The Society for Classical Studies and Digital Publication

Every year at this time I have a look at the statements of candidates for leadership offices in the Society for Classical Studies (known until recently as the American Philological Association) to see what kind of positions they take on matters relating to digital humanities and digital publication. Two years ago the Digital Classics Association had just been approved as a Type II Affiliated group, and there were plans for a new multi-million dollar portal of classics digital outreach. Last year the latter initiative was rightly being abandoned, and the discussion was more about the role of our professional association in the world of academic publishing. While some wanted to defend the status and importance of the print monograph, others hoped the APA would help guide web users to quality resources on the internet. In last year’s post I made the point that to focus on the delivery method (paid print vs. open electronic) is to miss a key potential role of the professional association: to foster networks of peer review for scholarship, no matter how it appears.

This year’s candidate statements share a sense of anxiety about the future of the field and the status of the humanities in the academy. Several make the excellent point that more can be done to foster Latin in secondary schools, “literally our lifeline,” as presidential candidate Peter Burian says. As for digital publication, presidential candidate Roger Bagnall is reticent, which is odd given his key role in the development of online scholarly publication of papyri. But Peter Burian emphasizes the key issue, it seems to me, peer review:

The APA has a strong track record, and it could be used to help our profession (and others) move toward full recognition of on-line publication and various kinds of digital scholarship. Works of scholarship that are crucial for specialists are becoming increasingly difficult to get into print, and there are many kinds of scholarship for which print is not the best, or even a satisfactory, medium. A strong, well-understood peer-review process governed by our internationally recognized professional association could make the difference in how such works are weighed by tenure and promotion committees.

Publications and Research is the committee where the changes in scholarly publishing are of course at the center. Here there are two candidates, Emily Greenwood and Nita Krevens. Greenwood urges the association “to explore new avenues for open digital publication in Classics and to support and promote excellent existing sites.” Krevens’ comments are altogether more edgy. She says that electronic publication is “still the elephant in the room.” Krevens continues:

On the one hand, the natural ‘gate-keeping’ function of limited print space is disappearing; this means that scholarly associations like ours are becoming the source of new guidelines for peer review and publication.  On the other hand, commercial publishers of academic journals are fighting desperately to preserve their turf as learned society e-publishing emerges as a partial solution to strained library acquisition budgets (witness the battle between Elsevier and the mathematicians).  Academic presses are currently caught in the middle of these conflicting imperatives.  In addition to setting field-wide standards for electronic journals AND monographs, I believe the APA/SCS can play an important role advocating for the electronic archiving and dissemination of smaller scholarly journals in our field, which are currently not easily available online.  These days, if you are not in JSTOR, you are invisible.

I think it is optimistic to say that scholarly associations are becoming the source of peer review guidelines. In any case it’s not so much guidelines that are needed as mechanisms for actual peer review. Only rigorous editing and review of digital publications will generate the prestige that will motivate more good scholars to improve the quality of open resources. As Sander Goldberg put it recently in BMCR it is up to us to insist on the combining of the “accuracy and clarity of [traditional print publication] with the flexibility and accessibility of the [web].” Goldberg also makes the point that many of the most fundamental and traditional activities of classical scholarship, such as the close analysis of syntax, and other tools for close reading, are actually better suited to the web than to print. In some ways the more specialized and technical the issues, the more data that can be put before the reader, the more desirable is a digital presentation.

The SCS as an archiver and provider of access to lesser-known journals not in JSTOR is an idea I find very appealing, and hopefully one that the publishers of such journals would also embrace.

 

A New Allen and Greenough

With support from the Mellon Digital Humanities Fund and the Roberts Fund for Classical Studies at Dickinson, we have completed a new digital version of that perennially useful tool, Allen and Greenough’s New Latin Grammar for Schools and Colleges, edited by J.B. Greenough, G.L. Kitteredge, A.A. Howard, and Benjamin L. D’Ooge. Boston: Ginn & Company, 1903.

Allen_and_Greenough_screenshot

The project involved re-scanning the book to have good quality page images, then editing a set of existing XML files kindly provided by the Perseus Project. We added to that the newly digitized index, which was not in the Perseus XML. The purpose there was to make the book browsable via the index, which is important for user utility, and absent in all other online versions. On March 23, 2014, Kaylin Bednarz (Dickinson ’15) finished revision of XML files for Allen & Grenough, and the creation of html files based on the new XML. She was assisted and trained in the use of Oxygen software (which converts the XML into web-ready html) by Matthew Kochis, Postdoctoral Fellow in Digital Humanities, who also helped with day to day project management.

In late March, Dickinson web developer Ryan Burke uploaded the html and XML files to Dickinson servers, and created the web interface for A&G in html. This revealed issues of formatting: indentations were often not preserved, resulting in lack of clarity. Some character formatting was not right, and footnotes from the original print resource were not clearly displayed. Forward and back buttons had to be put in for each of the 638 sections.

On May 20, 2014, Meagan Ayer (PhD in classics and ancient history, University of Buffalo, 2013) began work hand-editing Allen & Greenough html files, removing errors and fixing formatting, adding navigational infrastructure using Adobe Dreamweaver. A few missing XML files had to be added and converted to html, and those finishing touches were put on last week.

The differences between our version of A&G and others available on the internet are:

  • Page images attached to every section
  • Analytical index makes finding what you need easier
  • Functioning word search for the entire work
  • Attractive presentation with readable fonts and formatting
  • Fully edited to remove spelling errors and OCR misreads (further error notifications appreciated!)

And of course the whole is freely available under a Creative Commons CC-BY-SA license. We plan to systematically link to this version of A&G in our Latin commentaries, and we are planning to have a similar work on the Greek side up soon:

Thomas Dwight Goodell, A School Grammar of Attic Greek (New York: D. Appleton and Co., 1902). This excellent work was scanned by the Internet Archive. Last year Bruce Robertson of Mont Allison University kindly performed the OCR using Rigaudon, the output of which is available on Lace. At Dickinson the OCR output was edited and the XML and html pages created by Christina Errico. Ryan Burke has created the web interface. Meagan Ayer is in the process of editing and correcting the html pages. So look for that in the next few months!

Image Viewer

The new image viewer is complete. This spring we put some thought into the question of what metadata we need for images. After looking at the various metadata standards (VRACore, Library of Congress, etc.) and examining some good museum websites, we settled on a fairly limited set of fields that give 1) the basic information about the object or art work; 2) clear source credit and terms of use for the image itself; and 3) scholarly description and discussion. This information is divided into tow tabs, “Properties” (for basic data), and “Annotation.” Annotations include a straightforward description, typically taken with credit from the museum web site or other image source, and “Comments,” which will normally be original DCC content connecting the image with a particular passage in a DCC text. Under Annotations there is also space for bibliography, and links to associated passages. This is an overdue infrastructure improvement that will help us make illuminating connections between texts and images, a key goal for the Aeneid edition in progress. If you go to the Images link on the fron page, you’ll see that most of the content uploaded so far is related to the Aeneid (by Lucy McInerney and Tyler Denton). Thanks to visual resources librarian Jen Kniesch at Dickinson for advice, and to Drupal developer Ryan Burke for making this tool.

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!

Update 8/29/2014

The editors of BMCR published the following note apologizing for an omission in this review, and it contains some information about the possibility of an electronic version of the Virgil Encyclopedia:

A recent review (BMCR 2014.07.40) greeted the arrival of The Virgil Encyclopedia with admiration and approval. The online posting of the review is now prefaced, however, with an apology from the editors, which we are glad to repeat here. Professor Goldberg in reviewing had included information about the online edition of the Encyclopedia that was omitted when we transmitted it to our readers. The mistake was awkward inasmuch as Professor Goldberg made concluding comments about the future of reference works such as this which read very differently and very unhelpfully in the absence of complete information about this reference work.

As we understand it, the state of play is that there is indeed an e-version of The Virgil Encyclopedia available from Wiley-Blackwell, chiefly of interest to institutional subscribers. From the descriptions we have seen, it is an e-book in the contemporary mode, that is, a digital representation of a traditional print volume. It contains internal links, but does not reside in the fullness of the web of outward, to say nothing of inward, links. In Professor Goldberg’s review, he expresses regret that more movement in that direction did not happen and by implication suggests that more will happen in the new Oxford Classical Dictionary for which he will be responsible. Professors Thomas and Ziolkowski, editors of The Virgil Encyclopedia, are understandably unsettled that the review was released in a way that exacerbated intellectual disagreement with a muddled statement of facts for which we are responsible. For that indeed, we do apologize.

The larger question of the fate of reference works is one that many will continue to discuss. As always these days, we live in a moment of dazzling innovation that will, doubtless, seem palely antique more quickly than we might imagine.

Summer Projects 2014

2014_summer_projects_1

(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).

2014_summer_projects_2

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)

001

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.

By CHRISTOPHER A. FRANCESE
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

MAP OF CAMPUS LOCATIONS SPECIFIC TO THE WORKSHOP: http://goo.gl/9jNnt4

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.