Nootoo Studios, homage to Giorgio Chirico

Critical Latin

Instructor: Erin Petrella
This is an online course (Eastern Time)

The language of empire, Latin was unto itself an empire. Long surviving the fall of Rome, it was the privileged mode of intra-European political and intellectual communication. And even now, an aura of authority—and a dream of universality—attaches to Latin vocabulary. What can the study of Latin teach us: about the Roman world in which it developed; and the post-Roman “Western” cultural world that it fashions? How, reading from canonical texts such as Vergil’s Aeneid or Ovid’s Metamorphoses, can we understand Latin rhetoric and poetics, and the aesthetic, political, and moral sensibilities that shaped them? How do Latin’s rhythms continue to influence contemporary writing and speech—and contemporary ears?

In Critical Latin, students will undertake the acquisition of Classical Latin, beginning with the alphabet and basic morphology and progressing to more complicated grammar and syntax, culminating in the translation of carefully selected passages from well-known texts. Throughout the course, we will incorporate discussions about history, philosophy, critical theory, and the reception and appropriation of Roman texts and ideals. We will take into consideration the ways in which texts have been transmitted over time, critique the concept of authorship, and rethink what it means for a text to be considered authentic. And we will think, throughout, about the shadow Latin continues to cast on Western conceptions of knowledge, meaning, and power. What is the history of Latin—and what is its future?

Critical Latin is organized across three, 12-week trimesters: Winter (February 13th-April 30th), Summer (May 21st-August 6th), and Fall (September 10th-November 26th). Students may enroll in the program in its entirety or on a trimester-by-trimester basis. Our textbook will be Keller and Russell’s Learn to Read Latin, 2nd edition (2015). This will be supplemented throughout by readings from Roman philosophical, epic, and poetic writers, and by material objects such as coins and inscriptions. The class size is capped at 12 students. Payment plans and scholarships are available; email for more information.

Course Schedule

Tuesday, 6:30-8:30pm ET
February 13 — November 26, 2024
12 weekly sessions per trimester (36 sessions), not including guest lectures


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