Posts Tagged ‘Latin’

Ending a cycle only to start a cycle

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Simulations  by Jean Baudrillard

Classical English Rhetoric by Ward Farnsworth

Selected Poems of Thomas Hardy (Penguin Classics)

It’s not been a good reading time.  I’m going through things pretty slowly.  And I’ve given up trying to write during the day.  I’m too stressed out.  The writing bug stings at night.  After 8 p.m., a switch goes off in my head and I’m suddenly reading to the exclusion of all else or writing to the exclusion of all else.  I’m going to stop fighting it and arrange my priorities around the fact that night time is the write time.

There is a mildly Gallic flavor to my current crop of pulp.

Graduate school has really expanded my reading repertoire.  If you read my post on Barthes “The Pleasure of the Text”, then you will know my feelings on swampy translations of French philosophical prose.  However, Baudrillard’s collection of translated notes that make up Simulations has qualities that TPoTT does not, specifically, continuity, organization, essay format, and better sentence structure.  You get more out of each paragraph without a lot of apologizing about how no equivalent phrases exist in English that would do justice to French subtleties.  The down side is that the phrasing is often clunky.  The information is solid gold, but it’s raw, rough gold.

Object Lessons probably has the most subtitles of any book that I’ve ever seen. “Object Lessons” – The PARIS REVIEW Presents “The Art of The Short Story.”

Another gift from the Academia fairies is reading about rhetoric.  Those Greeks had a word for EVERYTHING!  When you overuse conjunctions, there’s a word for that.  When you leave out conjunctions, there’s a word for that.  When you repeat words, there’s a word for that.  When you repeat phrases, there’s a DIFFERENT word for that.  This pattern of repetition that I’m doing here – there’s a word for that!  So, so bitchin’ rhetoric!

I have high hopes for Stylish Academic Writing. Wisely, Sword points out in her book that “[a]ny of the ‘smart sentencing’ principles outlined in this chapter can, of course, be temporarily suspended for rhetorical effect.” (p. 59.)

My graduate thesis is on Thomas Hardy’s poetry, and I’ve been working with poems from the Penguin collection.  Hardy poetry is wonderfully easy to read, and has great depth in spite of the light lyric feel of his work.  No wonder T. S. Eliot was annoyed by him.  It was like Salieri and Mozart.

Bowerstock’s From Gibbon to Auden: Essays on the Classical Tradition.  The cover made me buy it.  Also, I like reading essays.  (…said no teacher ever! LOL!)  However, I feel like I’ve been played.  I should know better than to buy these professional collections.  I want to get published.  Maybe I should just gather a handful of essays, slap a cute title on it and declare myself a high-end scholar.  It’s such a racket.  It’s like when you buy those romance story omnibuses and one story is awesome.  One story is so-so.  The rest are crap.  But you paid for five stories and only one of them gives you your money’s worth.  I hope this book won’t be like that. 


Anthologies – A Good Way to Sell Crap Stories

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Laudare Metuam. I Fear Not Praise Nor Colors.

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Juvenal and Persius (Loeb Classical Library)Satirists would probably prefer that you understand more than you laugh.  But laughing is what happens first.  Given time, the understanding might come.  Just not in time to suit the satirist.  The satires of Juvenal, a Latin writer from roughly 120 years into the common era, have a lot in common with some of the more political and angry stand-up comics of today.  Lewis Black comes to mind.  He and Juvenal share a deep frustration and disgust for the behavior of the rich and powerful and the parasites that feed off their “event-glamor”.  They despise stupidity and have little tolerance for foolishness.  Unfortunately for them, (fortunately for their genre)  it abounds. 

Juvenal has the vision of an artist, able to see the components of things as well as the whole.  Satire 1 is a criticism of poetry.  Poetry, he complains, is too namby-pamby because the society that creates it and provides an audience for it is namby-pamby.  Hello!  Such an argument could be used down through history, specifically for academic art.  The Pre-Raphaelites may have made use of this vein of thought.  When society sucks, their art will suck.  If the Academy members are jaded and old-fashioned, guess which type of art will be celebrated. 

Juvenal is cutting in his expressiveness.  He could have been a writer for BLACKADDER!  His sarcasm and disdain are so thick, you could cut them with a …a … disdain-cutting device.


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Today, on the first day of the “winter” break, there’s much to be done.  Christmas cards. Dry cleaners.  Post office.  Groceries.  Arsenal vs. Man City rerun.  But the impulse to write hit me and all else fell away.  My body seems to know when it’s time to hit the keyboard.  Or mini-me (my mini-lappie) or even a notepad.  My body told me what to do today.  Specifically, it let me know that it was time to write about this book:The Writing Life

Some books are like jewels, like my “portable feasts” books.  This book is a perfect, sweet opal, full of charming vignettes.  But it’s so much more than charm.  It’s opalescent quality comes from these heartfelt, LIVED moments in real time.  Discoveries were made, analogies were generated, faith was lost, faith was restored.  Through it all, Dillard’s humor winks at us in daring and in cheekiness.  “Aim for the chopping block”, she writes.  The physical act is not the objective.  Write towards the vision. 


Once, in order to finish a book I was writing and yet not live in the same room with it, I begged a cabin to use as a study.  I finished the book there, wrote some other things, and learned to split wood.

Simple conversation, on the surface, but rub it a bit and wisdom shines through. 

(1) Living with writing: it’s a bit like having a child in the house – or a tenant.  Sooner, rather than later, they will need your undivided attention, no matter what else of import may be occurring.  You are the only one who can deliver that attention.  You can’t hand it off to a nanny or a text message.

(2)  Writing that occurs while you’re writing something else.  The entire time I was working on my last post, I was thinking about this one.  It’s awkward and annoying, but typical for me.  One idea begets another.  It’s actually one of the easier things to handle when writing for a specific objective.

(3)  “Learned to split wood”.  Mental links to physical.  Mental activity tied to physical activity.  That’s why writing and typing are so satisfying.  I’m thinking and generating and rehearsing and arguing.  In my head.  My body is washing dishes, ironing, grading papers, talking with someone.  Not always, mind you.  Sometimes I just plain close my eyes and rehearse something in my head, or play with shapes. 

The current’s got me.  Feels like I’m about in the middle of the channel now.  I just keep at it.  I just keep hoping the tide will turn and bring me in.

God, when I was writing my research paper on “The Dream of Gerontius” by Newman, this is what it felt like.  My vision had no shape, no objective other than to cram in other people’s thoughts and either agree or disagree. It was hard!  I didn’t know what I wanted to do with it.  But I just kept re-reading the poem – the sections where Gerontius or his soul were speaking.  Making comments about what certain lines sounded like, what they reminded me of.  I researched the Latin bits (the only part I truly enjoyed).  So my first, second, and third drafts sounded more like marginalia than erudite scholasticism.  But after about five pages of observations, translations, and kvetches, I had enough wood to grow a stump.  I saw a couple of different patterns I could exploit.  I started to chop some wood, aiming for the stump.  I managed a decent paper.  I tried to do right by the research process.  My insights were scholarly, if not very far-reaching. I was happy with the end product.  I had chopped enough wood.  But I never enjoyed it.  What I did enjoy were the small moments – a turn of phrase, the seamless fabric of quotes and original wording, shaping the vision, working with Latin.  Lots of swimming and a lucky tide.

The written word is weak.  Many people prefer life to it.  Life gets your blood going, and it smells good.  Writing is mere writing, literature is mere.

This is why people don’t like writing – because you can only be admired for it in hindsight.  Never while it’s happening.  While it’s happening, you are judged harshly for not doing something “active” and “useful”.  When it’s all done, though, the tune changes.  It’s a thing created.  After it’s done, it looks like it was work.  When you were working on it, you just looked lazy.  This is the exception to the rule that you can see more clearly from a distance.  Writing doesn’t look like much when it’s happening.  But if you could see inside the brain, you’d see  the synapses firing like crazy and blood flowing through the creative, then the analytical parts of the brain; one then the other then both.  In teaching, this is why non-English people have trouble taking writing seriously. 

You don’t realize how much work it is until you have to do it yourself.  Then you realize you can’t do it well; it’s not as easy as it looks, an denigrate it even more.  _____________________________________________________________

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Before Rosetta Stone–Languages Made Simple

  • Russian Made Simple
  • German Made Simple
  • Latin Made Simple

Wow! These books are awesome! I was reading short Russian words in just five pages. Wow!  How does it sound? Hmmm…well…dunno, but it’s fun anyway.  These books are such an old- school way to learn a language, but so what.  I’m learning to read them.  The rest will come soon enough.  They were free (except for the German one) so no harm, no foul. 

I don’t remember where I got the Latin one.  It’s been with me for a few years.  I think I took it from my parent’s house.  Or, given all the time I spent in used book stores when I lived in San Antonio, maybe I got it there.  The Russian book I found in a table of throw-aways  at the local uni. It’s ancient, which is part of its charm, actually.  The pages are so yellow, they are russian made simple0001ready to disintegrate if I even breathe on them.

How do they make the languages simple?  Well, they feed you little bits at a time.  The Russian book starts with sight words – three and four letter words for basic things like “classroom”, “home”, “hall”, “vase”.  Then the sight words build into short phrases, then long phrases. I’m reading Russian phrases (with translation) by page five!

The German and Latin are easier to sound out.  I speak Spanish, so I just pronounce Latin like Spanish.  I know it’s not how it really sounds, but who among us is old enough to prove me wrong.  Just listen to Eddie Izzard:

Product DetailsI don’t know what it is about German, but when I’m pronouncing it, my voice gets deeper.  And the book contains diagrams showing how certain sounds should be shaped in the mouth.  Ummm…fine.  I can’t wait to lay it on my students that EVERY noun is capitalized, not just the proper ones and the ones at the beginning of sentences.  Hahahee!  And I solved the mystery of “DIE”, “DER” and “DAS”, as well as what the heck “Flemish” is.  Having never been to Flemland, it was confusing.

I’ve listened to Eddie Izzard’s DEFINITE ARTICLE for several years now.  So when I came latin made simple0001across the Latin book, I now had a tangible reason for reading it instead of just leaving it in a box.  While I read the book, I would picture “Mr. Dog” talking to his centurions with a poncy intonation while they swish the toothbrushes on their heads.    No doubt if there was a “Greek Made Simple” book, I’d be thinking about his bit from SEXIE where Medusa goes to the hairdressers – or the bit where the sirens lure sailors with songs about very good parking spaces.  I wish I WAS exaggerating!  The real treat: the Latin book goes great with my Loeb Latin Classics. 

The Latin book still has the bookstore label on it.  Amazingly, the book was originally purchased in 1985 at a bookstore that I actually used to frequent when I lived in San Antonio in the 90s.  Hang on – I guess that means I got it at a used bookstore and not from my mum’s house.  Okay. Just figured that out.  Writing things out is so clarifying!

back of latin0001

So anyway, purchased from Bookstop at Sunset Ridge, which was in Alamo Heights, a shabby genteel part of town.  I shopped there in the 90s, but the store closed around the time that Barnes & Noble came to town and started building book supermarkets.  Yep, B&N, for all their charms, pretty much killed the neighborhood book store in San Antonio.  Mega-marts of any kind are a sign of social and commercial  progress – apparently.

Back to Russian, I watched Boris Gudonov on public television’s live Met series last weekend.  I was trying to catch words, but I think I need to get further along in the book.  Nothing in the music sounded familiar.  Die Walkure is coming up in May so I should brush up on my Deutsch.  Opera is actually a good way to learn the lingo if the subtitles are in the original language.  Everyone seems to think they are singing about quantum mechanics and epistemology.  What they are really singing about is more like stuff you would hear on the O.C. or OTH with a bit of Smallville mixed in for pathos.

So anyway, these books are an old-fashioned way to learn a language.  But ain’t nothin’ wrong with that.  There’s plenty of dictionaries on the ‘net where they will pronounce the word for you.



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