Saturday, April 19, 2014

Book Review: Ten Latin Anthologies

Teaching Latin literature courses always runs into several conundrums. Chief among these, perhaps, is whether the course will be structured around one or a few large works, or shorter selections. The former approach has the advantage of encouraging in-depth discussion of an author, genre, or work, but it's easy to get mired in a long text which students cannot move through with great speed. The latter choice necessitates a compilation of texts, and so enters the anthology.

A few notes and exceptions. These are all aimed at the high school, or perhaps undergraduate, level, and thus do not any of them contain an apparatus. I exclude anthologies dedicated to specific collections, such as sacred, medieval, or historical works and likewise omit any text books even if they have a great deal of literature as does Keller and Russell's Learn to Read Latin. Finally, I've surely not compiled an exhaustive list and any recommendations are most welcome

I. An Anthology of Latin Prose [Amazon]
ed. D. A. Russell

This is one of my favorites of the bunch. Russell's compilation gives in selections of about fifty lines each a useful sample of Latin authors and genres. The text's chronological arrangement gives the reader a good sense of evolving style and the brevity of the selections highlights the variety. Russell's notes are minimal, and mostly confined to translating Greek quotations, pointing out omissions and contracted forms, and explaining idioms and less common meanings. There's no help with complex clauses and no glossary, but Russell's introduction is a good one to prose periods and rhythms. Its generous helping of Cicero covers the author's philosophy, legal speeches, public speeches, and letters.

The quantity, brevity, and variety of the selections suits a survey course for proficient students.

II. Cambridge Latin Anthology [Amazon]
ed. Ashley Carter and Phillip Parr

This more slender reader provides equal measures of prose and poetry, with both sections providing a few long selections and then a number of smaller ones grouped by kind. For example, the editors provide four 60-line selections of Ovid and Vergil, and then group a variety of Horace, Martial, and Catullus into categories of love, leisure, and so forth.

The organization chaffed at first, but it's a not imprudent compromise. The lengthy sections provide opportunity for in-depth study while the topically-arranged groups give room for comparing genre, style, author, and content. Unfortunately, none of the poems are numbered and there is no identification of the prose selections, a decision which strips the literature of context, especially given the scant introductions and nonexistent notes. There is bountiful help with vocabulary though, with long-marks, facing-page vocabulary, and a glossary. A teacher's handbook is available that contains notes and commentary. It's not so necessary for teaching these texts, but it might be useful for students who can't read without a little help. The teacher's handbook doesn't contain any translations.

Overall, this reader is a good compromise between poetry and prose, and lengthy and short selections, but its lack of notes (without the handbook) limits its utility for the neophyte and lack of quantity limits its use to the sophisticated reader. Also, the layout is relatively inefficient and with all the dead space, this 180-page volume doesn't have that much Latin.

III. Oxford Latin Reader [Amazon]
ed. Maurice Balme and James Morwood

This anthology succeeds the three-part Oxford Latin Course and is best viewed as a sampler of the most notable sections from the most notable Latin authors: Cicero, Caesar, Catullus, Vergil, Livy, and Ovid. The text offers copious historical introductions and extremely generous notes which quite often translate the Latin outright. There is plentiful vocabulary and a small appendix on scansion. This reader would suit a class of weaker students in which you wanted to focus less on the Latin, to some extent, and more on history, culture, and such, while still getting the students to work in the canonical texts.

IV. Ecce Romani III [Amazon]

The Ecce Romani series crams most of the grammar into books I and II, leaving this third book as an anthology of literature. The text opens with several chapters of Eutropius handpicked to help students transition from textbook sentences to actual literature, and for that these selections are appropriate and in my experience useful. The selections and organization of the book is somewhat haphazard, though. For example:
  1. Eutropius
  2. Cicero Against Verres
  3. Cicero Against Catiline
  4. Two Selections of Caesar's Gallic War
  5. Catullus Selections
  6. Cicero on Friendship
  7. Asconius and then Cicero on Clodius' Murder
  8. Selected Letters
  9. Suetonius' Life of Augustus
  10. Augustus' Res Gestae
The book is generous with macrons, vocabulary, and notes, and like the Oxford Reader likes to translate for you, but it's a disorganized collection. There's no reason to gravitate to this text unless you're already using Ecce Romani.

N.B. The Roman's Speak for Themselves [Amazon]
ed. Gilbert Lawall

Longman publishes a pair of slender readers of unadapted Latin for contemporaneous use with Ecce Romani and II. It has twenty-line selections from about twenty authors, chosen for their content to expand on the history or cultural content of various chapters. They're prudently chosen for both difficulty and content, and good for slowly acclimating students to ancient Latin. Again, these are useful but not something you would seek outside the Ecce Romani world.

V. Beginning Latin Poetry Reader [Amazon]
ed. Gavin Betts and Daniel Franklin

This is a solid poetry reader for independent students. The poems are chronologically ordered but ranked by difficulty, a prudent remark which only this reader offers. While the editors provide translations, they tuck them ought of sight at the back of the book behind the plentiful notes. There's a detailed explanation of meters in the appendix and the editors even scan the first two lines of each poem.

With prudent selections from twenty-four authors, this is a good place for a strong independent student to start. Such a student can plausibly read by himself with this help, at least the easy and moderately difficult poems.

VI. Scribblers, Sculptors, and Scribes [Amazon]
ed. Richard A. LaFleur

Billed as a companion text to Wheelock, this anthology of inscriptions and graffiti is a fun add-on to an introductory textbook. It's full of history and context, which in addition to the generous pictures of manuscripts, papyri, and mosaics, and printings in all caps, help modern students see Latin with ancient eyes. All modern readers of Latin get stuck in polished, edited versions and this is a lively escape from that cozy decadence.

It's not necessarily a text you would ask a class to buy, but it's worth incorporating into a course in some fashion.

VII. Wheelock's Latin Reader [Amazon]
ed. Richard A. LaFleur

Very much like it's Oxford equivalent, this reader offers choice selections of the most famous authors, although Wheelock's Reader offers some medieval and Vulgate selections while skewing more toward prose than poetry, which is only represented by Ovid. Vocabulary and grammar aid is substantial, but there's scant historical context or introductions.

It's useful but there's little to commend it other than its nominal congruity with the Wheelock series.

VIII. Latine Cantemus [Amazon]
Franz Schlosser

Well, it's sort of an anthology. Alright, maybe not, but a little levity can lighten up the class. Alright, I haven't actually used this, but still. Music. Sort of. If you'll just die hearing Old McDonald in Latin, there are sacred chants in the back in Gregorian notation. There isn't any notation, though, for the modern tunes, many of which will probably be unfamiliar to modern students.

Latine Cantemus is put out by Bolchazy-Carducci, which of course means it's falling apart.

IX. Old Latin Readers

Google's massive scanning endeavor has given new life to the plethora of Latin readers and grammars from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. These books are so myriad that choosing among them can be a task in itself. Another challenge is that many are written in a fusty English and feature selections which were common at the time, i.e. Julius Caesar, which don't suit today's readers quite so well. Here are three which I've found of use.

i. A Latin Anthology for Beginners [Amazon] [Google Books]
ed. George B. Gardiner

No covers available,
therefore Homer.
This anthology has a lot of grammar and vocabulary help. Gardiner not only points out what seems to him difficulties, but often translates them outright, even when they're elementary (the clause ne. . . desit and the passivity of fertur.) More useful, though, is the different kind of help he provides, which is the disambiguation of forms which present multiple possibilities. The brevity (ten to twenty lines) and self-contained nature of the selections which lean heavily toward easy-to-read fables, in conjunction with the lack of author attribution or references to specific works, skew the work toward beginners. It's imperfect for use as a sole reader for either independent or classroom students, but the opening sections of the book group various verses by meter, which may be useful.

ii. A Latin Anthology [Amazon]
ed. Alfred Marshall Cook

Cook's is a mature reader for mature students. There's no vocabulary help and no facing-page assistance of any kind cluttering up the reading of the poems. Notes are confined to explaining the more opaque meanings and no help is given for meter with either long marks or explanations. I imagine this was a sturdy, mature little hardcover for diligent students who took it everywhere. Such were the joys, I hope.

iii. Latin Poetry [Amazon] [Google Books]
ed. Robert Yelverton Tyrrell

Originally companion to a lecture series, this volume would suit advanced readers peeking outside the canon of great authors. The selection of and comment on the lesser poets makes a revealing study of those poets, their betters, and the difficulties of the mediums and genres themselves. Again suiting a more mature reader, Tyrrell's notes refrain from much grammatical and metrical explanation in favor of pointing out references to other literature, including Greek which he does not translate, and observing points of style, which few books do.

X. Adapted and Modern Latin Readers

Reading authentic literature is the ideal, but there is room for modern and adapted Latin. First, these books allow teachers to review grammar without doing violence to good literature. Second, they allow teachers to expose classical content to students who will not reach proficiency Latin, either because the student cannot handle the difficulty or because there is no room in the curriculum for the advanced work of reading the full, ancient texts.

The following are heavy on all sorts of help, which makes them good readers for students to use independently over vacations and such, but the readings might also be used variously to supplement a course.

i. Ritchie's Fabulae Faciles [Amazon]
Geoffrey Steadman

I like to use these stories as a break from or parallel with the primary text. Ritchie's Fabulae features about fifty pages of Latin stories about Hercules, Odysseus, Jason and the Argonauts, and Perseus. The vocabulary is voluminous and there's a modest grammar aid to each reading, but only an appendix of tense synopses at the back.

This is a nice little reader for someone returning to Latin or a student trying to keep the Sisyphean ball rolling over vacation.

ii. Fabuale Romanae [Amazon]
Gilbert Lawall and David Perry

The grammar is here not at all comprehensive or systematic, but the miniature biographies are good supplements to other studies and texts. The stories are twenty-five to fifty lines on the usual suspects from four periods: The Kings of Rome, The Early Republic, The Punic Wars, and The Fall of the Republic. Facing vocabulary and various grammatical definitions and explanations throughout, with a cheaply cobbled-together reference in the back.

iii. Lively Latin [Amazon]
John K. Colby

This is my favorite of these readers with recently composed stories. The stories are various, short, and sweet. There's occasional humor, but any of these stories can add a little spice to the class' regular textbook, which no matter how well selected will become monotonous. We get Humpty Dumpty, some stories of Jason, a tale of Christians and Lions, and so forth. The readings add zest, some occasion for discussion, and some opportunity for review. The fictive radio program from 46 BC will probably require manifold explanations to 21st century students.

Lively Latin was independently printed and so the layout is simple and there are a few rough edges, but it's a handy volume.

iv. 38 Latin Stories [Amazon]
Anne H. Groton and James M. May

Another text nominally attached to Wheelock, I like to use this mini-anthology as a diagnostic working with struggling students. It presents gradually more challenging readings culminating in actual Latin, all with facing vocabulary, and working through it neatly shows the students strengths and weaknesses.

There is some ancient Latin in the second half of the collection, some of which is adapted, including the ridiculous rendering of several poems as paragraphs.

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