William Harris

The essays of the late William Harris, professor of classics at Middlebury College, are archived on the college website under the title of Humanities and Liberal Arts. Of interest to Latin and Greek students: The Intelligent Person’s Guide to Greek and The Prolegomena to Latin. The index to Greek Language and Literature includes a good deal on Homer as well as commentaries on Sappho and Heraclitus.

Resources for Latin and Greek

Randy Gibbons provides a good overview of the books and methods available for self-teaching. Among the books now online are the 1887 edition of the Orbis Pictus of Comenius and Kendrick’s 1851 Greek Ollendorff.

Evan der Millner offers courses in Comenius and Adler, among other projects. See also his index of lessons on YouTube.

John Piazza has pages on the teaching of Latin and Greek with many useful links.

W.H.D. Rouse was a pioneer of the Direct Method at the Perse School in England. Recordings here with a commendable effort at rendering the pitch accent. Rouse’s Greek Boy at Home, also available in a Focus reprint, seems to be catching on among speakers of Spanish here and here.

John Stuart Blackie seems to have spearheaded a revival of spoken Greek in Scotland: his Primer (1891) and Dialogues (1871) are glimpses into a vanished and contrafactual world where topics from ice-skating to Highland dress are open to discussion.

Mogyoróssy Arkád, alias Arcadius Avellanus, is rumored to have learned Latin before his native Hungarian. His textbook Palaestra was published serially from Williamstown, Brooklyn, and New York City between 1912 and 1919. He also translated Treasure Island into Latin as Insula Thesauraria. He has very strongly held and hostile opinions about German scholarship, but Palaestra has the feel of being written by a native speaker, with many insights into colloquial and practical use.

Slow Down Krishna

St James School is teaching Sanskrit. On YouTube: here and here. Junior School books teach the stories of Krishna and Rama. Senior books one and two are available online, among other resources at ISER. More from the India Tribune and an interview with teacher Elena Jessup.

This is a fascinating endeavor and a useful template for the teaching of any classical language, incorporating culture and community. It’s true that classical languages provide excellent training in grammar. But most Latin and Greek textbooks currently in use are based on analytical grammars, providing an efficient and thorough overview of linguistic structure at the expense of vocabulary, syntax, and practical use. This is suitable for college-level study, which assumes fewer classes and greater independence on the part of the student. But an ideal middle or high school curriculum would make better use of class time to teach pronunciation, handwriting, vocabulary, conversation, and reading. No such curriculum really exists for Greek, though W.H.D. Rouse and other talented teachers have had great success with the Direct Method at the Perse School and elsewhere. Sanskrit, of course, is still more challenging, but these are precisely the challenges that primary and secondary school students ought to be tackling: learning to shape unfamiliar sounds and letters, chanting and reading stories, building an effective vocabulary, learning grammar inductively as well as systematically.

Wonder and Weirdness

Rod Dreher talks about making Christianity weird again. It always has been, but sometimes we forget to pay attention. Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry makes some interesting points about Mary and modernity. Joseph Pearce invokes Chesterton on trees and tradition, talking about Tolkien.

Meanwhile, Mike Chasar has some things to say about orality and literacy and poetry, and Maria Popova is quite taken with Mary Oliver. It’s hard not to like Mary Oliver, but like many contemporary poets, she skims along the surface of words and meaning. Beautiful platitudes are no less beautiful or true for being platitudes, but they don’t wrestle with language and reality the way Hopkins does, nor are they quite so subversively simple as Robert Frost can be. Nothing against Mary Oliver; but we should reserve our highest praise for the best and bravest words.

As in poetry, so in religion: the best and the bravest are the ones who stand against modernity and relativism; the ones that are rooted and living and strange. Further up and further in.