English 230: Classical Tradition (Spring 2015)


Greek aryballos or flask, ca. 640 B.C.E.                                            Equestrian statue, Marcus Aurelius, Rome, 173 C.E.

Professor Arnie Sanders (Section .001 TuTh )

VM 141 (x6515)  Office Hours: TuTh 11:30-12:30 & by app't.  Page last updated: 05/03/2015 04:42:56 PM    Note on this web site's typographic conventions1

New! 5/1/15--Book XI dramatically begins the formal battle with a seige of the Trojan camp which Turnus, himself, compares with the Greek seige of Troy in hopes of a similar outcome.  One major factor rereading reveals is the connection between XI's episodes of extraordinary heroic energy (Turnus, Nisus and Euryalus) and the Iliad's emphasis on heroic energia that drives various warriors to their moments of arete or excellence/prowess.  Too much of this quality can lead to deadly results, as when Achilles' ferocious anger motivates his withdrawal from the battle and the Trojans' nearly successful assault upon the Greek army's ships.  Turnus certainly attempts to reproduce that feat in reverse in his attack on the Trojan fleet.  Is he successful, or does his success bring with it a danger he had not anticipated?  Similarly, Nisus and Euryalus sortie from the Trojan camp to try to reach Aneeas in an attempt to win glory as much as to serve the Trojan cause, and like Odysseus, Diomedes and Dolon in Book X of the Iliad, they find that their boldness brings early victory and final tragic defeat for one (the Trojan spy, Dolon) and murderous success killing sleeping warriors for the other two (Odysseus and Diomede who slay Memnon and his troops).  Virgil fuses both results, making the success lead to disaster.  This balance between heroic energy and wise restraint seems very important to Virgil in his construction of Aeneas' character, as well.  The deaths of young warriors (Helenus and Numanus) and the dangerous exposure of Ascanius/Iulus to the hazards of battle put that balance to an even more crucial test--how can a hero's son be heroic without risking all, but if his survival is crucial to the fate of his entire people, what right does he have to take such risks with all their lives?  The authors of the Terminator movies might have had this in mind when inventing the predicament of John Connor.  Finally, Turnus, at the peak of his own arete, actually enters the Trojan camp and rages about in a battle fury so intense that he does not do the one thing which would have guaranteed the Trojans' doom--open the gates for his own army to enter.  (Troy themes are once again inverted.)  In Turnus' heroic, no other word for it, leap into the Tiber in full armor, he prefigures a famous Roman hero.  Horatius Cocles ("one-eyed") will one day hold back Lars Porcena's Etrustcan army with only two companions at the Sublician Bridge into Rome, escaping by diving into the Tiber and swimming to safety.  You saw him, all unknowing just like Aeneas, in Book VIII, ll. 875-83 (253).  They are just names until history and destiny realize their importance.

         After the gods debate the fairness of their involvement in the war, Jupiter declares that men's deeds and their individual destinies must hereafter decide who lives and dies.  As Fitzgerald puts it, "And the fates / Will find their way" (fata viam inveniate).  Book X brings to a climax the "substitute victims" theme announced by Entellus when he dropped the ox dead in place of Dares.  All the threats to young sons that were introduced in Book XI come to a head in Turnus' killing of Pallas, whose "war-father," Aeneas, had promised Evander to protect and teach him.  Mezentius' son, Lausus, dies for his father in an act that finally humanizes the old man by humbling his god-scorning pride.  His faith in his mount, Rhaebus, both touching and fatal, binds them together in doom.  Virgil seems to be illustrating with puzzles Jupiter's judgment that our efforts will become our fates, even mine and yours.


Roman Name Generator--why "Ovid" and not "Publius Naso"?

"Walnut Boy"--some sources for research on "Fescennine Verses."

According the Registrar, English 230's final exam is scheduled for Wednesday, May 13, from 12:00 Noon to 2:00 PM in JR G27 (i.e., our classroom).  Bring lunch if you need it.  Should this schedule conflict with your travel home or elsewhere, please contact me to arrange an earlier time to take the exam.


        The goal of this course is to introduce you to English translations of the Greek and Latin texts which form the core of Western European's Mediterranean cultural inheritance.  In addition to the northern Germanic and Celtic literary traditions, the Classical Tradition inform our culture by a "passing down" of commonly read narratives, literary genres, character types, and purposes for producing and using literature.  Viewed as a complex system of inter-related conversations about the Greek and Roman past, the texts we will read communicate values and conventions that still survive today in our laws and social codes, as well as others that may seem incredibly alien, at least at first.  Students will be encouraged to follow their curiosity until they become experts in one or more "threads" of the Classical Tradition's complex tapestry.

 "Academic Honor Code: Reference to the academic honor code is required of all course syllabi as a reminder to students.  Suggested wording includes: Reminder: All students are bound by the standards of the Academic Honor Code, found at www.goucher.edu/documents/General/AcademicHonorCode.pdf."  I distinguish between accidental forms of plagiarism, in which the author obviously intended to cite sources but cited them at the wrong place, from pure carelessness (no citations, even if sources are listed at the back) and outright theft of intellectual property intentionally passed off as one's own.  The first type of cases usually are opportunities to teach and learn.  The second type are more troubling and may go to the Honor Board if they happen late in the semester, after we have discussed source use and its importance to your readers.  The last will be sent to the Honor Board without hesitation.  Students also are increasingly content to cite sources long after their prose has begun to borrow ideas from those sources.  That is technically plagiarism, too, but it has become so common that I must spend gallons of ink and hundreds of keystrokes un-teaching it.  Never make me guess whose ideas I'm reading.  Cite sources when you first depend on them.  I want to know how well you can think, not how well your sources can think, which is a matter of historical record for anyone who reads them.  Let there be a bright line of fire between ideas that are originally yours and those of other writers to which you refer. 

Student Learning Outcomes: (click on the link for an explanation of what these things mean)

Students who successfully complete English 230 will be able to:

1) write a short scholarly essay on a work of classical literature.

2) distinguish the contributions to Western Civilization of Greek and Latin literature.

3) convey an understanding of the nuances of Classical Literature to others.

4) recognize allusions to Classical Literature in later works of literature, the arts in general, and popular culture.

5) articulate the relevant context of these allusions to Classical Literature.

6) enjoy Classical Literature more profoundly for the rest of their lives.

Reading Assignments and Supporting Materials Writing Assignments and Supporting Materials


Required Texts and How to Acquire Them

How to Read for Classical Tradition

Chronology of Writers Studied in English 230

Geographical Help for Ancient Greek Places

Geographical Help for Ancient Roman Places

Verge: The Goucher Journal of Undergraduate Writing

Additional On-Line Resources


Required Course Work

Style Sheet

Paper Evaluation Rubric

Writing Center Hours

A Summary of the Iliad by Book

Greek terms of value and some Latin equivalents