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.