Thursday, April 28, 2016

What Makes The Other Middle Ages an "Other" Text?

Kenneth F. Kitchell, Jr.'s new book, The Other Middle Ages introduces intermediate Latin students to selections that cover all aspects and all walks of life, from bawdy songs to to somber religious rituals and impudent parodies of the same, from short anecdotes and fables to excerpts from the bestiary tradition.

The book contains seventy-nine selections of prose and poetry, grouped thematically into categories that include "Echos of Antiquity," "The Black Death," and "Attacks on the Church," among others. While some selections have been edited for clarity and length, most are unadapted. Latin students can expect to finish one or more of these enjoyable readings in one sitting, developing their reading skills and giving them a sense of accomplishment. Notes and vocabulary have been provided to guide students accustomed to classical Latin through reading medieval texts drawn from a range of centuries and genres.

But what makes this text different from other medieval Latin texts? What makes the selections of this particular textbook "other"? We corresponded with Kitchell for his input on the matter:

"The main thing is that this is the first medieval Latin reader that I know of that was designed from the ground up to appeal to today's students. The readings are immediately accessible to today's students because it does not presuppose any previous knowledge of medieval culture or history. It is totally devoted to types of texts that other books only show in one or two examples. Thus it is also a much easier book to teach from if the teacher is not already a medievalist.

"All the readings have been classroom tested for three decades to gauge their interest level and readability. Boring texts that stirred no interest in students were tossed. Throughout this period, student input helped form the number and nature of notes, always trying to give students what they need to be able to sit down and just read the texts almost immediately after they have acquired the basics of Latin grammar and vocabulary. These texts are a great deal more accessible to intermediate students than, say, Cicero is.

"The basic thing, if I can put it this way, is that this book is a lot more fun for students and teachers alike and gives a new vehicle by which teachers and students alike can enter a type of Latin literature that is generally overlooked."

This accessible, classroom-tested, "other" medieval Latin readercan be found on our website.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Homer Wins: A Recap of Martia Dementia 2016

An image of the final
Martia Dementia bracket.
The path to victory appeared to be wide open. Augustus crushed his competition like bricks and left marble in his wake. Last years finalists, Lucan and the returning champion Euclid, both fell in the second round, and having delivered a decisive blow to Alexander the Great, the emperor seemed to be on the cusp of victory. But Augustus underestimated the epic bard Homer. Homer, who delivered to the world the epics the Iliad and the Odyssey. Homer, who, as a 5 Seed, rolled over the likes of Sophocles and Plutarch, and just as easily beat Hesiod and Ovid. Homer beat Augustus 157-4 to win the 2016 Martia Dementia competition. Much like last year, many narratives came out of the bracket as voting created conflict between these authors, philosophers, and political figures, and there was plenty of opportunity for others; imagine if Ovid had beat Homer and was given the opportunity for vengeance? These narratives and the success of Martia Dementia happened all thanks to our participants.

Don't ask B-C's Connor Hart about what happens when
you have Caesar and Michigan State going all the way.
The response to Martia Dementia was again overwhelming, building off last years success. I would like to thank all the teachers, professors, friends, students, and anyone I may have left out for their participation. I would also like to take time to acknowledge and congratulate the following for their success in this years competition. First, to Ryan Schumacher of the Bullis School, who only had two picks in the Sweet Sixteen, I say congratulations for having the most abysmal bracket! To Derrick Thomas III, also of the Bullis School, who, with only one correct pick in the Final Four, still managed to pick up 43 points, I would also like to say congratulations for taking third place! To Ruth Loop of the Thomas Dale High School, who managed to slip into second place with 44 points despite having one finalist, Augustus, going no further than the Sweet Sixteen, I would like to say congratulations for finishing in second place! Lastly, I congratulate the Brookfield Academy Upper School, sponsored by their teacher Ruth Osier, who, having 75% of the Final Four correct and nothing but right picks from there, won this years Martia Dementia!

Still disappointed in how your brackets turned out? Want to prepare for a better outing next year? Osier let us know what it took to make her classroom a winning one: 
Several (basketball) students were very amused by the idea of Greeks and Romans facing off.  Heated debates began on Vergil vs. Plautus or Pompey vs. Trajan.  Since there was such controversy, I instructed the debaters to fill out brackets and I would take the most common threads and send a copy to enter in the contest.  Around a dozen students turned in forms to me.  Once it was submitted, copies of our bracket were distributed to all students with an explanation of how to vote.  Then we left on spring break and I assumed the students would forget to vote and it would end then.  But when we returned they were excited that most (not all) of their picks were still in the running.  As each round concluded and voting began again, I allowed the students to have a couple minutes at the beginning of class that day to vote.  When we arrived at the final four the students started to get friends and relatives to vote.  At the end of the tournament, every day the students asked if I had heard if we won because our choices seemed to move on at every level.  When I was able to announce Victoria est nobis! cheers broke out.  The students enjoyed the fun of the competition and I enjoyed introducing names and history lessons to the students who didn’t know all the teams.
A Roman copy of a bust of Homer,
in the British Museum, London.
Perhaps with the debates and controversy the road to victory got off to a bumpy start, but it would seem things ran smoothly once Osier found common threads in her classrooms brackets. After that, all it took was a little outside support, some dedication and cooperation, and a lot of votes, for the Brookfield Academy Upper School to take home the spolia victoriae. Congratulations again!

Looking forward to next years Martia Dementia? Already counting down the days? Want to see an author, politician, or philosopher who did not make it into this years bracket? Would you rather see gods and goddesses versus heroes versus beasts? Tweet @BCPublishers what and who you would like to see, and include the hash tag #MartiaDementia or give feedback in the comments below. Did you have questions or comments about how this years competition went? Were you able to find ways to incorporate Martia Dementia into the classroom, or do you have ideas of how you might next year? Comment below–I would love to hear from you!

Friday, April 01, 2016

March Answer for Roman Calendar

If you have not already done so, check the inside back cover of our 2015-16 Roman Calendar for a reproducible worksheet that asks students to engage with the mythology-oriented artwork included in the calendar.

For those completing the worksheet, here is March's image, question, and answer.

Question: What elements identify this as a statue of Mars?

Answer: The helmet, the use of heroic nudity, and the defined musculature identify this statue as Mars.

Think your students know the answer to the April question on the worksheet? Tweet @BCPublishers the answer by April 25th for a chance to win five of our new buttons. We'll announce our answers, as well as the winner, at the beginning of May. Submit an answer for your class, or better yet, encourage students to participate individually.

To add your name to our mailing list for the Roman Calendar, email with the subject line "Roman Calendar"; be sure to include your name and mailing address in the body of the email. Calendars are mailed annually in August.