Review by: Betsy Dawson, NECTFL Review 61 Fall/Winter 2007/2008, pp. 255-257 - May 23, 2008
The NECTFL Review 61 Fall/Winter 2007/2008, pp. 255-257
(Northeast Conference on the Teaching of Foreign Languages)
Ancona, Ronnie, Horace: Selected Odes and
Satire I.9. 2nd edition.
Wauconda, Illinois: Bolchazy-Carducci, 2005. ISBN: 978-086516-
608-0. $31.00. Workbook, co-authored with David J. Murphy.
ISBN: 0-86516-574-2. $22.00.
In selecting an AP text for my class, I have certain priorities in mind. They are,
in order of importance:
1. A list of vocabulary on the same page as the text.
2. Notes that guide students to discover the meaning of Latin words and expressions
without my having to translate for them.
3. Thorough commentary. (Often editors become oddly quiet on the thorniest
4. Commentary that raises controversial views and makes students ask questions
and debate issues.
5. Succinct and relevant historical and biographical information.
6. Clear and usable appendices on metrics and figures of speech.
7. A thorough and current bibliography.
In recent years, many AP texts have become more user-friendly by providing a list
of vocabulary on the same page as the text under study and covering the basics of
metrics and poetic figures, but most, still, are sadly lacking in depth, thoroughness,
and a desire to create a fuller learning experience for students. Ronnie Ancona is that
rara avis, a college teacher who is truly interested in the preparation of secondary
school students. Her text, while reflecting a depth of knowledge of the subject, is
equally concerned with presenting ideas in a language that students can understand.
In her Introduction, Ancona remarks that she has been pleasantly surprised
that many college teachers have welcomed her text. Certainly, it displays a degree
of sophistication and erudition that elevates it above most AP texts. Her presentation
is clear and elegant, showing a keen awareness of the unsophisticated
understanding of her student audience.
I remind my students over and over that their class presentations contain
much unnecessary information. By contrast, Ancona's background material is
written in a lucid, concise prose, giving the students the essentials of Horace's life
and works in a language they can understand. At the same time, she introduces
them to the Latin lyric tradition, and Horace's unique position within it. She is
particularly deft in suggesting the subtle challenges presented by translating
Horace's elusive and allusive Latin.
Even though I put bibliography at the bottom of my list of priorities, Ancona's
exhaustive bibliography at the beginning of her text is one of its major virtues.
Listing both general works and articles on each poem studied, she reminds students
that there is a wealth of information available to them as they read. Using
the bibliography, students can easily prepare class presentations offering various
perspectives on each poem to enrich and enliven their critical appreciation of
Horace. Bibliographies are routinely relegated to the "basement" of books,
whereas I feel that they should be the centerpiece.
To return to my list of priorities: although Ancona provides abundant vocabulary
and guidance, I very much appreciate that she does not translate for students
(as so many editors do), a practice that deprives them of the opportunity to think
for themselves. On the other hand, her notes are both ample and helpful, illuminating
often neglected details. Most texts are content simply to cite a metrical
effect or stylistic device; however, Ancona clarifies the aesthetic purposes behind
the literary techniques used. Lack of sensitivity to these features is a huge weakness
in AP students, which few texts attempt to rectify. Ancona's notes explore
these dimensions of Horace's poetry eloquently.
On a more complex level, Ancona provides insight into Horace's prismatic language
from the outset. Take, for instance, this comment on line 6 of Ode I,1:
Dominos looks to both the victors in the chariot race and to the gods and can
be seen in apposition to another quos understood from line 3 or as in apposition
to deos (6).
While the former is more appealing in terms of the general sense of the poem -
victors become masters of the world - it is important when reading Latin,
and Horace's poetry in particular, to preserve such ambiguities. This kind of
ambiguity concerning what modifies what is typical of Horace and should be
understood not as lack of clarity but rather as the poet's attempt to say more
than he could if he narrowed his possibilities to just one option. Notice the
position of terrarum dominos between quos and deos (6). Remember that
Latin word order is flexible because of the inflected nature of Latin. Horace
exploits this flexibility perhaps more than any other Latin poet.
Here, right at the outset, Ancona alerts students to an essential perspective on
Horace's style that will, with her continued assistance, enrich their reading of his
poetry. Few editors take the time to provide such guidance.
In the area of raising controversial issues, Ancona doesn't back down. For
instance, in the troubling Ode I, 13 (Telephus/Lydia), she asserts that inrupta may
mean "interrupted," rather than having the accepted meaning "unbroken." Who
knows? But her note has provoked stimulating debate among my students and
has ultimately led us back to her bibliography to seek other critical perspectives.
This second edition, which numbers the pages and puts all useful vocabulary
at the bottom of the page, simply adds a bit more clarity to an extremely useful,
thorough, and thoughtful book.
As for the Workbook, I'm probably the wrong person to ask. I have to confess
to considerable ambivalence - not about this one - but about the notion of
using workbooks in a Latin poetry course. I understand that breaking the material
down into manageable pieces helps students to master grammar, among
other things, and to approach the AP exam with more confidence. But what
would Horace think? More than anything (or any test score), I want my students
to love Horace's poetry. If a student is utterly lost, a workbook is a valuable aid.
Otherwise, I prefer to focus on helping students to love poetry. That said, if you
need a workbook, Ancona's and Murphy's is extremely thorough, and will, I'm
sure, be a godsend to those who need it.
Over the years (more than twenty!), I have probably used most resources on
Horace available to prepare students for the AP exam. Ancona's book is the most
useful and well-designed I have encountered in my career.
East Chapel Hill High School
Chapel Hill, NC
Publisher's Response [Invited by the journal]
Bolchazy-Carducci Publishers appreciates Betsy Dawson's careful and enthusiastic
review of Ronnie Ancona's Horace: Selected Odes and Satire 1.9. We
approached Professor Ancona to author this book and another AP textbook,
Writing Passion: A Catullus Reader, precisely because she is an active scholar
who has a rare sensitivity to the needs of secondary school students, and who
knows, after many years' affiliation with Hunter College's MA program in the
teaching of Latin, what kind of textbook helps teachers engage students.
Laurie Haight Keenan
Senior Editor, Bolchazy-Carducci Publishers
Review by: Sharon Kazmierski, Latinteach - September 25, 2005
...wonderful...of background information and biographical references... The book really makes me want to sit down and read some Horace.