LAT 390 • Seminar in Classical Studies
1:00 PM-2:00 PM
Politician, orator, lawyer: many today rank the professions at which Cicero excelled among the bottom feeders of modern culture. And "rhetoric" -- the disciplined skills which he put to such brilliant use -- has become a popular term of abuse. But in the urbane world of late Republican Rome, excellence in these spheres was highly esteemed and won great personal and public reward. Study of Cicero's life and work is thus essential to any understanding of that pivotal period in ancient political, social, and intellectual history. Study of his work is also essential to mastering the Latin language, which he did so much to shape; and one could, as many have, spend a lifetime studying Cicero's works. His extant corpus, though only a fraction of his original output, comprises over fifty speeches, nearly a thousand letters to friends and associates, a dozen philosophical dialogues and treatises, several works on rhetorical theory and practice, and even some fragments of verse (which, while widely mocked, is far from negligible). It is hardly surprising, then, that this corpus is so central to the study of the Latin language and of Roman culture quite generally.
This course has two similarly complementary but far more modest aims: to improve your facility in reading Latin prose, and to introduce you to Cicero's intellectual and stylistic range. The class will read together a speech, a dialogue, and several letters; and each student will also choose an additional speech or dialogue to read independently. Most of our time will be devoted to translating these texts with accuracy, precision, and accelerating velocity. For guidance, and for your general delectation and enlightenment, I'll offer daily observations on Cicero's diction, syntax, style, and thought, and occasional discourses on some of the deeper mysteries of the Latin tongue. No research paper is required; occasional exercises and tests will encourage your industry and measure your progress; and a final exam will enable and oblige you to render unto Cicero what is his.
Cicero, Pro Murena, ed. McDonald (Focus) Cicero, De Re Publica, ed. Zetzel (Cambridge) Cicero, Select Letters, ed. Shackleton Bailey (Cambridge) Bennett, New Latin Grammar (Bolchazy) Optional: Cicero, Orationes I & II (OCT)