Thursday, April 23, 2009

Courses and more

Only a few posts ago, I listed my courses for next semester, fall 2008, which is now last semester. At this point, I’m almost through with the current semester, spring 2009. I suppose for the sake of continuity I’ll list the classes I have now:

MWF 10.00 ENG214 World Literature II

MWF 12.00 PHIL316 Logic and Critical Thinking

MWF 13.00 GRK322 Classical Greek II

MWF 14.00 ENG322 American Literature II

TR 09.30 PHIL310 Philosophy of Science

It’s been a good semester. In World Lit, I’ve written papers on Voltaire and Borges’ “Pierre Menard, autor del Quijote,” and the process of writing them was a great learning experience. In Logic and Critical Thinking, I’ve brushed up on my fallacies, and in about a week I’m going to debate the resolution “Christians should be involved in politics in order to change society.” My team is negative – and my personal position is the same. In Greek, we finished the book of abridged readings from Herodotus, Thucydides, Plato, and others, and now we’re reading from the JACT anthology, starting with unabridged (though bountifully glossed) Homer. It’s challenging but rewarding. American Lit has been a lot of fun – I’ve read some American authors who I didn’t know existed, and some who I knew existed but whom I had never read, and who wrote some really good stuff. Philosophy of Science has probably been my most challenging class, because of the sheer volume of material presented and its difficult nature. But it’s been an incredible class as well, even though it’s responsible for my present epistemological (and hermeneutical) crisis. More on that later, perhaps.

At any rate, next semester (fall 2009) I have the following:

MWF 10.00 ENG325 Advanced Prose

MWF 13.00 SPAN321 Latin American Culture and Civilization

MWF 14.00 PHIL313 History of Philosophy I

TR 12.00 BIB337 Christian Theology I

TR 15.00 ENG331 British Literature I

I’m taking some of the best classes that our best faculty members have to offer – needless to say, I’m excited. I’m also leading a small group of freshmen guys (which involves one hour of academic credit) and helping one of our English faculty with ENG420, which I took last semester. It should be a great semester.

And I should note too that the URL of this blog needs to change. I no longer consider myself a future medievalist. For several reasons, my interests have shifted from literature itself to pedagogy (in general and applied to languages), applied linguistics, and theory (rhet/comp theory, literary theory, writing center theory . . .). I’m looking at graduate programs in TESOL, rhet/comp studies, and applied linguistics. We’ll see what happens. I’ve got another three semesters at my current school, so I have time to figure things out.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Shakespeare vs. Mother Goose

I find it humorous (or distressing) that because I viewed The Oxford Book of English Verse, Amazon now recommends A Treasury of Mother Goose, The Original Mother Goose, and The Real Mother Goose. What is the world coming to?

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

I have accepted the challenge and wordled this blog's RSS feed. Not surprisingly, "Greek" is the most prominent.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Some Thoughts on Ancient Language Pedagogy

Sometime last semester I was talking with a girl in my Greek class, and she asked me if Greek had ever been a spoken language. After a pause, I replied that Modern Greek is still spoken, and that the Greek we’re studying (Attic) used to be spoken. She then asked me, if it was once a spoken language, why we’re learning only to read it and not write it, speak it, or listen to it.

Though hardly anyone asks it, the question is an excellent one. The best answer I know of is that it’s much easier to learn to read a language than it is to write it, speak it, or listen to it. Graduate students (supposedly) can learn to read French texts written by native speakers inside of two semesters, whereas typical undergraduate French classes don’t reach that level until the third or fourth year. Why waste time learning to speak, listen to, or write a language, the argument goes, when you only need to read it? Hence the numerous classes such as “French for Reading” and “German for Reading” which are offered at the graduate level. And these are modern languages; the argument appears even stronger when ancient languages are in question. Nobody speaks them anymore; there’s no need to write in them; and what’s the point of listening to them? Reading appears to be the only skill worth developing. And reasoning thus, teachers came up with the typical method of learning Greek and Latin: memorize paradigms, memorize vocabulary, and translate sentences into English.

But this approach has never been flawless. Because of my own experience, and from what I’ve seen of my fellow students’ experience, beginning Greek and Latin students quickly begin drowning in paradigms. Fluent reading of text depends upon instant recognition of forms: but when a Greek teacher has a class memorize several different combinations of tense, voice, and mood in quick succession, only the most diligent students will not be confused. Also, half the fun of learning a language is learning to communicate in it: but after a year of Greek, I couldn’t carry on the most basic of conversations if I were somehow transported back to fifth-century Athens. I could say more things in French after eight weeks of class than I could say in Greek after thirty-two weeks. In fact, I can’t really say anything in Greek. I can read a bit, and write still less.

Why don’t teachers insert some conversational Greek or Latin into the first-year classes? For a variety of reasons. Some are too set in their ways. Some haven’t really thought about it. But there are some, like Dr. Randall Buth, who are leading the way in changing ancient language pedagogy. Unfortunately, I haven’t seen any of his material; but he regularly makes valuable contributions to the B-Greek list, and anyone who teaches people to actually speak Koine Greek and Classical Hebrew is worthy of praise.

I think I’ve mentioned previously what I’ll be doing next year for a part-time job: tutoring Greek and Spanish. Our Writing Center has never offered Greek tutoring before, so it’ll be really interesting to see how it goes. I’m hoping I can encourage the Greek I students to know their paradigms inside and out, and to strive for real comprehension and not just ability in making literal English translations of the Greek text.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

It's a small world . . .

File this one under “It’s a small world after all”: I was down at the marina in Panama City today and saw a boat for sale (for the very reasonable and affordable sum of $36,900). Then I noticed that the area code of the owner’s phone number was 423. And sure enough, it was registered in Tennessee. What are the odds?

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Courses for Fall 2008

A few weeks ago I registered for next semester, and here are the results:

MWF 08.00 BIB215 Pentateuch
MWF 09.00 ENG420 English Tutoring: Theory and Pedagogy
MWF 10.00 ENG213 World Literature I
MWF 13.00 GRK321 Classical Greek I
MWF 15.00 PHIL211 Introduction to Philosophy

I also have a one-hour Bible class, a one-hour activity class, and piano lessons, for eighteen hours total. I'm pretty excited about ENG420, which will require me to spend three hours a week working as a consultant in the Writing Center. Unfortunately, since it's part of the class, it doesn't pay; that's why I'm also going to work in the Writing Center as a tutor in Greek and Spanish. I can certainly pick up four or five hours a week doing that, so I won't have to work in the cafeteria next semester. (Not that I mind working in the cafeteria, of course -- it's been a good job -- but I think I'll enjoy the Writing Center rather more.) I'll have only five three-hour classes, instead of my six this semester, but between the Writing Center, piano, and debate (which I'd like to spend much more time on), it probably won't be any less busy. And that's how I would prefer it, anyway.

Recent Acquisitions (or maybe not so recent)

At last, classes are over. Yet there is a very important distinction between the term “classes” and the term “finals”; for although the former are finished, the latter have not yet begun. But since finals week for me won’t be very hectic, I find myself with enough time on my hands to blog. I have no Greek final and no Spanish final, although I do have finals in my other classes: Intro to Communication, Advanced Grammar, Biblical Foundations, and Intro to the Novel. The first one consists of memorizing a long list of definitions and regurgitating them, the second of essays, the third of more essays, and the fourth of yet another essay. For this last, however, I already know the question, and it’s a good one. The professor is letting us bring as many notes and quotations as we like to the exam.

At any rate, here are a few of my recent acquisitions (although some of them can hardly be called “recent” any more). These include some books I had to buy for school, although I’ve omitted most of my actual textbooks.

George Macdonald, Phantastes (Eerdmans, 2000 [1858]).

Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre (Bedford/St. Martin's, 1996 [1848]).

John Butt and Carmen Benjamin, A New Reference Grammar of Modern Spanish (McGraw-Hill, 2004).

William Faulkner, The Sound and the Fury (Random House, 1990 [1929]).

Étienne Gilson, Introduction à la philosophie chrétienne (Vrin, 2007 [1960]).

Euripides, Medea (Cambridge UP, 2002).

Euripides, Fabulae III (Oxford UP, 1994).

Sidney Greenbaum, The Oxford English Grammar (Oxford UP, 1996).

Herodotus, Historiae II (Oxford UP, 1927).

Herodotus, Histories Book IX (Cambridge UP, 2002).

Henry James, The Turn of the Screw (Norton, 1999 [1898]).

William Kibler, Introduction to Old French (MLA, 1984).

Gustave Lanson, Histoire de la littérature française (Hachette, 1951).

Molière, Œuvres (2 vols.) (Didot, 1869).

Plato, Rempublicam (Oxford UP, 2004).

Lynn Truss, Eats, Shoots and Leaves (Gotham, 2006).