Monday, June 28, 2004

the Dusty Old Textbook Spotlight

I'll pretend this is a recurring feature, like the Housman quotes that never show up.

L.L. Forman's A First Greek Book, published 1899, offered a very novel approach to the Greek textbook: lessons were comprised of headings (e.g. "Conjunction of Sentences") followed by references to the relevant sections in the chief grammars of the day (Goodwin and Hadley/Allen), and finally by Greek examples with few notes and no attempt to explain grammar.

He cautioned that only a teacher who really knows Greek should attempt to use the book, and that his goal was simply to help and not to hinder "the workers," both teacher and student.

What follows is a footnote from the Preface, which hints not only at the state of Greek education at the turn of the last century, but also at the richness of academic prose and the spirit of at least one educator.

Yet if Greek be swept utterly out of our education, the blame will lie not so much with the youth of the country as with us teachers, who yield to their importunities. Because the babe in the cradle cries, we permit it first Option of Study (or of No-Study), then Option of Method. These two Options were, I suspect, the two serpents carelessly allowed to invade the cradle of little Hercules, but strangled by that sensible young hero. Can we hope, however, for this happy issue now?

A text of this type has much to commend it. (I've heard recently about a course in Greek prose composition based on Smyth. Eric?) But this text in particular has many valuable notes in the appendix, "Hints For Teachers."

My only objection so far is his suggestion to omit the dual. It's so easy once you learn it, and only then can you say you have a command of all forms.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

indeed. am i correct to presume that prof. hamilton told you about it, and that i am irresponsibly still clinging to one of his copies of it? there should be a photocopy of it in a blue folder (i think) at my carrel. you're welcome and doubly welcome to peruse it and oggle.