professional associations typically publish print journals, but they are not themselves print journals. They all have stable websites and, more importantly, stable organizations.

The SCS publishes about one digital project review per month, but honestly it has been hard to identify willing reviewers. There are guidelines for digital project reviews posted on its website, and they are pretty straightforward. Much of it was borrowed from The Bryn Mawr Classical Review and tweaked to apply to digital projects.  The trick will be getting more people in the associations interested in doing the work. In our own field, while BMCR chokes our in-boxes (that faucet is 100% open), while reviews of digital projects are few and far between. It is difficult to find qualified scholars to write digital project reviews without the offer of something tangible like a book in return. BMCR has, it seems, essentially given up on digital projects.

In the dispiriting landscape  of failed DH review efforts, the SCS series has been modestly successful. But, honestly, I worry about the uniformly positive tone of digital classics project reviews the SCS has published so far. We need critical reviews. DH has a culture of mutual support, collaboration, and generosity—which is wonderful if you are involved but damaging to the credibility of the field as a whole in the long run. I urge you to volunteer to review a digital project for the SCS, to apply the standards that are being discussed in this panel, and not hold back. Be the peer review you want to see in the world. If everyone in this room commits to doing a single review in 2020, we will set an example that will get the notice of he entire DH field, and pave the way for a golden age of digital classics to come.


“Evaluation of Digital Scholarship at Dickinson” Memo, Dec. 20, 2013 

Cohen, Daniel J., and Tom Scheinfeldt, eds. Hacking the Academy: New Approaches to Scholarship and Teaching from Digital Humanities. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2013.

Todd Presner, “How to Evaluate Digital Scholarship,” Journal of Digital Humanities, 1.4 (Fall 2012).  


A new Chinese translation of Aeneid 4

Over at Dickinson Classics Online, the sister site of DCC serving Chinese-speaking readers, we have a new translation of Book 4 of Vergil’s Aeneid. The translator, Wentao Zhai, was kind enough to answer my questions about his approach to translating Vergil’s Latin. 

Christopher Francese, Dec. 20, 2019

What audience do you have in mind?

Mostly Chinese students of Latin. There has been growing interest in the study of classical languages in China, hence the need for good translations of original works directly from Latin. I hope my translation can function as a handy reference for Latin students in China, regardless of their proficiency, and also fill in a gap in the study of Roman literature.

How do you handle proper names?

One of the biggest challenges when a Chinese reader first approaches classical epic is the abundance of proper names. I have tried my best to adhere to the standard practice of using a a one-to-one correspondence between each Latin syllable and a single (see note) Chinese character. This practice was established by the pioneering scholar and translator of Greek literature 罗念生 Luo Niansheng. His scheme has been influential, and many characters from his anthology of Greek myth have since become household names.

But there has also been criticism regarding his choice of unusual characters, and recently some have advocated for a departure from the standard practice toward more simplicity and readability. Doing so, however, would sometimes merge similar-sounding syllables and can create confusion when two or more distinct names are transcribed in the same way. In fact, the fine phonetic distinctions made by Luo (between -i and -y for example) are exactly its strength, because a reader can theoretically reconstruct the original name from the transliteration. Therefore, I have followed Luo’s table as much as possible, with a few exceptions which I will explain separately. The exceptions are justified by historical phonology, rather than ease and convenience, which to me is less important than accuracy and consistency.

In the Aeneid, it is not uncommon for one character, place, or group of people to be referred to by multiple names. Since my target audience consists of students of Latin, I have left the names unchanged in my translation, in order to produce faithfully the nuance and flavor of the original. Therefore, I have kept “Cyllenian god” rather than substituting it with the more familiar “Hermes.” Exceptions are patronymics: I typically translate their sense, hence “Alcides” becomes “the son of Alceus.” There are also borderline cases such as “Hesperides”: should I transliterate as a proper noun, or translate into “daughters of evening”? It’s often a discretionary matter for the translator to make these calls—and a rule of thumb I use is to recreate the name’s effect on a Greek-literate readership: since the name Hesperides is rather transparent to someone who is literate in Greek, I have opted to translate the sense. This also avoids unnecessarily long names (without sacrificing accuracy).

Another problem is when to use names that are conventionally in use but don’t follow stringent rules. Again, I have used discretion and am open to suggestions from the reader. Names like “Caesar” and “Jupiter” are straightforward cases where I simply followed conventions, because I see no need to invent a new name. It gets trickier with less familiar deities such as “Vulcan.” Should I faithfully reproduce the Latin “Vulcanus,” or use the shortened English name, like in Star Trek? In the end, I decided on the latter. My justification for using shortened names for all the Olympian gods is the fact that they are so frequently referenced in other fields of literature and art that it would be too burdensome for the reader to memorize another set of distinct names. Since an English reader can cope with the coexistence of Mercury (as opposed to Mercurius), I suppose a Chinese reader can too.

This brings me to the problem of foreign names: in general, I trace the etymology of a name to its source language and transliterate from there. Therefore, names from the Greek world are transliterated from Greek, but Italian names from Latin. There are a few cases where I deferred to other authorities. For example, for Tyre and Sidonia, I have adopted their names as appeared in the Bible, because they seem to be the most familiar.

How do you handle peculiar Roman concepts and terms?

Thankfully, most terms peculiar to Roman history and society already have Chinese translations, such as terms like consul or Lares. Specific concepts are actually easier to handle because the reader can be expected to pick up a dictionary or encyclopedia if something technical comes up. What is more difficult is in fact nouns that are common to Roman life but are much less current in Chinese. A prime example is the parts of a ship, because ancient China was not a sea-faring civilization. I try my best to use traditional nautical terms (even if they are rare and sometimes unintelligible to a non-specialist) with the hope that the study of Classics would revive an interest in the science of navigation in classical China as well.

To a lesser extent the same problem arises with regard to farming utensils. An urban boy through and through, I have minimal knowledge of this subject. This is complicated by the fact that Standard Mandarin is such a young and literary language that it simply does not have the vocabulary for rural life. Using dialectal terms, on the other hand, would create an additional cultural barrier and break with the usual style of my translation. This is a problem to which I have not yet found a satisfactory answer, and in the meanwhile I remain greatly relieved that I didn’t take up the Georgics.

What are the strengths and weaknesses of other Chinese versions you have examined?

As far as I know there are only two complete translations of the Aeneid into Chinese. One is the well-known translation by 杨周翰 Yang Zhouhan, and the other is the曹鸿昭 Cao Hongzhao (Ts’ao Hung-chao) edition from Taiwan. For the more casual reader, both versions would suffice. They both flow well and use language that is accessible and often lively and inspiring. To an extent, every modern translator stands on the shoulder of the past giants; likewise, I have benefited immensely from Yang’s translation. Given my different objectives and especially greater philological focus on the Latin text, I have also made a conscious effort to distance my versification from his prose rendering.

There are two weaknesses in existing translations that which I hope to remedy with my version. First, they are both in prose; and second, Cao (and Yang to a lesser extent) relied heavily on English translations as an intermediary. There is a strong formal element to Latin poetry. The placement and order of words, the rhythm and sound effects, and the ellipses and periphrases all serve a literary purpose. Oftentimes we find a contrast between different styles and registers, between a short, truncated speech and long, elaborate description. There are certain features that, due to the necessary restraint of working in a different language, cannot be reproduced, for example the interplay between ictus and word accent. But there are many others, especially relating to diction and rhetorical devices, that can be emulated in translation. These features tend to be lost if the translation is second-hand, and a prose translation, as Wei Zhang argues elsewhere with regard to Ovid’s Metamorphoses, would even further flatten the linguistic peculiarities for the sake of clarity.

Are there any Chinese literary models you have in mind?

My immediate models are existing translations of great narrative poetry, most notably of Homer by Luo Niansheng and 王焕生 Wang Huansheng. I have also consulted the Chinese translations of Shakespeare by 卞之琳 Bian Zhilin and Dante by 王维克 Wang Weike. Since modern Chinese (I write in literary Mandarin, the national standard language) does not have a poetic tradition comparable to western epics, I relied primarily on translations. I have noted how existing translations of the Aeneid are in prose. Now, it is of course possible to produce refined and highly stylized prose (the renowned prose version of Shakespeare by 朱生豪 Zhu Shenghao immediately comes to mind). But I have found Bian’s verse translations of four great Shakespearean tragedies a more appropriate model. Being a much lesser versifier myself, of course, I can only do my best to follow his example and hope that the reader does not find my translation completely without literary merit.

What kind of tone are you going for (poetic? contemporary? direct? other?)

Poetic meter in Chinese is almost always linked with classical poetry, and its application in modern poetry is still debated. Following precedents in translating Homer, Dante, and Shakespeare, I have decided to eschew minute, technical rules, and adopt a more liberal approach. I have imposed three general limitations: (1) each line must have roughly the same number of syllables, (2) substitute metrical “foot” with “phrase” or its equivalent dun, and (3) keep an elevated register and avoid overly prosaic or informal language.

The concept of dun of is explained by Bian Zhilin in the preface to his Shakespeare translation:

In blank verse, end-rhyme is avoided, but each line consists of five dun (alternatively called morae or phrases, distinct from the caesura in Western poetry) …. Following the pronunciation and sense of modern Chinese, each dun comprises of two or three characters, and rarely after one or four. Four-character dun must end with a grammatical particle (such as dele, or ma). When a one-character dun is followed by a two-character dun, it ceases to be independent and merges into a three-character dun. In verse contexts, I have employed two- and three-character dun more regularly in order to distinguish from prose. Foreign names are usually read faster than usual… and are counted according to their original pronunciation, for example ‘Ophelia’ (three syllables) and ‘Oswald’ (two syllables) can both be scanned as one dun.

In my translation of Vergil, every proper noun is one phrase or dun regardless of its length.

I have two excuses for not trying to domesticate Vergil’s language using “poetic” conventions indigenous to Chinese. First, I am no expert in traditional Chinese verse composition, and straining my abilities would hardly be productive, let alone appreciated by the modern reader. Second, I fear such conceits would distract from my objective to render the original Latin accurately, in a natural and not overwrought manner. That said, what is the right tone to use when translating epic poetry is still an open question: it is work in progress and will probably take the collective effort of several generations of scholars and translators to settle. In making my own meager contribution to this endeavor, I hope my translation can speak for itself.

The Epitaph of Joachim Alphonse Gonçalves (1781-1841)

Latinitas Sinica: Journal of Latin Language and Culture is published in Hong Kong by Michele Ferrero as part of the activities of the Latinitas Sinica foundation, whose mission is the support of the learning and teaching of Latin Language in China. I was pleased to find in Issue 6, published in 2018, an article by Leopold Leeb, the distinguished Austrian Sinologist and professor at Renmin University in Beijing, called “Latin Tombstones in China and the History of Cultural Exchange” (pp. 41-106). It includes the epitaph of the Portuguese missionary and lexicographer Joachim Alphonse Gonçalves (1781-1841), who is close to my heart because I am overseeing a project to digitize his large Latin-Chinese dictionary. The goal of the project is to turn it into a mobile application and publish it on DCC’s sister site, Dickinson Classics Online, which is aimed at a Chinese-speaking audience.  A group of students from Wyoming Seminary (an independent private school here in Pennsylvania) has recently come on to help in the editing of the data, supervised by their teacher Liz Pendland. I thought they in particular might like to learn a little more about the man behind the dictionary.

First, a bit of context from Prof. Leeb (p. 43):

The tombstones of Catholic missionaries were usually written in Latin. They are precious historical documents. Famous cemeteries are the ones in Beijing. In 1610,
after the death of Ricci, a piece of ground was given to the Church, located outside the Fuchengmen, the so-called „Tenggong Zhalan“滕公栅栏 (or “Chala“), where Ricci,
Schall, Verbiest and many others are buried. The cemetery was enlarged in 1654, but the French Jesuits (Bouvet, Regis and others) were buried at a new site after 1732,
namely at the Zhengfusi 正福寺, a few miles to the west. These cemeteries were destroyed in 1900, but restored thereafter. More than 800 missionaries had tombs and
steles at Zhalan, before the Zhalan area was confiscated and the tombs were ordered to be moved to Xibeiwang 西北汪, Beijing. However, many steles are lost, and only
63 have been preserved. These 63, among them the tomb-stones of Ricci, Schall, Verbiest, and Buglio, are still at Zhalan. The stones from Zhengfusi have been moved
to the Stone Museum at Wutasi 五塔寺. Other Catholic cemeteries are the Dafangjing 大方井 cemetery at Hangzhou 杭州, where Yang Tingyun’s 杨廷筠 son erected a
cemetery for the foreigners. In 1676, Fr. Intorcetta 殷 enlarged that cemetery. Aleni’s tomb is at the “Cross Mountain”“十字山”near Fuzhou. Jesuits from Shandong are
buried at Chenjialou 陈家楼, west of Ji’nan. Some Franciscans are buried at a cemetery near Linqing 临清 (here also della Chiesa’s tomb was found). At
Huangshakeng 黄沙坑, west of Canton, some Franciscan missionaries are buried. Bishop Luo Wenzao and some foreign missionaries were buried at Yuhuata 雨花台
outside the Jubao Gate 聚宝门 of Nanjing, but this cemetery was destroyed by the Taipings. Xu Guangqi 徐光启 has his tomb in a park at Xujiahui 徐家汇, Shanghai.  The different mission societies had cemeteries in their respective areas of work.

And now, the Latin text of Goncalves’ tombstone, as edited and translated into English by Prof. Leeb:

[my emphasis]

“Here lies the Reverend Father Joachim Alphonsus Gonsalves, from Portugal, a priest
of the Congregation of the Missions professor in the royal College of St. Joseph in
Macao, also a member of the Royal Asiatic Society, who composed and published
many very useful works for the missions, works in the Chinese, Portuguese, and Latin
language. He was a very gentle teacher and a man of integrity, who died in the age of
65 and rests now in the Lord. He died on 9 October 1841. In the memory of such a
great man his friends and students have consecrated this stele.”
Leeb provides the following note:

Gonsalves, Joachim Alphonse, CM 江沙维, 1781-1841, Portuguese Lazarist, who joined the Lazarist seminary in Rihafoles, Portugal, in 1799. In 1801 he professed vows, came to Macau in 1813. He was appointed to go to Beijing, but did not get permission, due to the strict policies of Jiaqing Emperor. He taught for many years at the Sao José (St. Joseph) Seminary in Macau, where he trained young priests. He became a linguist and encyclopedist and compiled at least six bilingual dictionaries, a Chinese-Portuguese Dictionary 《 汉 葡 字 典》 , a Vocabularium
Latino-Sinicum《拉汉辞汇》(1836), a Lexicon magnum Latino-Sinicum(《拉丁-汉 语大词典》 (1841) etc. He died 3 October 1841 in Macau. Since 1872 his tomb is in the church of the San Jose Seminary, where the tombstone inscription has been preserved. 

As we work on bringing Goncalves’ perutila opera to a new generation, it is pleasing to read of a tangible memorial to his life. If you are interested in Latin in China, please check out Latinitas Sinica and their interesting journal!

DH at Dickinson, 2019

We are now five years past the period of the $700,000 grant from the Mellon Foundation that spurred a good amount of new digital humanities activity at Dickinson and strengthened existing projects. The Dickinson projects, it seems to me, are in various ways good examples of the pursuit of humanistic goals using digital means. They help put the humanities in Digital Humanities. DH, of course, means various things to different people, for example:

  • the use of databases for literary analysis, distant reading, the computational humanities project of running computer programs on large corpora of literary texts to yield quantitative results which are then mapped, graphed, and tested for statistical significance
  • natural language processing and machine translation
  • online preservation and digital mapping
  • data visualization and digital publishing

What most of these things have in common is the use of large datasets and computational methods to try to understand human cultural products. There has started to be a substantial backlash against this kind of work. To some, the phrase digital humanities may even appear a contradiction in terms. The digital values large data sets of often messy and imperfect information, speed, and countability.  Humanistic ideals of exacting scholarship, searching debate, high-quality human expression, exploration of values, and historically informed critical thinking may seem incompatible. Nan Z. Da recently found a receptive audience when she surveyed computational approaches to literary texts and found them lacking.

When you throw social media in there, the digital seems like a positive threat to the humanistic. Jill Lepore speaks for many in her recent history of politics in the United States, These Truths, when she identifies a new, digitally enabled model of citizenship, “driven by the hyperindividualism of blogging, posting, and tweeting, artifacts of a new culture of narcissism, and by the hyperaggregation of the analysis of data, tools of a new authoritarianism.” She sees the Internet as having “exacerbated the political isolation of ordinary Americans while strengthening polarization on both the left and the right, automating identity politics, and contributing, at the same time, to a distant, vague, and impotent model of political engagement.” (p. 738) Digital media have taught us anew how to like and be liked, she points out, but also how to hate and be hated.

Despite these malign trends it is quite possible to pursue, promote, and defend the humanities in the new medium, and it is being done right here at Dickinson, in projects like the Carlisle Indian Industrial School Resource Center (Jim Gerencser and Susan Rose); Jim Hoefler’s “Caring During Serious Illness: Advice from Caregivers”; House Divided, the Civil War history site overseen by Matt Pinsker; and the project I direct, Dickinson College Commentaries.

Humanities goals include:

  • historically informed critical thinking
  • self-knowledge in line with prior understandings, the exploration of values
  • the cultivating of powers of thought and expression, including civil and substantive debate

Historically informed critical thinking

Tens of thousands of young people from Indian communities all across America were sent to the Carlisle Indian School in Pennsylvania between 1879-1918. What was the purpose, the strategy, the outcome? What can we learn from interrogating this historical, educational experiment about the goals of its founders, the students who were sent there, the impact on their families and communities, U.S. military and domestic policy related to Indian tribes, the history of American education, about race and ethnic relations? The CIIS site gives you the tools to do this, from massive troves of digitized documents and photographs, to teaching modules for various levels, including close reading modules that teach how to interpret documents and discuss them productively.

The House Divided Project aims to bring alive and explain the turbulent Civil War era in American history.  Using Dickinson College as a both a window and a starting point, the House Divided Project hopes to find in the stories of thousands of individuals a way to help illustrate how the Civil War came, why it was fought so bitterly, and ultimately how the nation survived. The site provides thousands of documents, photos, and records of individuals to sift through, and provides guidance in the form of key themes such as Civil Liberties, the Dred Scott case, Ft. Sumter, the Gettysburg Campaign that link out to the records of places, people, documents, timelines, and images.

Self-knowledge in line with prior understandings

Most patients who live with serious illness (and their family members) will typically need to make a number of important decisions about the kinds of medical treatment that is provided in this time. Hoeffler’s Caring During Serious Illness site is devoted to providing patients and their loved ones with advice about these decisions, offered by Clinical Advisors whose unique perspectives derive from devoting  their professional lives to caring for patients with serious illness. The site gives you interview excerpts from dozens of advisors from different medical specialties, different faith traditions, with the aim to help us care for aging relatives in a sensitive and kind way, and to give us ways of thinking about death, to help us understand it for ourselves. Rabbi Feinstein, for examples says, “Death the most frightening thing in life. The only thing that is more powerful than the fear of death is gratitude for the blessings of life.”

Cultivated powers of thought and expression

Dickinson College Commentaries presents commentary and annotation on classical texts that guide readers through understanding and appreciation. We try to model humanistic reading practices and to infuse good teaching into the site: not too much information, close reading, provide varying perspectives. The Chinese sister site Dickinson Classics Online focuses on intercultural understanding, with Chinese commentaries on Greco-Roman classical texts, and (soon) Latin and English commentaries on the Chinese classics.

Two areas are in my opinion being neglected by DH scholars, here and elsewhere: translation and podcasting. If you want humanities to be global, good translations are crucial.  Literary translation on the open internet is abysmal, and this needs to change. Dialogue and debate are crucial to the humanities, and podcasting is absolutely golden opportunity to model humanistic dialogue and publicize humanities research. Edward Collins’ Kingdom, Empire and Plus Ultra: conversations on the history of Portugal and Spain, 1415-1898 is a great example.

The world needs historically informed critical thinking, high quality expression, and self-knowledge in line with prior understandings. The world needs the humanities. Our political system is in crisis for lack of a culture of democratic discussion. Social media seems to be doing everything it can to crush our capacity for understanding and dialogue. We have the digital tools to promote humanism. Dickinson is leading the way, and I am proud to be working among the scholars, librarians, and teachers who are creating these fine resources. 

Conventiculum Dickinsoniense 2020

2020 Conventiculum Latinum, July 8-14

Conventiculum participants enjoying dinner at the Dickinson Organic Farm

Conventiculum participants enjoying dinner at the Dickinson Organic Farm (2015)

The Conventiculum Dickinsoniense is an immersion seminar designed for those who want to acquire some ability at ex-tempore expression in Latin. A wide range of people can benefit from the seminar: professors in universities, teachers in secondary schools, graduate students, undergraduates, and other lovers of Latin, provided that anyone who considers applying has a solid understanding of the grammatical essentials of the Latin language. A minimum requirement for participation is knowledge of Latin grammar and the ability to read a Latin text of average complexity – even if this reading ability depends on frequent use of a dictionary.  But no previous experience in speaking Latin is necessary. Sessions will be aimed at helping participants to increase their ability to use Latin effectively in spoken discourse and to understand others speaking in Latin. After the first evening reception (in which any language may be spoken), Latin will be the language used throughout the seminar. Participants will be involved in intensive activity each day from morning until early evening (with breaks for lunch and mid-afternoon pauses). They will experience Latin conversations on topics ranging from themes in literature and art all the way to the routines and activities of daily life, and will enjoy the benefits of reading and discussing texts in the target language. Activities will involve both written and spoken discourse, both of which engage the active faculties of expression, and each of which is complementary to the other. The seminar will not merely illustrate how active Latin can be a useful tool for teachers, it will show how developing an active facility in Latin can directly and personally benefit any cultivator of Latin who wishes to acquire a more instinctive command of the language and a more intimate relationship with Latin writings.


Prof. Milena Minkova, University of Kentucky

Prof. Terence Tunberg, University of Kentucky

Latin Camp Farm dinnerWe can accept a maximum number of 40 participants. Deadline for applications is May 1, 2020. The participation fee for each participant will be $400. The fee includes lodging in a single room in campus housing (and please note that lodging will be in a student residence near the site of the sessions), two meals (breakfast and lunch) per day, as well as the opening dinner, and a cookout at the Dickinson farm. Included in this price is also the facilities fee, which allows access to the gym, fitness center, and the library, as well as internet access. The $400 fee does not include the cost of dinners (except for the opening dinner and the cookout at the Dickinson farm), and does not include the cost of travel to and from the seminar. Dinners can easily be had at restaurants within walking distance from campus.  Please keep in mind that the participation fee of $400, once it has been received by the seminar’s organizers, is not refundable.  This is an administrative necessity.

Registered participants should plan to arrive in Carlisle, PA on July 8 in time to attend the first event of the seminar. This first event is an opening buffet and welcoming reception for all participants, which will begin at about 6:00 p.m., in which all languages are acceptable. The actual workshop sessions (in which Latin will the exclusive language) will begin early the next morning on July 9.

For more information and application instructions write to: Professor Terence Tunberg:

Dickinson Summer Latin Workshop: Ovid, Heroides

July 15–20, 2020

The Dickinson Summer Latin Workshop is intended for teachers of Latin, as a way to refresh the mind through study of an extended Latin text, and to share experiences and ideas with Latinists and teachers. Sometimes those who are not currently engaged in teaching have participated as well, including retired teachers and those working towards teacher certification.


Chun Liu (Peking University)

Christopher Francese (Dickinson College)

Robinet Testard, Ipsipile scrive a Giasone

Robinet Testard, Ipsipile scrive a Giasone (Source: Folia Magazine)

The text for 2020 will be taken from Ovid’s Heriodes. One of Ovid’s earliest works, the Heroides is a series of elegiac epistles from mythical and historical women to their unfaithful lovers or husbands.

The participation fee for each participant will $400. The fee covers lodging, breakfast, lunch and dinner in the Dickinson cafeteria, the facilities fee, which allows access to the gym, fitness center, and the library, as well as wireless and wired internet access while on campus. The fee does not cover the costs of books or travel. Please keep in mind that the participation fee, once it has been received by the seminar’s organizers, is not refundable. This is an administrative necessity.

Lodging: accommodations will be in a student residence hall near the site of the sessions. The building features suite-style configurations of two double rooms sharing a private bathroom, or one double and one single room sharing a private bathroom.


The first event will be an introductory dinner at 6:00 p.m., July 15. The final session ends at noon on July 20, with lunch to follow. Sessions will meet from 8:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. each day, with the afternoons left free for preparation.


Application deadline: May 1, 2020.

Fee deadline: June 1, 2020.


TO APPLY: please contact Mrs. Terri Blumenthal, by the application deadline. The fee is due in a check made out to Dickinson College, by the fee deadline.


For more information please contact Prof. Chris Francese (

Dickinson Classics China-related activities

The Dickinson Classical Studies department has been privileged to be involved with a number of interesting initiatives related to the now flourishing study of the Greco-Roman classics in China. People sometimes ask me what all is going on, so I thought I would summarize where we are at this point, and think about what is coming next.

Dickinson and Columbia University co-sponsored a conference at the Columbia Center in Beijing in May, 2019.  Full program. It was organized primarily by Gareth Williams at Columbia. Their classics program (and the university as a whole) has a long history of sponsoring Chinese scholars. Jinyu Liu (DePauw U., pictured bottom right in the first link above) is in many ways the linchpin. She’s the leader on the large grant-funded project to translate all of Ovid into Chinese. This project was the subject of the conference.

This summer I made contact with two dynamic Latin teachers at Beijing Foreign Studies University, Li Hui (Rosina) and Luciano Romano. They teach entirely in Latin, using Oerberg’s textbook and techniques honed in Italy, where Rosina and Luciano were trained. I also made contact with and visited the classroom of Dr. Hendrikus A.M. van Wijlick (Rik), who teaches in a more traditional (English) mode at Peking University.

Dickinson Classics Online presents resources for Chinese readers of Greek and Latin. This is hosted at Dickinson with a far-flung editorial board. The officers are myself, Marc Mastrangelo (Dickinson), and Jinyu Liu (DePauw). This developed starting in 2015. The idea was Marc’s and mine (after seeing Jinyu and Harvard’s Michael Puett give talks at the 2014 APA). Jinyu is again the key connecting figure acquiring content, whereas I take care of the web development.

Dr. Elizabeth Penland, Upper School Latin Teacher, Wyoming Seminary, Kingston, PA, has been organizing her students to translate DCC Caesar and Vergil commentaries into Chinese. The Caesar is already published (actually made when Liz was at Concord Academy), and the Vergil is in process. The SCS published a blog post by her about forging connections between the ancient Mediterranean and modern Chinese culture. One of her students, Lixiang (Andy) Lin, also helping this summer with the following related project.

Digitization of Goncalves’ Lexicon Magnum Latino-Sinicum. I have a recent blog post about that. I have been leading this effort since 2016, but have had help from a number of students, some Chinese, some not. A preliminary test version is already up on DCO, and a mobile app is ready to launch as soon as we have the data cleaned. Hoping to be done by the end of this calendar year.

Digitization of the Cursus Litteraturae Sinicae (1879-1882) by Angelo Zottoli. This four-thousand page work, presented as a Latin introduction to the written Chinese language, is actually a synoptic guide to the Chinese tradition, encompassing a vast range of texts from the Shijing 詩經(Book of Songs) to Qing-era examination essays, poetry, and letters. See Nicholas Morrow Williams, “Angelo Zottoli’s Cursus Litteraturae Sinicae as Propaedeutic to Chinese Classical Tradition.” Journal of Oriental Studies 63.2 (2015), pp. 327–359. I am collaborating in the long-term endeavor of publishing this on DCO with Chinese scholars, especially Kang Kai and Wang Chen (both from Shanghai). Work is in early stages.

My main base in Shanghai is Shanghai Normal University, and the Guangqi International Center for Scholars, where Marc Mastrangelo and I are honorary fellows, and Jinyu has a regular appointment. This research institute is headed by Heng Chen, a dean at SHNU, and sponsors an active series of lectures and seminars in classical studies, organized by Jinyu.

Once I write it all out like that, I see there is a lot going on. The publishing projects alone could occupy me full time from here on out. I am finally learning Chinese myself, partly to be able to cope with Zottoli, which is a truly amazing work. Check out the Williams article cited above if you have the chance. For my own teaching, my goal is to take better account of comparative perspectives and read some Chinese and Latin classics in tandem. I’ve got an idea for a course on writing about war, with Homer, Sun Tzu, and Julius Caesar.

My contacts in China are at the university level, but I can see there is a lot of potential to promote Latin for high schoolers as well. I had a conversation at the Conventiculum Dickinsoniense with David Bonagura of Regis High School, who went on a mini-tour of a number of high schools in China promoting Latin, a tour initiated by one of his Chinese-born students and his family. There is real potential for establishing summer Latin programs in Beijing and/or Shanghai to further promote the subject. Conventiculum Pekinense, anybody?

Concordance Liberation: Terence

Scantily clad young woman holding theatrical mask.

Thalia, Muse of Comedy, from the Goddesses of the Greeks and Romans series (N188) issued by Wm. S. Kimball & Co.,1889. Metropolitan Museum.

The plays of Terence (P. Terentius Afer) are widely admired for their pure Latin style, but there is as yet no parsed text in digital form that would permit valid statistical analysis of his language and the creation of accurate vocabulary lists to ease reading via tools like The Bridge. If and when DCC publishes an edition of a play of Terence, having a text in which each word form is associated with its correct dictionary headword (lemma) will make the creation of the vocabulary lists a relative snap. Computers can’t accurately parse texts on their own, but humans used to do it routinely in the genre of book known as the concordance or index verborum. With the help of Dickinson computer scientist Michael Skalak, Bret Mulligan of Haverford and I have been working on project to convert older concordances and indices verborum into parsed texts by essentially unscrambling them so they are organized by text location rather then alphabetically by headword, and putting the data into an openly published and freely available spreadsheet. We have successfully completed the transformation of print concordances to Lucretius, Apuleius, and Eutropius, and now we are on to Terence, based on a professionally digitized version of Index Verborum Terentianus by Edgar B. Jenkins (Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1932, Pp. ix +187). (Worldcat record).

Jenkins’ book was meticulous, and it was well-received. Writing in Classical Review 47.1 (1933) 22-23 J.D. Craig called it “a miracle of compression without obscurity,” and he spotted only a small number of errors. Jenkins based his index on the text of Knauer and Lindsay, which is still in use (and on PHI). In each case, transformation from an alphabetical word list into a sequential parsed text requires careful examination of the system of listing lemmas, word forms, citations, and textual variants. Classical concordances are all slightly different in the conventions they employ.

The main peculiarity of Jenkins’ books is that he used a system of hyphenation, presumably to save space. This will have to be overcome by alteration of the base code for Michael Skalak’s Concordance Processor (code on Github). For my part, I had to filter out some information that was evidently important to Jenkins, but is not to us. For example, Jenkins put in parentheses all citations for words that are in parentheses in the text itself. Whether or not a word is in parentheses is immaterial to us, and having those citations in parentheses would have meant those citations were misinterpreted by the processor.

For the benefit of anybody who wants to try to do this kind of work in the future (and there are innumerable concordances that could be liberated in this way), here are my working notes and analysis of Jenkins. A random chunk of the .pdf looks like this:

selection from Terence concordanceAfter digitization by NewGen Knowledge Works it looks like this:

<il> -o (ab): An 941</il>
<il> -e: Hc 78</il>
<il> -ari: E 548</il>
<il><B>scite</B> (3): Ht 729 764 785</il>
<il><B>scit-us</B> (pa; 5):</il>
<il> -a (ns): P 110</il>
<il> -um (ac): E 254</il>
<il> -um (n): Ht 210; P 821</il>
<il> -us: An 486 (in tmesis w per)</il>
<il> -um: P 689(4)</il>
<il><B>scort-or</B> (2):</il>
<il> -ari: Ad 102; Ht 206</il>
<il> -atur: Ad 117(F)</il>
<il><B>scortum</B> (ac; 2): Ad 965; E 424</il>
<il><B>screatus</B> (ac): Ht 373</il>
<il><B>scrib-o</B> (19):</il>
<il> -am (ind): P 127</il>
<il> -at: P 3</il>
<il> -endo (g ab): E 7</il>
<il> -endum (g): Ad 25; An 1</il>
<il> -ere: Ad 16; E 36; Hc 56</il>
<il> -eret: Hc 27</il>
<il> -ito (3): P 668</il>
<il> -undis (ab): An 5</il>
<il> -unt: Ht 43</il>
<il> scripserit (subj): Hc 7a(DT); Ht 7</il>
<il> scripsit: E 10; Hc 6; Ht 15; P 6</il>
<il> scripta (sunt): An 283</il>
<il> scriptam (sc esse): P 329</il>

Skalak’s concordance processor will convert this into a spreadsheet with each piece of information in its proper category: lemma or headword (column 1), lemma homonym distinguisher, if any (column 2), citation for specific word forms (column 3), the word forms (column 4), word form homonym distinguishers or other information about a single word form (column 5), and textual variant information (column 6). The trick to the pre-processing analysis is to find the machine-readable characteristics of each kind of information, so the processor can be adjusted to the specific conventions used by the index. Examination revealed the following:

  • Lemmas [column 1] are introduced by <il><B> and terminated by a colon. The closing </B> tag may follow or precede the colon, but it will always be there. Only lemmas are enclosed with <B>…</B> tags. The colon is followed by </il>, </B></il>, or by one or more citations and </il>.Examples:
    • <il><B>abrad-o:</B></il>
    • <il><B>a</B> (prep; 87):</il>
    • <il><B>accurate:</B> An 494</il>
    • <il><B>abhinc</B> (3): An 69; Hc 822; P 1017</il>
  • Lemma distinguishers [column 2] sometimes precede (but never follow) the colon, and are in parentheses. This either indicates the number of times that the lemma occurs, or homonym distinguishers, or textual information, or some combination of the three, set apart with semicola. This info needs to go in column 2 next to every word form under that lemma.
    • <il><B>ac-er</B> (2):</il>
    • <il><B>act-us</B> (subs):</il>
    • <il><B>ad-eo</B> (verb; 26):</il>
    • <il><B>dehinc</B> (de(h)inc=KL; 8): Ad 22; An 22 79(dein=4) 190 562 (dein=4); E 14 296 872</il>
  • Word forms [column 4] sometimes directly follow the lemma after the colon and before the closing </il> tag (as just above). But in most cases they are listed on a new line, preceded by <il> and a tab, and followed by a colon.
    • <il><B>depecto:</B></il>
    • <il> depexum (ac): Ht 951</il>
    • <il><B>deper-eo:</B></il>
    • <il> -it: Ht 525</il>
    • <il><B>delir-o</B> (5):</il>
    • <il> -ans (n): Ad 761</il>
    • <il> -as: Ad 936; An 752; P 801</il>
    • <il> -at: P 997</il>
  • Word form modifiers [column 5] sometimes follow the word form in parentheses, before the colon. This information can be syntactical (most common) or textual, can indicate matter to be assumed, differentiate homonymns, or indicate frequency. Put this in column 4 next to every instance of the word form.
    • <il> aspexerit (subj): Ht 773</il>
    • <il> -andus (est): Ad 709</il>
    • <il>ante (adv; 6): An 239 556; E 733; Hc 146 581; P 4(antehac=DU)</il>
    • <il> -quid (-quit=U sometimes; ac): Ad 38 150 401 518 856 857 948 980; An 250 259 265(om=DU) 615 622 640; E 210 308 661 999 1001; Hc 333; Ht 69 339 533 670 763 1003; P 42 190 770 874</il>
  • Citations for instances of a word form [column 3] in each of the six plays follow the colon. Semicola separate instances for each play. Multiple citations from a single play are separated by a space only. </il> closes off the word form.
  • <il><B>de-us</B> (121):</il>
  • <il> -o (ab): P 74</il>
  • <il> -orum: An 959(sp=U); Ht 693</il>
  • <il> -os: Ad 275 298 491 693 699 704; An 487 522 538 664 694 834; Hc 476 772 772; Ht 879 1038; P 311 764</il>
  • The string “ae” followed directly by numerals (no spaces) should be treated as part of the numeral. This indicates the line numbers in the alternate ending of the Andria. Some line numbers will have a letter suffix, like 7a, 7b
    • <il> -averis (ind): An ae16</il>
  • Citation modifiers in parentheses [column 6].These are all textual variants. Depending on what it says, sometimes the parenthetical material only will be deleted, sometimes the citation will be deleted as well. This can be done after the creation of the spreadsheet. If the citation-distinguishing parenthesis in column 6 contains ‘=’, delete just the parenthesis. If it does not contain ‘=’, delete the entire citation and the parenthesis. Column 6 will then be gone.
    • <il><B>ergo</B> (38): Ad 172(ego me=F) 324 325(FT) 326 572 609 854 959; An 195 565 711 850; E 162 317 401 459 796 1062; Hc 63 610 611 715 787(4); Ht 398 550 821 985 993 (ego=FU) 1046; P 62 202 539 562 685 718 755 882 948 984 995</il>
    • <il><B>et</B> (538): Ad 2 19 30 34 35(om=4) 43 57 64 65 68 78 107 121 121(F) 122 129 138 144 207 230 251 263 272 279(F) 285 285 305 316 319 340 352 380 389 (U) 391 423 429 446 495 511 521 523 558 566 580 584(ei=F) 591 596 600(esse=FTU) 602 603 609 609 648 675 680 683 692 (4)
  • Lemmas sometimes have hyphens to indicate that subsequent inflected forms may be abbreviated. They may or may not actually be abbreviated. Word forms can be reconstructed by combining.
    • <il><B>adfer-o</B> (25):</il>
    • <il> -: Ht 223</il>
    • <il> -am (ind): Ht 701</il>
    • <il> -ant: Ad 300</il>
    • <il><B>admitt-o</B> (13):</il>
    • <il> admiserit (subj): P 270</il>
    • <il> admisero: E 853</il>

I made some alterations to the concordance to make it easier to process:

  • To avoid confusion, citations that are themselves in parentheses had to be removed from parentheses. Otherwise they will be treated as supplementary info for the previous citation.
  • Alphabetic headings had to be removed, since they looked superficially like lemmas.
  • Spurious lines in square brackets were removed.
  • All 59 instances of “*” were removed. The asterisk indicates that some minor point applies, e.g. that est is to be inferred with factum, or that ipsa is spelled eapse in F’s edition. This information was not significant enough for our purpose, which was to get each word form sitting next to its proper lemma.

After the spreadsheet is done I’ll check it, then hand it over to Bret Mulligan, who will ingest the parsed text into the Bride, adding Bridge display lemmas and definitions. Custom vocabulary lists can be created from there. The original .txt and the spreadsheet version will also be made available on our Github repository.

Digitizing Gonçalves’ Lexicon Magnum Latino-Sinicum

I’ve been working with others for several years now to digitize a large Latin-Chinese dictionary, but I realized that I have never blogged about the effort and publicly recognized the people involved. I just got back from China, where I discussed the project at a colloquium in Beijing, and work will intensify this summer, so now seems like a good a time as any to let people know about this exciting project.

Book title pages in Chinese and LatinThe goal is to create a large Latin-Chinese dictionary as standalone mobile application and as a database freely available on the website Dickinson Classics Online, which collects resources for Chinese readers of Greek and Latin texts. The source of the dictionary data is the Lexicon Magnum Latino-Sinicum of Joaquim Affonso Gonçalves, first published in 1841. The author was a Portuguese Jesuit professor working with Chinese collaborators in Macau. No similar resource exists, and the increasing numbers of students of Latin in China have little access to the books and references resources familiar to students in the West. The overall goal of the DCO project of which this is a part is to globalize the study of classical texts and the pre-modern humanities.

sample of dictionary

A sample showing Gancalves’ distinctive lemmatizations

Work Already Done

  • The book itself is very rare. In 2016 Don Sailer and the staff at the Waidner-Spahr Library at Dickinson photographed a borrowed copy (thank you, Princeton libraries. They had one of the three existing copies of the last edition, and it was checked out at the time!). In 2016-17 Dickinson students Siyun Yan and Seth Levin  ran the scans through the text recognition program ABBYY, hand-corrected and created an Excel spreadsheet of the result.
headshot photos of two students

Dickinson Students Siyun Yan and Seth Levin carried out initial editing of the ABBYY output.

  • Seth Levin began coordinating Goncalves’ headwords with the large list of Latin dictionary headwords known as Morpheus, used in the Perseus Project. The purpose of this was to make it easier to share and coordinate the data with other large Latin dictionaries, like those available on Logeion. At the same time the headwords were coordinated with the lemma list of The Bridge, a dictionary application created by Bret Mulligan that can create custom vocabulary lists for classical texts. The Bridge list largely overlaps with the Morpheus list, but includes some better definitions and “display lemmas,” the full forms of the dictionary headwords.
screenshot of ABBYY

correcting ABBYY output

Corrected output from ABBYY: single column

Corrected output from ABBYY: single column


screenshot of spreadsheet

Combinng Goncalves’ definitions with Morpheus lemmata and shortdefs

screenshot of spreadsheet

lemmatization problems

  • In 2017 Qizhen Xie, a classics graduate student at the University of New Hampshire, continued the editing of the Chinese and the Latin headwords, and made considerable headway on this very large set of lemmas.

headshot photo of Qizhen Xie

  • English definitions and display lemmas for most items were added from the Morpheus and Bridge data sets. As part of the digitization I made the decision not to preserve Goncalves’ display lemmas, since they are idiosyncratic.
  • In spring 2019 Eli Goings (Dickinson ’18) and I worked on adding missing display lemmas and English definitions for words that are in Goncalves but not in the Morpheus list, or for which the Morpheus display lemmas are inadequate.
  • Most recently, developer Lara Frymark (Dickinson ’12) created the Android mobile application that will carry the data, and Ryan Burke, our Dickinson Drupal specialist (without whom DCC and DCO could not exist) created a content type for it on DCO.
website screenshot

DCO sample

Android mobile app screenshot

Android mobile app screenshot

Work Remaining

  • This summer we plan to finish creation of missing display lemmas. These number in the several thousands. They need to be created in a specific standard format, used in the Bridge, based on information in Gonçalves’ book itself, and added to the Excel spreadsheet. There will also be proof-reading to be done.
  • If time allows, edit and improve the Morpheus English definitions, which are often missing or faulty. 

Gonçalves digitization workflow chart

For those who are interested, here is some English bibliography about western classics in China, and details about Gonçalves’ work.

Western Classics in China

Bartsch, Shadi. “The Ancient Greeks in Modern China: Interpretation and Metamorphosis.” In The Reception of Greek and Roman Culture in East Asia: Texts & Artefacts, Institutions & Practices, ed. A-B. Renger.  Forthcoming from Brill. Pre-print available on

Coleman, Kathleen. “Nondum Arabes Seresque Rogant: Classics Looks East.” Society for Classical Studies Blog, October 16, 2016.

Li, Yongyi, “A New Incarnation for Latin in China.” Amphora, October 4, 2014.

Liu, Jinyu. “Virgil in China in the Twentieth Century.” Sino-American Journal of Comparative Literature I (2015): 67–105. Available on

Goncalves, Macau, and Missionary Scholarship

Gonçalves, Joaquim Affonso. Vocabularium latino-sinicum: pronuntiatione mandarina latinis literis expressa. Macao: A Lauriano Hippolyto typis mandatum, 1836. 246 pages; 17 cm. Repr. 1886. 246 p.; 17 cm. (OCLC: 419787323)

                             . Lexicon manuale latino sinicum continens omnia vocabula latina utilia et primitiva, etiam Scripturae Sacrae. Macai, in Collegio S. Joseph ab E. Rosa typis mandatum, 1839. ii-vii, 498 pages, 23 cm (OCLC: 7482643). Available on Hathi Trust and Google Books. Approximately 10,500 lemmas. 6th ed. Pekini: Typis Lazaristarum, 1937. viii, 446 pages ; 22 cm.

                             . Lexicon magnum latino-sinicum ostendens etymologiam, prosodiam, et constructionem vocabulorum. Macai, in Collegio sancti Joseph. ab E. Rosa typis mandatum, 1841. (OCLC: 39488723). iv, 779 pages 32 cm. Available on Google Books. 3rd edition, Pekini: Typis Congregationis Missionis, 1892 (OCLC: 663670553). Repr. 1936 (OCLC: 42878372).

Lach, Donald. Asia in the Making of Europe, vol. II: A Century of Wonder. Book 3: The Scholarly Disciplines. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2010.

Tang, Kaijian. Setting off from Macau: Essays on Jesuit History during the Ming and Qing Dynasties. Leiden: Brill, 2016. Ch. 2: “Macau and the Spread of Catholicism in Mainland China during the Late Ming and Early Qing Dynasties.”

Tiedemann, R.G. Handbook of Christianity in China. Leiden: Brill, 2010.

Maffeius on the effect of incendiary weapons (1546)

Maffeius,telling the story of the Second Siege of Diu (1546), describes the effects of the thrown incendiary weapons (ardentia iacula) used by both sides. They did less damage to the Portuguese than to the Gujarati soldiers, he says, because of the cotton clothing they wore, and the closeness of their formations (Historiae Indicae [1588] 13.45):

Quos autem flamma comprehendisset, ii, abiectis armis, cum simul vestimenta proiicere non valerent, ceterosque ab iis adiuvandis exuendisve sui quemque periculi metus averteret, caeci amentesque crebro cum gemitu incerto vestigio extra ordines ferebantur. Hinc deformatos vultus, exusta lumina, pendentem e nudatis artubus cutem ac velut in lora dissectam horrendo spectaculo cerneres.


Moreover, those whom the flame had engulfed threw away their weapons and, as they could not remove their clothing and fear of the danger kept the rest of their comrades from helping to strip them, they ran blind and mad beyond their ranks in uncertain wandering, screaming all the while. It was a horrific spectacle: disfigured faces, burned out eyes, skin hanging from naked limbs as if flayed to ribbons.

Maffei had various written sources, and also a live informant who was present. His Latin can be ornate and periodic when discussing complex matters, but also intensely vivid in story telling. Note how he

  • spotlights the unfortunate men (quos … ii),
  • focuses on the emotions and desperation of the Gujaratis (non valerent … metus … caeci amentes)
  • employs the vivid 2nd person singular cerneres, used also  by his beloved Livy, and in a similar context in Apuleius (Met. 4.14, looking at destruction:  passim per plateas plurimas c e r n e r e s iacere semiuiuorum corporum ferina naufragia).

The scene is focalized through the eyes of the Portuguese within the walls, but Maffei takes us close enough to see the haunting, burned out eyes (exusta lumina) of the victims. This phrase might be borrowed from Plautus, Men. 842, minatur mihi oculos exurere, but notice the substitution of the more poetic lumina for oculos. The equally poetic incerto vestigio (as opposed to something like errantes or palantes) is full of pathos. Maffei’s rhetorical virtuosity shows in the climax of the last sentence quoted, with its inconspicuous simile, in the balanced phrasing and the interlaced and chiastic word order throughout.

Maffei uses the grotesque rarely, but in a fuller narration such as this it helps him convey some of the horror of (for him and his readers) modern warfare.