Review by: Osman Umurhan, CJ-Online - December 11, 2012
CJ-Online ~ 2012.12.11
A Roman Verse Satire Reader: Selections from Lucilius, Horace, Persius, and Juvenal. By CATHERINE C. KEANE. Mundelein, Illinois: Bolchazy-Carducci Publishers, 2010. Pp. xxvi + 142. Paper, $19.00. ISBN 978-0-86516-685-1.
A Martial Reader: Selections from the Epigrams. By CRAIG WILLIAMS. Mundelein, Illinois: Bolchazy-Carducci Publishers, 2011. Pp. xxx + 185. Paper, $19.00. ISBN 978-0-86516-704-9.
Reviewed by Osman Umurhan, University of New Mexico (email@example.com).
Keane and Williams offer engaging Latin readers that familiarize students with the distinct features of Latin satire and epigram and aim to advance the language-reading skills of Latin students at the intermediate level. They offer a varied range of selections (as the Latin Readers series prescribes), as well as a well-organized and elegant presentation of the material that exposes the delights of reading the genres of satire and epigram for the novice Latin reader. In addition, the readers do well at illuminating the challenges and rewards of their respective genre with accessible notes on major themes, language (grammar and syntax), some trends in major scholarship, vocabulary, suggested further reading, and other media (maps, illustrations, and occasional URL links to online content, such as to images of partially preserved multi-story buildings at Ostia and Herculaneum at www.vroma.org and an online map of Imperial Rome from William Shepherd's Historical Atlas). In the following, I will offer some observations about each book separately, since Keane and Williams are ostensibly working on different authors and genres.
Keane's introduction opens with a generous survey of the four canonical Latin satirists-Lucilius, Horace, Persius, and Juvenal-that includes "characteristics of the genre," a general overview of their works (and as they relate to her choice of selections), and an explanation of style and meter. Since a separate volume could easily be dedicated to each satirist, Keane expertly condenses the material by offering the student incisive remarks on important issues pertaining to all the satirists, including the satirists' use of personae, reflections on social and political mobility (Lucilius and Juvenal), philosophical self-examination (Horace, Persius, and Stoic philosophy), expression (or suppression) of anger, and the use of rhetoric (sententiae, locus de saeculo) and mythology. In addition, what Keane's Latin selections may overlook (e.g. Horace's programmatic Satire 1.10 or Juvenal's Satire 10) is adequately offset by larger discussions of specific satires that convey to the reader a fuller and more comprehensive sense of each author's oeuvre.
Keane's array of Latin selections also speaks well to her definition of the genre when she states that "It [satire] documents daily life and customs, reflects on historical events and figures, and articulates and scrutinizes particularly Roman values" (ix). Some selections include "A definition of virtue" (Lucilius, Satires, fragments 1196-1208), "Greed and its manifestations" (Horace, Satire 1.1.41-79), "The satirist's philosophical and ethical roots" (Persius, Satire 5.21-51), and "Unchaste women on display" (Juvenal, Satire 6.60-102). The occasional map of Rome detailing its urban layout and of Italy, as well as a few illustrations of graffiti and sculptors of comic actors are a welcome addition as visual aids to the student's understanding of Rome's cityscape, its environs, and the culture's artistic output. The commentary is also very useful to the student, with brief explanations headlining each selection that include: the content of the upcoming selection; thematic and/or literary echoes to other satires or selections in the reader itself (highlighted in bold font); and resonances with authors outside the genre proper. Moreover, Keane often in the notes supplements explanations of tricky grammar and syntax with references to Gildersleeve's Latin Grammar (annotated as "GL") and Bennet's New Latin Grammar ("B"). I believe these markers can encourage students to acquaint themselves with more advanced supplementary grammar aids also necessary for those who continue Latin at the advanced levels and beyond. In the main, Keane's reader offers a compact yet thorough introduction to the extensive Latin satiric tradition.
Williams' Martial Reader offers rich strategies for reading the author's fifteen books of epigrams, with his choice of selections often acting as thematic "teasers" for the book as a whole. In the preface Williams states his desire to empower his reader to appreciate the reading of Martial cover to cover, unlike its traditional appreciation in the form of "bits and pieces" (ix) as light fare after the tough prose of a Cicero or Sallust. In this spirit, Williams, like Keane, offers in his Introduction a concentrated analysis of major components and issues informing a deep understanding of Martial. These topics consist of the author's life, the work's publication and manuscript tradition, the history of the genre of epigram (and its affinities with other existing Greek and Latin literary genres, such as the invective of the iambic tradition), Martial's significant use of names, use of personae and the autobiographical "I", and a very accessible guide to the scansion and reading of the elegiac couplet, phalaecian hendecasyllable, and scazon.
Most impressive is Williams' "tips for reading" that encourage the reader to understand "questions of structure" beyond the reading of individual epigrams themselves. To this end Williams poses salient questions to the student when reading the epigrams, such as how the internal structure of the couplet (the hexameter and pentameter pair), and the couplet itself, either as a monodistich (two-line poem) or within an extended series, conveys sense and "progressions in thought and language." It is also for this reason that Williams does not offer any introductory treatment before each selection in the commentary section, with a view to encouraging the student to "decipher and unpack" Martial's language and style on her/his own terms. Where difficulties of sense or syntax arise (as they often do!), however, Williams offers ample assistance for clarification without either giving away any final punch lines or undermining the students' reading and interpretive efforts. Williams offers a most valuable approach to reading Martial in this regard, one that many other commentaries geared towards intermediate readers would benefit from.
In sum, any intermediate student interested in these more challenging genres will greatly benefit from these well-executed, accessible, and affordable collections. My only minor reservation with these readers lies not with the commentators' choices, but with the series' restriction on the length of Latin that the commentator can treat (about 500-600 lines), which ostensibly precludes the examination of a satire or a book of epigrams in its entirety. The upshot to this, however, may lie in Keane's suggestion to pair a look at the verse satirists with Martial's Epigrams, in which case both Keane and Williams together would serve as an effective Latin commentary duo for any school or university term.
Review by: Rosario Moreno Soldevila, Bryn Mawr - July 19, 2012
From our experience in teaching Latin, we have learned that Martial's epigrams are among the most rewarding texts we can offer our students. They are attractive due to their varied themes and flippant nature, to say nothing of their openness in sexual matters. Besides, the logical structure of the epigram transforms the effort of translation into a kind of intellectual pastime. The suitability of Martial's epigrams as a school text is not a recent discovery: as is well known, the Jesuits found them particularly useful, so they undertook the task of expurgating them and provided generations of students with an abridged and bowdlerized Martial. Fortunately there is no need to do so nowadays and Martial retains his allure, renewed and enhanced by new scholarly perspectives.
Bolchazy-Carducci has already published several books in the collection Latin Readers, unadapted texts and useful guides for those who approach key authors and genres of Roman literature for the first time. Craig Williams' A Martial Reader will be a particularly useful book to students of Latin as well as a brief but sound introduction to Martial's poetry. It combines deep scholarly insight with anticipation of difficulties students may find.
This anthology contains 99 unadapted epigrams taken from all of Martial's books,1 which encompass a wide range of different topics, meters, and tones. The book is also furnished with a twenty-page introduction with bibliography, a commentary, illustrations, appendixes (two maps with indication of the geographical names mentioned in the selection), and a full vocabulary section.
The introduction is straightforward and illuminating; its different sections covering all the indispensable information: "Martial's life: Bilbilis and Rome", "Publication", "Epigram before and after Martial", "Themes", "Characters and names", "Poet and reader", "Book structure", "Poems structure and tips for reading", "A note on the text", and "Suggested reading" (in English). However, something more could have been said about the relationship between the epigram and other genres and about the variety of themes: Williams almost solely focuses on satiric epigrams, leaving aside other types such as epitaphs, epigrams on literature, reflections on life and death, homage poetry, etc. The succinct note on manuscript transmission (p. xxviii) leaves out the fact that the three testimonies of family are florilegia.
The commentary aims to help students in their own reading experience. In Williams' own words: "By deliberately not providing introductory summaries of the epigrams it includes, this edition aims to give readers some experience in the characteristic challenge of reading Martial, and indeed any epigrammatic poetry. You pick a poem and simply begin reading, without any indication of which the topic is: the scenario and themes unfold more or less quickly as you read, and the point or joke emerges by the poem's end. The making of meaning from a brief poem is an important part of the pleasure of reading this genre, and perceiving structure is an important part of the process" (p. xxiii). The notes focus on language and realia in a balanced way: they are comprehensive, but at the same time concise and to the point. Much attention is paid to names, and some notes on them are particularly helpful, but sometimes there seems to be a certain lack of consistency: some notes on names are hardly relevant (about Sextillus in 2.28 "The name occurs only here in Martial's epigrams" [p. 78], or about Gallus: "the name occurs frequently in Martial's epigrams, attached to a variety of characters" [p. 87]), whereas many other names are left uncommented: e.g. Avitus in 1.16, Aegle and Lycoris in 1.72, Labienus in 2.62, Chloe in 9.15, Tucca in 11.70, etc. In any case, subjectivity in the selection of epigrams and in the content of the notes is, of course, the author's prerogative.
The temptation of every reviewer is to establish, as a premise, the profile of the ideal reader of the book. This annotated anthology of the Epigrams has, like Martial's work, an open character, receptive to all sorts of readers, not only from the academic world. It is most desirable that Spanish publishers follow the example of these necessary breviaries of literature and Classical culture (like this collection or the series Ancients in Action of Bristol Classical Press).
In the preface Williams hopes that "this edition will give students a taste of what makes Martial's poetry, Latin literature, and Roman culture so surprisingly vibrant that some of us keep coming back to it; and that, by engaging students in the sometimes challenging but always rewarding processes of reading Latin poetry, it will arouse in some a desire to learn more". It certainly will.2
1. Liber spectaculorum: 1, 2, 7; Book 1: 1-3, 6, 10, 13, 15-16, 20, 24, 32-37, 47, 72, 93, 109-110, 118; Book 2: 5, 11, 18-23, 26, 28, 30, 37, 44, 62, 80, 82; Book 3: 1, 27, 43; Book 4: 24, 56; Book 5: 58, 81, 83; Book 6: 1, 34; Book 7: 5, 10, 14; Book 8: 12, 17, 23, 55; Book 9: Praefatio, 15, 70; Book 10: 4, 8, 47; Book 11: 13-15, 70, 77; Book 12: 3, 20, 23, 68, 90-93; Book 13: 3-4, 14, 29, 63, 74, 82, 108; Book 14: 73, 134, 188-191, 194-195, 198- 200, 203-205.
2. This review has been written under the auspices of the project "Prosopografía de los Epigramas de Marcial" (FFI2009-10058).
Review by: James Cox, Midwest Book Review - June 13, 2011
Turning a phrase is not a modern invention, as the Romans did it like crazy. "A Martial Reader: Selections from the Epigrams" delves into the work of Martial, looking into the words and phrases he used to commentate on the roman world, offering explanations and translations of his Latin work, complete with vocabulary and with expanded understanding of the Latin world. "A Martial Reader: Selections from the Epigrams" is a worthy pick for any student of Latin or world languages in general.
Review by: Sharon Kazmierski, The Classical Outlook - June 1, 2009
GOOD THINGS COME IN SMALL PACKAGES
Bolchazy-Carducci has recently commenced launching the first titles in its Latin Reader series, a new collection of innovative high intermediate and advanced Latin readers, specifically designed for college-level study. Under the expert guidance of series editor Ronnie Ancona, Professor of Classics at Hunter College and The Graduate Center, City University of New York, these small, duodecimo-sized paperbacks are intended to introduce authors and genres to students in upper division undergraduate courses. Written by recognized experts, each book will include approximately 500-600 lines of authentic Latin text, accompanied by a thorough introduction, bibliography of suggested reading, annotated commentary, and full vocabulary. There are currently two volumes available, A Lucan Reader: Selections from Civil war (ISBN 978-0865166615) by Susanna Braund and A Terence Reader: Selections from Six Plays (978-0865166783) by William S. Anderson. According to the Bolchazy website, seventeen additional volumes are currently scheduled to be issued. Upcoming authors include Plautus, Sallust, Cicero, Sueconius, Tacitus, Vergil, Caesar, Martial, Apuleius, and Livy. Topics to be covered include Roman Women, Roman Verse Satire, Latin Epic, and Roman Army. Additional authors and themes are under consideration.
The inaugural volume, A Lucan Reader, is an introduction to the Silver Age epic poem (often referred to as Pharsalia) retelling the events of the Civil War between Julius Caesar and Pompey. Rarely studied by third and fourth-year college Latin students, this reader provides the opportunity for advanced undergraduates to sample some difficult but fascinating Latin. Following a detailed and compelling introduction, Braund has selected high interest passages: the causes of the Civil war, Caesar at the Rubicon, the abandonment of Rome, the necromancy of Erichtho, Pompey's visitation by Julia's ghost, and Caesar in Troy. I have never read Lucan, but now find myself intrigued.
The second volume, A Terence Reader, released just this summer, is an introduction to Roman Comedy. Following a consistent format, Anderson's introduction provides essential background for students and a brief history of Roman Comedy. He then proceeds to explain what made Terence's plays unique, original and thought-provoking. Selections in this volume include excerpts from Andria, Heauton, Phormia, Hecyra, Eunuchus, and Adelphoe, followed by commentary to put the passages in context and provide grammatical assistance. There is also a helpful appendix, with information regarding comic meters. Fans of comedy will be happy to know that the next volume in the series, to be released later this year, will be A Plautus Reader: Selections from Eleven Plays (ISBN 978- 0-86516-694-2) by John Henderson.
Given the size of these short readers, teachers and professors should find them useful when customizing a course. Professor Ancona notes that they are ideal for use in combination. I observe that they are inexpensive ($19.95) compared to many college textbooks. Instructors can feel free to mix and match authors and themes to suit their curriculum without causing too much damage to their students' bank accounts. Motivated readers of Latin can sample new authors and themes with expert guidance. Secondary school teachers may even wish to challenge their skilled Advanced Placement students after completing the exam, using some of these selections as a follow-up to the anticipated Caesar/Vergil syllabus.
To discover more about this intriguing new collection, visit the BC Latin Readers website at http://www.bolchazy. com/readers/ where you can find out more about what will be included in each volume as well as read a short biography of each series author. To see Bolchazy's complete catalog, visit the main website at http://www.bolchazy.com. Questions may be directed to their customer service at firstname.lastname@example.org. You may also write their headquarters at Bolchazy-Carducci Publishers, Inc., 1570 Baskin Road, Mundelein, Illinois 60060, Tel, (800) 392- 6453, Fax: (847) 526-2867.
The Clearing House, Classical Outlook Fall 2009