Preceptorial Spotlight #1: Ancient Greek

[You may or may not know by now that fully one-third of the Graduate Program is labelled the “preceptorial.” Similar in nature to the other two classes, the “seminar” and the “tutorial,” students and a tutor gather round a table to probe and revel in one text. What distinguishes the preceptorials, besides the essay requirement at their end, is that they change each semester and students request which one they’ll take. The three exceptions are Ancient Greek (in Annapolis); and the fall and summer semesters of the Eastern Classics curriculum (in Santa Fe), where Sima Quian’s The Records of the Grand Historian, the Mahabharata, and Murasaki Shikibu’s The Tale of the Genji are all mandatory. So, preceptorials cover one text for the same amount of class time that a tutorial or seminar covers ten, or one author where the others cover five — yep, it’s my favorite class too. The depth reached by continually mining a single text or author will astound!]

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A staple of the Graduate Program in Annapolis since the mid-90’s, the Ancient Greek preceptorial is probably the most daunting and most rewarding of them all. Meeting double the time that other preceptorials meet (twice weekly, instead of once) and spanning two semesters, its students spend the fall learning the basics of the not-so-dead language with guidance from Mollin and Williamson’s (both tutors!) An Introduction to Ancient Greek; come spring, the few and the proud persevere to the beautiful goal of it all — reading founders of Western Culture in their original tongue.

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Last spring, each of the students translated almost all of Xenophon’s Anabasis on their own! Part history, part action-adventure, each thrill of the plot was augmented and earned by the skills learned in the previous semester. And when it came to the final essay, all the students could genuinely feel they were conversing with the ancient writer himself.

Could it be doubted: the closest I can be to another is if we share the language of our thoughts?

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