March 19, 2020
Dear Imperial Roman Prose students,
Welcome to my blog, which I have been running for most of the last decade. It’s a fairly low-tech venue, and one I am familiar with, so I have been thinking that it might be the right format for the future teaching of our class.
So, can I ask you to listen to this voice memo above, in .m4a format, which outlines my plans for the rest of the term? The text of the recording is below, and you can scroll along as I read, if you want to.
What I’d really like to know is whether or not listening to a recording like this is going to work for you. So PLEASE, let me know by shooting me a quick email to say either “My internet connection isn’t going to work for this” or “This will be just fine.” Also, and this means a lot to me, let me know how you are doing!
Greetings from Sewanee! It is a warm spring evening here, a bit overcast. You can hear maybe the birds behind me, and maybe the trucks on the highway too, and perhaps even the train-whistle from Cowan a few miles away.
Events has fallen out in such a way that we cannot finish up our class together as we had originally planned, and instead we will have to proceed remotely as of March 31. As I have mentioned to you in a previous e-mail, I have never taught or taken an online class, and so we will need to work together to make this work.
But before I begin, let me offer one observation: I know how awful this has all been for you, being violently wrenched away from college like this. It’s been awful for all of us who teach and work here as well. Nobody at Sewanee would have done this if it hadn’t absolutely had to happen this way. I know you know that. I think we all understand that, intellectually. But that doesn’t mean that emotionally any of us is OK with it. . You may want to seek out somebody to talk with about it. If you are upset, or angry, or depressed about it, that is an appropriate way to feel.
This is my current thinking on how to move ahead. Most of you left campus intending to return, so I assume you do not have your books with you. I also assume that, because you will be at home and not in Sewanee with its study spaces, you will not necessarily have a quiet room and a reliable Wifi connection. Based on these two assumptions, I will be using readily-accessible texts on the internet, and will also try to keep my instruction to the bare minimum of bandwidth. As all of you have access to it, we will use Blackboard for written assignments and feedback.
We were due, as you know, to have an exam immediately upon return from Spring Break. Some of you have been studying, I imagine, but probably most of you have been somewhat distracted by the news. I will admit that I have not figured out how exactly to carry out this exam, but one thing is clear– it’s going to have to be different than what we would have done on campus!
OK. So, what will we read for the rest of the semester? Having read some of the greatest hits of Pliny’s Letters and some of the Passion of Saint Perpetua, it had been my plan to begin reading more of Tacitus. Like I say, though I know you probably don’t have the book of selections by Steven Rutledge. Rather than have you order a new copy, or ask the hard-working people in duPont to make a PDF of it, I’ve decided to use a pretty good online version of Tacitus’s work, the Agricola, which is available from Dickinson College. It’s a pretty good resources, I think. Besides the Latin, there is vocab and notes. It’s designed for students at your level, so it should be pretty user-friendly.
There’s a link here. I’ll give you this link again in my next post, together with a PDF of a a translation. I’ll also discuss in fuller detail what the Agricola is about, and why it makes sense for us, at this particular moment, for us to be reading it together.
One last thing. Because there will some things I post that will not be, strictly speaking, out of copyright, I will be putting future posts on this blog behind a password. That password is the word written on the whiteboard in the picture of me below.
OK, that’s it for now. I hope you are all staying safe and healthy.
Ecce Quam Bonum! Bye.