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    Latin Via Ovid - A First Course by Goldman and Nyenhuis

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    Book Review by Ursus


    Those Romanophiles lacking proper schooling in Latin must take the pains to teach themselves the language. There are dozens of Latin textbooks in circulation. How is one to decide among them for the most useful in self-study tool?

    The most standard text in North America used by universities and high schools is Frederick Wheelock's Latin. Unfortunately Wheelock's Latin does not commend itself to self-study.

    It is extremely grammar intensive from the beginning and may overwhelm those without the aid of an instructor. The readings are also mind numbingly dull, concentrating mostly on Cicero's insipid Stoic philosophy.

    A little known alternative to Wheelock is Latin Via Ovid. This textbook introduces Latin's complicated grammar in less intensive, more manageable installments. As one might expect from the title, the reading passages are based on Ovid's poetry, specifically on his Metamorpheses. Here one can enjoy the colorful tales of Roman mythology instead of Cicero's dry lecturing. The text begins with a simplified version of Jupiter's rape of Europe, then progresses to more complex passages regarding the Trojan War.

    The combination of delightful reading passages and manageable grammar exercises earns this book high marks for independent study. The text contains the usual exercises, charts, dictionaries, and cultural readings one expects from a language book. An optional workbook is available (for a cheap price), as are audio tapes (for a considerably greater price).

    Publius Ovidius Naso 43 BC – AD 17/1), known as Ovid in the English-speaking world, was a Roman poet who lived during the reign of Augustus. He was a contemporary of the older Virgil and Horace, with whom he is often ranked as one of the three canonical poets of Latin literature. The Imperial scholar Quintilian considered him the last of the Latin love elegists. He enjoyed enormous popularity, but, in one of the mysteries of literary history, was sent by Augustus into exile in a remote province on the Black Sea, where he remained until his death. Ovid himself attributes his exile to carmen et error, "a poem and a mistake", but his discretion in discussing the causes has resulted in much speculation among scholars.

    Norma Goldman was an associate professor, instructor, and lecturer at Wayne State’s Greek and Latin department for 48 years. She also authored a collection co-written with her husband Bernard M. Goldman called My Dura- Europos: The Letters of Susan M. Hopkins, 1927-1935 (Wayne State University Press, 2011).

    Jacob E. Nyenhuis was professor emeritus of Classics and Provost emeritus at Hope College. A former professor and chair at Wayne State University, he is author of Myth and the Creative Process: Michael Ayrton and the Myth of Daedalus (Wayne State University Press, 2003).

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    Book Review of Latin Via Ovid: A First Course - Related Topic: Latin Language


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