Workshop: Commenting on Latin Poetic Texts

I am both pleased and daunted to be leading a workshop on writing commentaries on Latin poetic texts, a full-day affair to be held on June 30, 2016 at the Guanqi Center at Shanghai Normal University. Here is an abstract:

Ut tibi sit legisse voluptas: Commenting on Latin Poetic Texts

This workshop will consider the art of commenting on Latin poetic texts, first as it has been done in recent years for English-speaking audiences, and then, in open discussion, considering how it might be done in the future for Chinese-speaking audiences. While scholars sometimes think of commenting on a text as an objective process of collecting the facts necessary for full understanding, in practice, the question of audience is paramount. Commentators mediate a text for an imaged reader, and must have a sympathetic awareness of what that reader needs, desires, and can process or understand. In addition to supplying felt needs, however, the commentator can actively lead and model humanistic practices: the precise appreciation of poetic language, close reading, cultural literacy, and skill in translation. The workshop will analyze some good examples of this kind commentary in English on Ovid, then invite a forward-looking brain-storming session on how best to enhance the experience of reading Ovid for Chinese readers of Latin literature. Topics will include the art of the interpretive paraphrase, gloss, and summary; some reliable resources for finding information about geography, mythology, grammar, Roman customs, and rhetorical and literary devices; and techniques of commenting on style and tone.

(The Latin tag in the title comes from the epigram to Ovid’s Amores.) The workshop is part of the festivities for the second annual Shanghai Normal University Guangqi International Center for Scholars Classics Lecture and Seminar Series, organized by the wonderful team of Jinyu Liu 刘津瑜 and Heng Chen 陈恒


Prof. Liu is the Principal Investigator of “Translating the Complete Corpus of Ovid’s Poetry into Chinese with Commentaries,” a multi-year project sponsored by a Chinese National Social Science Foundation Major Grant (2015-2020). She is collaborating with more than a dozen scholars from four countries A full conference with a very impressive roster of speakers will be held in Shanghai in May 31-June 2, 2017.

I am not directly involved with this project, but it served as a useful handle to think about a commentary-writing workshop in Shanghai, helping achieve a more concrete focus for what is a rather terrifying topic. My own activity as an editor on DCC has given me lots of particular ideas and preferences, but the last thing I would want to do is foist those on a Chinese audience. The really exciting thing here is the opportunity to reinvent the genre in a different context, taking the best aspects from the traditions of European commentary and liberating new energies. My goal is to show a few examples of what I think are particularly good recent instances in English, and let the discussion go where it will. Looking forward to a stimulating discussion!

–Chris Francese

Summer 2016 Paid Research Internships in Classical Studies

Dickinson students are encouraged to apply for any of three 8-week paid research internships in Classical Studies in summer 2016 (the second of these positions is contingent on a pending funding decision by the Dickinson Research and Development Committee). The pay is $350 per week, plus housing on Dickinson’s campus. The work will be carried out under the supervision of Prof. Francese, and result in substantial credited contributions to the Dickinson College Commentaries and Dickinson Classics Online Projects.

Dates: May 30–July 22, 2016

Location: Carlisle, PA

Application deadline: March 11, 2016

Positions 1 and 2 Description: Digital Latin-Chinese Lexicon

Work on the digitization of the Latin-Chinese dictionary of Joaquim-Affonso Gonçalves (Lexicon magnum: latino-sinicum 1841, 779 pp.), which will eventually result in a mobile application, and a database that will form an essential part of the infrastructure of the project Dickinson Classics Online. Begun in 2015, DCO is intended to provide better access to the Greco-Roman classics to Chinese speakers. One student (position 1) will edit Gonçalves’ Chinese definitions to make sure they are properly transcribed and modernized; the other (position 2) will edit the Latin headwords to make them correspond to those of the base dictionary published by the Laboratoire d’Analyse Statistique des Langues Anciennes (LASLA). In many cases Goncalves’ headwords will have to be split or combined to conform to the LASLA headwords, and in every case the format of the Latin headwords will have to be expanded to meet modern lexicographical standards.

Positions 1 and 2 Requirements

Position 1 requirements:

  • strong written Chinese, familiarity with both classical and simplified characters
  • attention to detail
  • interest in languages
  • facility with Excel

Position 2 requirements:

  • upper-intermediate or advanced Latin
  • attention to detail
  • interest in languages
  • facility with Excel

Positions 1 and 2 Schedule

Week 1 (May 30-June 3): orientation to the project:

  • The basics of Latin lexicography, and the similarities and differences between existing dictionaries and their source material
  • Introduction to primary resources that will be used in this project: Joseph Denooz, Nouveau lexique fréquentiel de latin, Logeion, and Goncalves’ Lexicon Magnum Latino-Sinicum.
  • Explanation of LASLA’s working methods and their style of lemmata
  • Examination of the LASLA list of homonyms, and explanation of their labeling conventions and French abbreviations
  • Practice creating dictionary forms in Excel in the existing DCC style, based on
    • LASLA lemma
    • Goncalves’ lemma
    • Lemmas available in Logeion, especially Woordenboek Latijn/Nederlands (2011)
  • Practice typing Latin characters with macra (long marks over vowels) using the Maiori keyboard in Windows, and explanation of where that is necessary, and where to find accurate information about vowel quantity
  • Analysis of the Chinese OCR to determine the extent of the revisions needed to modernize it
  • Practice editing Chinese definitions to conform with edited Latin lemmata, splitting and combining as needed.
  • Practice formatting Chinese definitions to include Latin idioms as in Goncalves

Weeks 3-8: work on creating the database, going alphabetically.

Position 3 Description: Multimedia Edition of the Aeneid

Work on a forthcoming DCC multimedia edition of the Aeneid, which will 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

Positions 3 requirements:

  • familiarity with the Aeneid in Latin
  • attention to detail
  • familiarity with Adobe Photoshop

Position 3 Schedule

  • Weeks 1–3: gathering, editing, and posting of images medieval manuscripts of the Aeneid
  • Weeks 4–5: transcription, upload, and linking of Aeneid scholarship excerpts
  • Weeks 6–8: creation of RDF file for linked data synching with Pelagios Project, for all places mentioned in the notes

TO APPLY: please send a letter of interest with a curriculum vitae to by March 11, 2016