Dulcedo et Lux: Of Mice, Wolves, and Elementary Appeal

David C. Noe

Patrick Henry College

The old saw has it that the so-called dead language first "killed the Romans, and now it's killing me."  Classicists of course bristle at this sophomoric attack on the lilting accents so dear to our hearts.  We point out the various projects to revive Latin as a tool for conversation and its continuing relevance to the fields of medicine and law.  Each of us as well has at some point in our training completed a course in composition, striving with fair success to render everyday concerns into the rotund periods of Cicero or the forceful, marching marauds of Caesar.  These efforts serve us in good stead for the occasional "vale" and "in vino veritas" tossed out at department socials and in student emails.  Yet for the most part it is tempting to believe that Latin for all its beauty, power, and precision remains a literary artifice, forever frozen in time.

In recent years, however, there has been a definite renaissance of neo-Latin.  The explosion of information available on the worldwide web and its accompanying reduction in cost, the proliferation of multimedia technologies, and the efforts of individuals like Terence Tunberg and Barbara Bell (to name only two) have brought Latin into the hands of a much broader range of adults and children.  All of these promising developments present more traditional Classicists with an opportunity to make the case again that not only is Latin valuable as an historical tool for understanding the sources of Western civilization, but also that the language in its own right has an impressive pulse and grandeur.

This presentation seeks to build on that foundation by presenting two original compositions in Neo-Latin: Tres Caeci Mures ("The Three Blind Mice") and Puer 'Lupum' Exclamans ("The Boy who Cried Wolf").  The first is a retelling, a fabula fracta perhaps, of the classic children's rhyme.  Though incorporating recognizable Vergilian elements, a few difficult clausulae and words, the style is aimed at elementary age children and has numerous sight gags in the full-color illustration.  The second, similarly illustrated,  adapts the folktale to the sunny hills of Syracuse, the bucolic home of Mt. Aetna and the Hyblaean groves. 

Both stories seek to underscore the paedagogical significance of repetition, pattern recognition, and the formation of appropriate semantic expectations for proper reading.  The author's presentation will suggest some methods for employing available resources in the composition of similar storylines and how they may be best utilized in the elementary classroom.  Deductive and inductive approaches to the acquisition of Latin will also be discussed.

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