Tuesday, September 11, 2012

A Little Latin Reader

Thanks to its recent BMCR review, I recently got word of English and Irby's new Latin reader, A Little Latin Reader (Oxford) and received my copy a few days ago.  I don't intend to fully review the book here, but I'll offer a few brief thoughts on it.  The reader is designed to give students an early introduction to real Latin (in opposition to "textbook" Latin) and is organized topically by points of grammar, e.g. the dative case, the perfect tense, indirect statements, cum-clauses, etc.  Each grammatical topic heading contains a few short passages with a brief self-contained vocabulary, giving the reader over 200 passages in total.  The authors have designed the book to be a versatile tool in accompanying grammar instruction, and in this respect, I think it's an excellent resource.
As Pollio notes in his BMCR review, the choice of passages and fullness in commentary could always be debated, and while I would have preferred to see more Imperial prose, I'm very happy with the selection.  In particular, I'm especially happy that the authors have included a number of epigraphical texts that are worth reading.  In fact, non-literary texts are receiving more attention than ever at the intermediate level, as is also the case with LaFleur's excellent Scribblers, Sculptors, and Scribes, and I hope that the trend continues.

It's certainly true that the minimalist commentary accompanying each text is little more than a plain vocabulary and as such won't help students with points of grammar, language, and style.  But while this fact will prevent the reader from becoming a primary textbook, it will also allow teachers to tailor the discussion to their own interests and force students to analyze the texts themselves.  A quick browse through the selections reveals an abundance of "nonstandard" forms that are ripe for all sorts of discussions, e.g. anc (34.4 and 38.1), cīves (43.1), deicō (15.1), līberum (27.3), negāstī (33.3), praetereis (45.2), sexs (34.3), etc., in addition to the usual points of literary interest.  In all of my classes I'm going to use the book exactly as the authors suggested, namely, as a springboard both for further discussion on selected topics and for sight-reading.  At $15.95 it's a bargain.