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Lesson Plans and Ideas

Art-Literature Analysis: Student Assignment

As an end of year project for my AP Latin students, I assign an art analysis paper based upon a scene from either Vergil's Aeneid or Caesar's de Bello Gallico. The students are to choose a masterpiece that accurately depicts one such scene. This assignment is a student favorite as it causes the students to look back and call upon what they have learned of the story and the language from the vantage point of one who has completed a rigorous journey and now stands upon the mountain top, surveying the view of the road from whence they came. The remainder of this post is written by one of my Latin students. This is her piece of art-literature analysis based on a scene from Aeneid VI. Read the rest of this entry »

Composition Assignment: Classic Narratives

Our 3rd grade grammar school students love that first special moment that they are able to read a story in Latin for themselves. This is a huge milestone. Their eyes just light up with the realization that they are truly comprehending a story in another language. From that moment on, Latin stories become a favorite class activity. Another great milestone comes at the end of 5th grade when they are then able to compose a story in Latin for others to read. Up until this moment they have received the joyful gift of reading, now they are able to give that gift in return. This post outlines our grammar school composition project. Read the rest of this entry »

Planning the Invasion of Gaul

Gallia est omnis divisa in partes tres . . . Thus begins the first chapter of Comentarii de Bello Galllico, written by General Julius Caesar c.58-49 B.C. This is a line that most veterans of Latin studies know by heart for it has long been the traditional "first book" for young students graduating from grammatical studies into original readings. The work is chosen for its excellent prose, whose arrangment is fairly easy for novice readers to follow. That is once you become adept at recognizing ablative absolutes and extensive relative clauses and very long stints of indirect discourse. The work certainly cannot be read without great attention to the author, Julius Caesar, his military endeavors and his political ambitions. This work can also be enjoyed as a study in ancient geography as Caesar begins the very first chapter by laying out the geographical composition of Greater Gaul in the manner of a chartographer. Read the rest of this entry »

Gingerbread Pantheon

Augustus was said to have found Rome a city of brick and left it a city of marble. Our Classics Club at Grace Academy is rebuilding Rome as a city of gingerbread! Each year our students take on the task of rebuilding a significant piece of ancient architecture from gingerbread and other edible materials. This year our group took on the Roman Pantheon. We entered the finished piece in the Georgetown Library's annual Edible Extravaganza contest where it won first place in its division. This post shares some of the secrets behind the triumph. Read the rest of this entry »

Imitation in Writing through Latin

l believe the purpose of learning the Latin language is in order to study Latin literature. By studying Latin literature, I mean studying the Great Books. These are great pieces of literature of outstanding merit that have stood the test of time. Such works reflect the worldview of the culture and time in which they were written. Such works have often influenced not only the people of their own time, but the people of times that would follow. Such works should demonstrate some combination of Truth, Beauty, and Goodness. By studying such works we better understand the flow of human thought over the course of history. We better understand our civilization when we know from whence it came. We better understand what is truly great literature. By studying Latin literature, I mean Read the rest of this entry »

Latin Composition: Thanksgiving Theses

The philosopher Seneca is quoted as saying "docendo discimus" [by teaching we learn]. The idea behind this statement is that one must learn something really well in order to turn around and produce that learning for someone else. We teachers could also say "linguam scribendo discimus" [by writing we learn language]. I love for students to practice the grammar and vocabulary they have learned by reading authentic Latin literature. We can take these lessons a step further by challenging students to practice these same tools by producing a composition that imitates the literary works they read. These are two very different disciplines that engage the students in language from two different angles. Such assignments allow them to Read the rest of this entry »

Language Tree Project

The Latin Family Tree is a beautiful creation. Its roots run deep into the Proto-Indo-European language spoken through most of Europe c.5,000 B.C. Its trunk reveals beautiful hues of Italic languages influenced by the Etruscans and the Greeks. Its lofty branches reach far and strong to provide the arboreal beauty of modern Romance languages: Italian, Spanish, French, Romanian, and Portuguese. What delight to play in its shade and admire its beauty! Chapter 5 of Latin for Children, Primer A offers young students a peek at the Latin Family Tree. Our third grade class at Grace Academy engages in this study through this simple yet delightful two-day project. Read the rest of this entry »

Poetic Art Assignment

In a recent post (July 5) I discussed my love for exploring the connections between Latin poetry and art in my classes.

Within that post I shared suggestions for a class lesson that would integrate the analysis of poetic imagery with pieces of art.  In such lessons we must begin with the work of master artists.  We learn what is truly beautiful by studying the work of those who have mastered the art form, whether that be in the visual arts or in the literary arts.  The next step in the art-poetry study is for the students themselves to become creative interpreters of the poem.  In my last post we looked at the story of Pyramus & Thisbe from Ovid’s Metamorphoses (Liber IV).  So let us continue with that same story in our next art lesson.

We begin by reading the story in the original Latin and soaking up the masterful wordcraft of the poet Ovid.  We discuss word choice, arrangement, imagery, and all sorts of literary devices.  We next look at works by master artists to see how they interpreted Ovid’s poem upon their canvases.  We discuss the art in light of the poetry (see July 5 post for guidelines).  Next, I assign the students the task of producing their own piece of art that interprets one scene one moment from the poem.  After looking upon the work of masterful artists this naturally causes a bit of intimidation.  I comfort the students by assuring them that I don’t expect a masterpiece.  I do expect their best work, careful, neat, thoughtful, with attention to the detail in the poem.   I am pleased to share the work of one of my freshmen ladies below.  This is her interpretation of Book IV, Line 71:

saepe, ubi constiterant hinc Thisbe, Pyramus illinc

Kirk_Ovid_05_2016

 

What I absolutely love about this particular piece is the manner in which she interprets the chiastic imagery from Ovid’s work.  A chiasmus is an ABBA word pattern.  Here the word arrangement highlights the tortuous juxtaposition of the two lovers separated by the wall.  The wall itself becomes an impersonal character within the story.  Later on the young lovers would talk to the wall both chastising it for their separation while also expressing gratitude for the crack (seen here above Pyramus’ head) that allows them to share secret whispers of gentle affection.  The astute observer may notice that the artist did change one word from Ovid’s verse.  The artist writes semper [always] where Ovid wrote saepe [often].  This is and intentional change.  The artist has chosen silhouettes to illustrate the spirit that remains for these young lovers – always and forever juxtaposed against the wall in Ovid’s story. Many other pieces I receive have used the death scene (my students seem to love gore) and include a greater multitude of details. This piece, however, was bold enough in its abstract simplicity to drive home the image of the wall and the manner in which it divided the two lovers, here Thisbe, Pyramus there – always.

Well done, my young poetic artist!

Art as a Poetic Interpretation

Latin poetry is without a doubt my favorite genre of writing to read with students.  The writing of poets such as Vergil, Ovid, and Horace is pure art.  I often tell students that these poets are literary artists.  The page is their canvas, the stylus is their paintbrush, the words are hues of color, and the literary devices are their brush strokes.  It is the choice and implementation of the latter two that set all artists apart as masters.

Many artists must share this view as they allowed the literary artwork of these great poets to inspire their own graphic compositions.  In fact, the Metamorphoses inspired so many paintings in the 12th century that it was called the Aetas Ovidiana [Ovidian Age].  I explain to students that the artists of this time period would have been well versed in Latin and quite possibly Greek.  They would not have read the Metamorphoses in English or Spanish or French, but would have read Ovid in Latin.  The diction, syntax, and style used by Ovid would have created images and impressions in the mind of the artist who then interpret those images upon a canvas.  I challenge students to read a piece of Latin poetry and then study a piece of art in light of that poetry.  Consider the words and arrangement of the poet.  Then seek to discover those elements within the poem.  Where does the artist interpret the poet? What lines/phrases do you see interpreted? How?  Where does the artist take license? Why?

 

Consider the following two pieces inspired by the myth of Pyramus & Thisbe in Book IV of Ovid’s Metamorphoses.

 

Pyramus and Thisbe by Gregorio Pagani

  • Where are we in the story?  What has happened thus far?
  • What scenery here is described by Ovid? mulberry tree – arbor,  fountain – gelido contermina fonti (Metamorphoses IV.90), Thisbe’s tattered cloak – vestem quoque sanguine tinctam (Metamorphoses IV.107)
  • What elements are different than perhaps what Ovid may have described? Why?  The clothing is not entirely Greco-Roman, but has been influenced by fashion in the time period of the author.  The statue on the fountain is a small cupid. No such statue is mentioned, but this statue adds an element of personification to the fountain as witness to the deed.
  • How does the author use color?  Very little actual blood appears in the painting, but there are copious amounts of red.  The red appears most notably on the cloak/garment on which Pyramus is lying. Is it a red pattern? Is it blood? Does it give the appearance (with respect to color and folds) of blood pouring from Pyramus?
  • How does the author use lighting?  The light falls most notably on Thisbe who must be the center of the piece due to her position and her depicted action (clearly her death scene), but also falls greatly upon Pyramus the cause of her death.  The fountain statue (witness) also receives some light.
  • ALWAYS introduce or conclude discussion with the author, time period, and location of the work.  If possible gather information online also for any additional elements about the art that may be of interest to students or help further their appreciation of the piece. This piece is an oil on canvas painted in Florence, Italy (c. 1558-1605).  It is now on display in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence.

 

It is always nice to juxtapose two pieces to see how authors interpret the same scene differently.

Pyramus and Thisbe by Pierre Gautherot

  •  This too is an oil on canvas.  This is a more recent painting, created in 1799 by a French artist.
  • Repeat discussion questions from above noting both similarities and differences.
  • The fountain is represented in a different way (which do you think is truer to Ovid’s description)?
  • The tomb and city are present this time – cumque domo exierint, urbis quoque tecta relinquant (Metamorphoses IV.86) . . . conveniant ad busta Nini (Metamorphoses IV.88).
  • How is the clothing different?   Note that the artists both use red fabric in a similar manner.
  • How is the mulberry tree different (foliage and fruit)? – madefactaque sanguine radix/
    purpureo tinguit pendentia mora colore (Metamorphoses IV.126-127)
  • The sword in Thisbe’s hand is more directly tied to Pyramus and his empty scabbard. – Quae postquam vestemque suam cognovit et ense/vidit ebur vacuum (Metamorphoses IV.147-148)
  • Particularly note the difference in style: lighting, human form, use of color, etc.
  • Discuss how these differences reflect the genre of art and the time period.
  • HINT:  Pull in an art teacher to either give you guidance in leading the discussion, or integrate lessons by discussing in his/her class, or act as a guest instructor in your Latin class.

 

 

The story of Pyramus and Thisbe is included in the Latin Alive Reader: Latin Literature from Cicero to Newton.

In the next post titled “Poetic Art Assignment” I share a student assignment related to interpreting poetry through art using this same story.

AP Latin Tip:

For a similar art study using Caesar’s work visit the previous post: Romans Under the Yoke – an Art Study for Caesar.

For an art study on Vergil’s Aeneid visit the posts:

Low Ham Mosaic

Art-Literature Analysis: Student Assignment

Latin Alive Reader: Latin Literature from Cicero to Newton!

LA Team: Steven, Chris, Karen, and Gaylan at the book release during the national conference for the Society for Classical Learning in Austin, TX.

We are very excited to announce the publication of the fourth and final installment of the Latin Alive series!  The Latin Reader is the fruition of the dream Gaylan and I shared for the series from its earliest beginning. It was our desire to create a series that would train students to read original Latin literature and then enjoy the fruits of such literature, not just from ancient Rome, but literature that reflects the great breadth and depth of Latin influence through the ages. This unique reader provides excerpts of Latin literature that includes the prose of Cicero, Caesar, and Bacon; the poetry of Vergil, Ovid, Queen Elizabeth and Milton; the theological treatises of Augustine, Luther, and Aquinas; and the scientific musings of Pliny and Newton.  And these are only a few of the authors represented!  So great is the content, that we are delighted to welcome Dr. Steven L. Jones as a third author for this special book.  You can read more about Steven on the “about the authors” page of this blog site.

 

As with previous LA books we include biographies of each Latin author so students can learn about the context of each piece: historical, social, and even political.  Footnotes abound which provide further insight to the language, idioms, and cultural references for each piece.  We have also provided a variety of reading comprehension questions (Latin and English) to allow teachers to explore the readings further with students.  For all intents and purposes, this book serves as the basis for a humanities class in Latin.  For my students, this is their favorite Latin class.

Another distinctive unique to this book is the inclusion of a thorough grammar review in the second section.  Teachers and students may use this to review aspects of Latin grammar that apply to the pieces of literature they are reading.  Numerous appendices with reference charts, pronunciation review, and lessons in both Medieval Latin and poetry make this book on Latin literature complete.  There truly is nothing like this in circulation to date.  We are overjoyed to share this treasury with all of you.

You can read more about the Latin Alive Reader on the CAP website, including sample chapters.  Here is a sneak peek at the wealth of literature contained within its pages.  Among these you will see many of the authors and titles often included among the literature lists of classical schools.  This is very intentional as it is our hope through this book to support and enhance the study of these pieces of literature.

  1. Pro Archaia, Cicero
  2. Cornelia Gracchi, Nepos
  3. De Bello Gallico, Caesar
  4. Tria Poemata, Catullus
  5. Aeneid, Vergil
  6. Quattuor Poemata, Horace
  7. Metamorphoses, Ovid
  8. Fabulae Breves, Phaedrus
  9. de Ira, Seneca
  10. Evangelium secundum Sanctum Lucum, St. Luke
  11. Evangelium sucundum Sanctum Mattheum, St. Matthew
  12. Naturalis Historia, Piny the Elder
  13. Institutio Oratio, Quintilian
  14. Alia Epigrammata, Martial
  15. Perigrinatio Egeriae, Egeria
  16. Confessiones Sancti Augustini, St. Augustine
  17. Confessiones Sancti Patricii, St. Patrick
  18. Institutiones Divinarum et Saecularium Litterarum, Cassiodorus
  19. Historia Ecclesiastica Gentis Anglorum, Bede
  20. Vita de Caroli Magni, Einhard
  21. Magna Charta, The 25 Barons
  22. Summa Theologica, St. Aquinas
  23. Epistola ad Ciceronem, Petrarch
  24. Epistola Latina Columbi, Columbus
  25. Disputatio pro Declaratione Virtutis Indulgentiarum, Luther
  26. Stultitiae Laus, Erasmus
  27. Adversus Lutheranos, Cajetan
  28. Carmen et Oratio, Queen Elizabeth
  29. Elegia Secunda, Milton
  30. Historia Regni Henrici Septimi Angliae, Bacon
  31. Principa Mathematica, Newton

In addition, we have provided two readings included on the AP Latin syllabus from Caesar and Vergil.