Today’s post is by Dr. Melissa Funke, and addresses the issue of introducing second year Greek students to epigraphy. Her perspective on using squeezes to get her students interested in translation is particularly relevant this semester as Chelsea and I will be working on creating downloadable modules that can be used in introductory Greek classes.
It is always a challenge to bring ancient subjects to life in the classroom, doubly so when students are concentrating on mastering the nuances of language. Introducing my intermediate Greek students to the Stone to Screen project has proved to be an effective and exciting means of solving this problem. “Real Greek” Thursdays are a tradition in our class. Students pick an ancient author and I bring in a short selection of unadapted Greek that we work through as a class. As an extension of this, we have recently translated an inscription from one of the squeezes in our department’s collection. To prepare us for this, Natalie came to class in the last week of term and explained the history of Stone to Screen. She also showed us images of several of the artifacts and squeezes in our department’s collection. This presentation elicited a long discussion about the value of maintaining antiquities and who should have access to them as well as the role of Digital Humanities in education and research. Our final class was devoted to translating a transcription of a late fourth-century squeeze from Aixone in Attica.
Lisa was kind enough to find us one that used the subjunctive (rare in inscriptions), which we had recently learned. The students worked in small groups to produce translations which we later combined and edited as a group. This was an excellent opportunity to have the students use the LSJ on their own (they had previously been introduced to this resource but had not had the chance to use it independently yet). We then had a wide-ranging discussion based on the content of the inscription that included the formulaic language used in these types of decrees, dramatic competitions, and the political system of Athens.
This was an excellent way to cap off the term and to synthesize what we had learned recently. Several students remarked that this was especially helpful in making the difficult task of learning Greek seem more concrete. For this group, composed of students pursuing religious studies and archaeology rather than Classical philology, it was a means of contextualizing the language that literature had not yet provided for them. Based on the success of this exercise and the students’ excitement when working on this project, we have requested more inscriptions to work on for next term and look forward to further collaboration with Stone to Screen.
The student’s translation was featured on our AIA poster in New Orleans earlier this month and was so gratifying for all of us who have been working on this project since its inception in the spring of 2012. Our modest goal when we started was to create a resource for the language students at UBC to easily access the department’s squeeze collection for just this kind of class participation. Lately we’ve set our sights higher, and ideally we’d love to have students around the world able to make use of our collection, but this was a great start.