Classics & Asian Languages/Language Structures: Course Offerings

Asian Languages

Chinese classes at all levels are aimed at developing communication skills in listening, speaking, reading and writing. Our goal is to help students use Chinese to exchange information and to communicate their ideas. Students learn Pin Yin, the four tones, characters, and syntactical structures, and study selected poems, short plays, newspaper clippings and authentic Chinese literary works. We use the series of Chinese Made Easy, which consists of 5 books. Integrated Chinese Level 2, Book 2 is used at the higher level. In addition to developing language skills, the courses endeavor to increase students’ awareness and understanding of Chinese-speaking cultures. The integration of language learning and culture is strongly emphasized. Both traditional and simplified characters are introduced according to the interest of the students.

Chinese 1
The Department
This course is an introduction to the Chinese language, with an emphasis on pronunciation – Pin Yin and four tones. At the same time, students study radicals, stroke orders, characters and basic sentence structures. Chinese songs, poems, and rhymes are introduced. Students study 350 characters.

Chinese 2
The Department
The review of Pin Yin and tones continues throughout the year with an emphasis on the use of Chinese to discuss related topics in both speaking and writing. Students study more grammar, sentence structures and vocabulary. They read short paragraphs and selected authentic materials such as advertisements, weather forecasts, etc. Students are encouraged to initiate and carry on conversations to exchange information and express opinions about related topics. Students study an additional 360 words and expressions.

Chinese 3
The Department
This course is designed to help students solidify their grasp of grammar and vocabulary. The emphasis is on increased ease and accuracy in speaking Chinese and reading comprehension. Students are expected to give oral presentations about topics such as schools and places in China. They study topics like Chinese cooking, communities, Chinese festivals, and school calendars. Students learn an additional 600 words and expressions.

Chinese 4
The Department
In addition to introducing more vocabulary and grammatical points, this class concentrates on more complex sentences and paragraphs. Intensive study increases the students’ command of linguistic structures and functions and gives them a firmer grounding in speaking and writing more idiomatic Chinese. Students learn to discuss and write more fluently and with greater length on the geography of China, the relationships between parents and their children, the differences and similarities between Chinese medicine and Western medicine, and the relationship between pollution and environmental protection. Another 600 words and phrases are introduced.

Chinese 5
The Department
Students finish the remaining five lessons in Chinese for Youth, which introduce Chinese paintings and calligraphy, famous writers and their works, the influence of modern inventions to our lives, summer vacation plans and part-time jobs. Students learn to express their personal views and exchange opinions about these social issues in more complex language. They do more exercises like responding to e-mails and writing personal letters on related topics; reading more complicated signs, public announcements, newspaper clippings; giving presentations and doing interviews in more fluent and accurate Chinese. Students learn an additional 500 words and expressions.

Chinese 6
The Department
Students continue to study more probing texts that reflect the many facets of contemporary Chinese society, family values and Chinese literature. China’s strengths and problems are revealed through analysis, explanation and debate. Some lessons deal with crucial social and intellectual concerns in current China. Students continue to hone their overall abilities in speaking, reading and writing Chinese. Another 500 characters and phrases will be introduced.

Chinese Conversation
The Department – 2x per week
Students who have completed Chinese 5 are strongly encouraged to take this course in addition to their regular Chinese class. Through the use of various practical scenarios, it offers an opportunity to gain confidence and facility in speaking more idiomatic and spontaneous Chinese. By enlarging vocabulary and improving oral/aural skills, students gain fluency in discussions about daily life, education, politics, food, travel, and so on.

Japanese 1
The first year of Japanese focuses on building students’ foundations in the language. While students take in the two phonetic systems, hiragana and katakana, and some kanji characters, they learn basic grammar including distinctive aspects of the language such as use of markers. Numerous patterns that are needed to construct sentences to function in various social situations are also introduced.

In addition to language study, each year students continuously explore the Japanese culture and traditions from ancient periods to the current “pop” trends through extensive examinations of history, philosophy, the arts, etc. Each year, students have face-to-face exposure to various Japanese artists.

Japanese 2
The second year continues from the first with grammar, but adds an emphasis on composition — students begin writing weekend journals. They continue to build their foundation in the language including distinctive aspects such as measurement words for various objects, equipment, animals, machines, etc. Students continue to learn to function in various social situations including ones in which they are required to use keigo or honorifics.

Japanese 3
The third year continues the emphasis on developing all four skills of speaking, listening, writing, and reading, and building on what students have learned in previous years. A number of complex sentence patterns and formulaic expressions are introduced. Students are provided with extensive training to enhance their communication skills, putting emphasis on spontaneity and accuracy. Creative writing exercises are embedded in grammar exercises. The listening comprehension materials include real life dialogues. New kanji and kanji vocabulary are introduced on a daily basis.

Japanese 4
The fourth year builds on the foundation from the third, but explores reading more extensively. The reading materials include manga style texts, stories, cultural episodes, etc. and include a number of new and old kanji. Students continue to build up their vocabulary.

Independent Study In Japanese
Students who have completed all other Japanese language courses will work in a small classroom setting, at their own pace, on a wide range of reading materials to facilitate their reading comprehension. Students learn to express themselves through extensive training on narrations and descriptions of books they have read, movies they have seen, travels, etc. More emphasis is placed on kanji building. Compositions are assigned weekly.

Japanese Conversation/Composition
Students further develop their abilities to express themselves effectively. Students also explore the culture via various mediums. Students are given ample time to discuss topics like cross-cultural issues, cultural and current events, etc. On a regular basis, students are asked to conduct research and give oral presentations on a topic of their choice. As they develop their presentation skills, students learn to construct cohesive paragraphs when working on both spoken and written tasks.

Classical Languages

Greek 1
The Department
This course introduces students to the rudiments of Ancient Greek. Memorization of forms, vocabulary and syntax are stressed in order to facilitate the reading of unadapted Greek texts as quickly as possible. By the year’s end, students will have a strong command of basic syntax and will be prepared to learn complex syntax in Intermediate Greek.

Intensive Ancient Greek
This is a fast-paced, intense course that introduces the essential morphology and syntax of Ancient Greek. The systematic acquisition of forms and vocabulary complement the learning of simple and complex syntax. As the name of the course indicates, this is an intense experience, but one that enables students to read Ancient Greek texts in the original by the end of the year.

Greek 2
The Department
This course features review of material from Greek 1 and continues to round out the students’ knowledge of Greek forms and syntax. In the second semester, students will refine their skills through translation of selections from a variety of authors, including Herodotus, Plato, and Aristophanes, and will explore the different styles and expressions employed by each. The course is intended to provide students with the skills and confidence to move on to more intensive exploration of specific Greek texts.

Greek 3
The Department
A pure translation course, this class focuses on writings that concern the conflict between rational and irrational on individual and societal levels. We read from Plato and Euripides, the possibly delving into the world of comedy. Students gain an advanced understanding of syntax and familiarize themselves with prose and tragic constructions. Prerequisite: Greek 2 or Intensive Ancient Greek.

Greek 4: Homer, The Iliad
We will read the greatest poem ever written, The Iliad. We will focus on acquiring a solid understanding of Homeric morphology and syntax while we begin to approach the poem as a literary and cultural artifact. We will consider the world and worlds that informed the creation of the epic, we will try to come to some understanding of what this poem meant, and we will consider its reception across time and space. We will confront the other, face the human condition stripped bare, and we will marvel, cry, and grow.

Greek 5: Plato’s Symposium
Plato’s dialogue on love and friendship features an extraordinary cast of characters, placing the reader on the guest list of a dinner party attended by the elite in Athens during the Peloponnesian War. Socrates, Aristophanes, Agathon, Eryximachus, and others tackle the topics from different angles, each arguing that eros serves his own muse. The result is a tour de force of Greek philosophical writing; an examination of the subject wide-ranging in method and style, a debate heated and humorous, a party that begins with clear heads, is derailed by drunkenness, and ends with one victor walking off alone. We will read the text closely, explore the personalities and arguments within, and discuss how each succeeds and fails. We will augment discussion with readings from other authors, and turn to Plato’s Lysis and Phaedrus as complementary texts upon its completion.

Latin 1
The Department
This course introduces the student to the basics of Latin forms and syntax. Memorization of forms and syntax is stressed in order to facilitate the reading of Latin literature as quickly as possible. Readings are selected from Cicero, Caesar, Martial and others. The course also covers background material on mythology, history, and Roman life.

Latin Poetry, Prose, Drama & The Novel
The Department
Designed as a bridge between the introductory Latin course and specialized electives, this course emphasizes facility in reading and translating Latin authors, studying the literary forms we read, and using textual evidence to gain insight into life in the ancient world. Authors include Cicero, Ovid, Plautus, Sallust, Livy, Catullus, Horace, Caesar, Vergil, and others. The course also intensively reviews Latin grammar and syntax.

The Aeneid: Vergil And The Latin Epic
The Department
The Aeneid is the Roman epic that charts the mytho-historical founding of the Roman people and state. Books I, II, IV, VI, VII, VIII, X and XII of the Aeneid are read in Latin, in part or in whole, and the rest of the text in English. Emphasis is on translation and textual analysis, with daily assignments for translation as well as passages for sight-reading in class. Several short critical papers are required. Prerequisite: Latin Poetry, Prose, Drama & The Novel.

Roman Historiography: the Annalists to Augustine
What are our reasons for studying the past and how do these reasons influence the ways in which we write history? Indeed, what is history? Is it made up of individual actions, social forces, time periods, geographical regions, civilizations, obscure causal processes, divine intervention? Is there a direction, a meaning to history beyond the individual events themselves? What is it to know history? What is it to write history?

We will reflect on how variant perspectives on these questions influence historical writing and are manifested in the developing genre in Rome. Our research will move from the annalist lists and Republican Rome, to the impact of imperialism and consequently Greek philosophy, to civil war and the onset of dictatorship, to the deterioration and disintegration of the Roman world, to the death knell of Roman history and historical writing with the new Christian world order.

We will address these questions through a close analysis of the development of historical writing as a genre in the Roman world. We will read from a wide range of authors and sources from the 3rd Century BCE to the 5th Century CE. Our primary focus however will be on four of the greatest writers on Roman history: Livy who lived during the civil wars which tore Republican Rome apart and wrote a monumental history from the legendary beginnings of the city to the time of Augustus; Tacitus who lived under the terror of Domitian and whose extant works cover the reigns of Tiberius, Claudius, and Nero; Ammianus Marcellinus who wrote in a period fraught with tensions between pagan and Christian and whose surviving work covers the amazing period when Julian ‘the Apostate’ attempted, in an age dominated by Christian Emperors, to turn back the state clock and re-imagine Rome as a Neoplatonic pagan state; and Augustine who wrote, in the aftermath of Rome’s destruction by the Visigoths, a great revisionist history founded on a Christian conception of revealed historical truth.

Livy, Tacitus, Ammianus, and Augustine are not simply wonderful and challenging historians and profound thinkers but are also fantastic writers and prose stylists and we will be much engaged with this aspect of their work.

This class will be concerned in main with two inter-connected themes: the question of what we think history is and how this idea affects the genre conventions of history writing and (perhaps) vice versa. Prerequisite: The Aeneid.

Slaves & Freedmen
Slaves constituted some forty percent of the population of ancient Rome. Though most lived and died obscure in the largely unquestioned and diffuse system of dominium, some do feature in memorable anecdotes in the literary record. They will be our first survey, ranging from Dionysius who learned enough to manage, and thieve books from, Cicero’s library, to Spartacus, commander of the fateful uprising. We will also observe the institution itself also an object of contemporary concern. How did the status of slaves evolve? What did the slave-owner expect and what was expected of him? When enslavement was the norm for military defeat, and moreover when manumission was so accessible by money, merit, or master’s whim, along with automatic citizenship, how could Roman selfhood be wrapped up in one’s own freedom? We will survey fictional slaves and freedmen across genres, noting the paradoxes of intimacy/agency and possession/abuse that they embody, as in the ritual Saturnalia, and the abstracted or hypothetical “slave” as a useful test case for Seneca’s Stoicism (in quos superbissimi, crudelissimi, contumeliosissimi sumus). We’ll also trace the metaphoric uses of libertas/servitium especially frequent in the love elegists and also in the republican critiques of the Caesars. We will look at some ex-slaves who became colossi in Roman politics (e.g., the not-so-secret shadow emperors of Claudius) but our chief sustaining interest will be in translating the Latin of actual ex-slaves — Terence, the African playwright with what Caesar called the purest diction and Phaedrus, the Aesopian fabulist in service to multiple emperors. Others held in great esteem live now in suggestive fragments: Publilius Syrus, the mime who collected maxims; Caecilius Statius, early Rome’s top comic; Livius Andronicus, the very first dramatist. The many subjects of funerary epitaphs still being unearthed far and wide, as well as some sons of freedmen, Accius and Horace, will shed their light, too. Prerequisite: The Aeneid.

“I suspect,” Annie Dillard confides in Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, “that the real moral thinkers end up, wherever they start, in botany.” In this course, we will read a long poem by Vergil called the Georgics. The title comes from the greek word “γεωργός,” which means “farmer,” and, on a certain level, the text takes us on a tour of ancient agriculture, astrology, botany, and even zoology. On another level, however, Vergil’s treatment of nature’s cycles invites us to imagine ourselves, not simply as tourists in nature’s strange cities, but as residents, not as creatures simply interested in the mysterious laws of growth and decay, of madness and sex, of living and dying, but as subjects of the order that fascinates us.

Composed in the decades between a republic’s death and the birth of an empire, during a season of revolution, innovation, incredible growth, and heart-stopping slaughter, the Georgics will also provide a point of entry for us to explore the early Augustan period in Rome. Why might Vergil, whose personal connections kept him close to center of the ever more complex, ever more global society, have felt the need to reach back to a simpler time? Is the time he looks back to simpler? Is the attention he gives to nature a way of escaping a world whose sophistication has become too much?

Classes will consist of translation (especially sight translation) and discussion. In English, we will read short passages from the texts that most significantly influenced the Georgics, including Hesiod’s Works and Days, Lucretius’s De Rerum Natura, and Aristotle’s Inquiry on Animals. In the spring, if I can convince you, we will memorize short passages from the Georgics for recitation at the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens. Prerequisite: The Aeneid.