A very new approach to a very old discipline

My teaching philosophy

Professor of Ancient History
University of Nebraska-Lincoln
vgorman1@unl.edu or vbgorman@gmail.com

Goals

Methods

Rationale

Greek textbooks have not changed much over the centuries, even though we have experienced a seismic shift in the tools and methods available for learning. A typical Greek class will demand that you memorize hundreds and hundreds of vocabulary words and paradigms of inflected forms, but the reality is that much of that vocabulary and most of those forms will rarely occur. A typical class will concentrate on reproducing forms and accents perfectly, when there is no context outside of a beginning Greek class in which you will need to write ancient Greek. A typical class will emphasize sight reading unprepared passages, when there is no context outside of a beginning Greek class in which you will need to render any text without the use of the tools that lay one mouse-click away. In short, the typical Greek class is designed to stand as a kind of antiquated intellectual hazing exercise constructed in order to weed out the masses who are not obsessively dedicated enough to spend years jumping through a lot of useless and insane hoops.


This class will be different. I have adopted an unconventional approach to learning Greek. I want to make the ancient Greek language accessible to anyone. I am not abiding by a textbook. I am not requiring that you to memorize anything, if you choose not to. However, the things that I do recommend memorizing are elements that occur the most FREQUENTLY in the texts we will be addressing. Thus learning them will be most time- and labor-efficient.


You will learn how to analyze language as language. Grammar and syntax. You will be able to articulate what each word is doing in a particular context and how you are able to determine that function. This skill will transfer back to the craft of writing correct English prose, as well as giving you a substantial advantage when it comes to learning to read any other foreign languages, especially heritage languages.


I will teach you to use the most helpful and flexible digital tools, freely available on-line, principally Alpheios (a browser extension) and Dependency Trees using Arethusa on the Perseids website. I will also refer to the standard reference work, Smyth's Greek Grammar, available on-line for free and in hard copy for very little money, so that you always have a reference point for further, very detailed explanations, should you want them.


The ultimate aim of this class is to break down the academic barriers that stand in the way, so that you can experience the satisfaction, understanding, and thrill of reading Homer, Demosthenes, Thucydides, or Paul in his own words.


Focus

I have chosen to concentrate initially on one text, Xenophon's Hellenika. This historical account picks up where Thucydides leaves off, in 411 BCE, recounting the final years of the Peloponnesian War, the Tyranny of the Thirty at Athens, and the chaos that was Hellas in the first half of the fourth century BCE. Once we are beyond the first few lessons, I will concentrate on giving you real sentences from Xenophon in small pieces, sometimes tweaked slightly. Gradually we will put together all of the grammatical elements until you can read the unadulterated ancient text.

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