I recently shared in a Facebook group a post on student engagement during my A.P. Latin class. A friend of mine, Dr. Betty Rose Nagle, commented on it, and that sparked a conversation between us that led to her speaking to my class today.
First of all, Dr. Nagle is professor emerita of Classical Studies at Indiana University. With her focus on Latin and Roman studies, she translated Ovid's Fasti and the Silvae of Statius. She has also given many popular talks connecting the mythology of the ancient world with the mythologies of the modern day in comics and movies. With such a background, she was the perfect person to discuss with my A.P. Latin students the challenges, intricacies, and art of literary translation.
They asked her questions about translating from another language into Latin and whether her reading of other translations influenced her own work of translating the same author. She talked with them about her efforts in translating poetry using a more formal approach with iambic pentameter and a freer approach based on beats per line, and she even discussed the system of Roman metrics and how it was borrowed from Greek, a language to which it was much better suited than Latin.
And true to her own pedagogical roots, Dr. Nagle asked questions of the students. She asked them what they looked for in a translation, and their responses ranged from accuracy of content to literalness of grammar to flow to feeling. With each response, she spun the discussion deeper, bringing in at various points Frederick Ahl's Aeneid, the compilation of Ovidian translations called After Ovid, and Douglas Hofstadter's tome Le Ton beau de Marot on this topic centered around eighty-eight renditions of one tiny French poem.
For many years I took some of my students to visit the experts. The A.P. students made a trip each fall to Indiana University where the completed research at the undergraduate library, had lunch with a Latin professor, and then sat in on that professor's class. One professor who regularly hosted us was Dr. Tim Long, pictured here with one of my students at a state Latin convention.
Last year we were fortunate to have Dr. Bernard Barcio, former Latin teacher at North Central and other Indiana high schools as well as adjunct professor of Latin at Butler University, visit one afternoon. He talked with the students about the catapult competitions he oversaw that became truly legendary in the 1970s, leading to numerous spots on ABC News.
Am I comfortable turning over my classroom to other teachers? Absolutely! It is important for students to hear from different voices on the same subject. It is important for them to enter the realm higher academic discussion before they enter college. And it is important for them to see their teacher join with them as a fellow student on the shared journey of discovery.