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Introduction to Latin Literature and Culture

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Instructor: John Gruber-Miller, College 312, x4326,

Class meetings: M-F 9:00-11:15 a.m. and 1-3 p.m.

Office Hours: M W F 11:15-12:00 noon and always by appointment.

Required Materials:

  • Antony Augoustakis, ed. Plautus. Mercator. Bryn Mawr Commentaries, 2009.
  • Robin M. Griffin. A Student’s Latin Grammar. Rev. by Ed Phinney. Cambridge University Press, 1992.
  • John Traupman. The New College Latin and English Dictionary. 3rd ed. New York Bantam Dell, 2007.

Optional Texts

The major goals of the course

  • to learn to read with some facility the Latin verse of Plautus,
  • to understand the culture and society of Republican Rome,
  • to become familiar with the style, types of humor and values in Roman comedy,
  • to make Roman comedy come to life on stage,
  • to learn to work together with your peers on a common project.

Course Requirements

Class Preparation and Participation: preparation of Latin reading and other assignments, quizzes, homework, participation in class discussions and other activities, etc.

Spoken Latin: record a scene with others. Each actor should choose a scene of 50-70 lines to record with at least one other person who is not in the scene. If the scene has more than two actors, try to divide the parts evenly between actors and non-actors. No one who is not acting should have to do a scene without an actor in the mix. Record the scene in both Latin and English, based on the lines that the characters in that scene have already chosen in Latin or in English. Before recording, practice with the other people you have invited to present the scene. Then record it convincingly with feeling and accuracy. Please make the recording in CAN-8 (Day 12) by using the same mike/headset for everyone. Before presenting the scene, be sure to name the people and their parts and identify the line number at which the scene begins and ends. Due: the third Tuesday at 5:00 p.m.

Latin compositions: In order to reinforce the grammar and vocabulary of Plautus and to prepare for the midterm and final, students will write two compositions.

  1. Act 1 condensed: with a partner, write a short dialogue (no more than 2 pages, double-spaced) condensing/summarizing what happened in Act 1. Think of it as the Menaechmi Act 1 in five minutes or less. As you plan the condensation, keep in mind what needs to be kept that contributes to character development, plot, character motivation, and comic interest? It is perfectly acceptable to use Plautus' language in Menaechmi and adapt what he wrote. Due: the second Monday.
  2. Character sketch: with a partner, write a well-developed paragraph (6-7 sentences) about one character in the play. How does this character act? What does this character feel or think about the others? What does this character want or hope to do (motivation)? Why does s/he act/feel/think this way? Please try to use a variety of vocabulary and sentence structures (e.g., participles, subordinate clauses, indirect speech) as a review. It is perfectly acceptable to use Plautus' language in Menaechmi and adapt what he wrote. Due: third Thursday at 5:00 p.m.

Class Presentation: All members of the technical crew will give a 20-25 minute presentation during the second week of block on their area of expertise after reading the appropriate secondary material. These reports should accomplish two things:

  1. inform the rest of the class about Roman theatrical practice in your area.
  2. propose specific suggestions for the class performance.

Each group should present to the class a detailed written summary/outline of the material they read and a written report on the suggestions for the performance.

Summary/Reaction: In addition, everyone will read one 12-25 page article on Menaechmi (articles listed in the bibliography) or on some literary aspect of Roman comedy, write a typed, 1-2 page summary and 1-2 page response to it. If you prefer, you may blend the summary and response into one coherent 3-4 page paper (due Monday of Week 3). Rubric for summary-response papers.

Midterm and Final: the midterm will include translation/reading comprehension of both prepared and unseen passages, commentary on particular passages (grammatical, dramaturgical, and/or literary), and essay (more general questions about Roman culture and literary interpretation). The final will include the previous as well as the possibility of an unseen passage to translate with the help of a dictionary and your commentary and/or a short Latin composition describing a character in the play.

Stage Production: Each person will participate in some aspect of the class production of a bilingual performance of the Menaechmi to be staged during the 4th week of block for the Cornell community. Each person's participation will be crucial to the success of the performance, thus grading will be based on a) the effort you put into your role, b) your constant cooperation with the other members of the production, and c) the timeliness with which you accomplish each task (e.g. learning your lines, finding props, finishing costumes and music by the deadlines set by the directors). You can find the list of deadlines in the Production Schedule.

To make it easier for me to assess your involvement in the play, everyone will keep a daily log of the tasks they worked on each day and how much time they spent on each task. At the end of the course, you will turn this in along with a one or two page report summarizing what you accomplished, what you wished you had done but were not able to do, and what you learned from the experience.


  • daily preparation for and participation in class, pop quizzes, compositions, etc. 20 %
  • midterm (2nd Fri) 20 %
  • final (final Wed) 20 %
  • creative project, including presentation, summary/response, daily log and final report reflecting on the experience 40 %

There will be no make-up quizzes. Exams can be made up only if pre-arranged and with a note from a doctor.

Letter grades will be assigned according to the following pattern:

A 93-100

B 83-86

C 73-76

D 63-66

A- 90-92

B- 80-82

C- 70-72

D- 60-62

B+ 87-89

C+ 77-79

D+ 67-69

F below 60

Final Note: Do not get behind at any time. Ask for help before you feel you are slipping. Carpe diem!


Attendance: Since our morning class format is based primarily on participation, discussion, and small group work, it is essential that you come to class every day, prepared and ready to participate actively. Since our afternoon work is team-based and collaborative, it is essential that you attend every meeting or rehearsal by your student team leader. Any unexcused absence after one missed class period will harm your final grade. If you must miss class, please inform me ahead of time if at all possible.

Deadlines: no late work will be accepted. If an emergency or illness occurs, please let me know immediately so that other plans can be arranged.

Academic Integrity: According to the Cornell College Student Handbook, plagiarism is "is the act of taking the work of another and presenting it as one's own, without acknowledgement of the original source." In other words, using others' ideas, words, even sentence structure, without crediting them is a serious academic offense. Plagiarism also includes writing a paper for another person, borrowing or buying an essay and submitting it as your own, or paraphrasing an article but forgetting to document it. Click here for Cornell's policy on Academic Honesty.

Accomodations for different learning styles: Cornell College is committed to providing equal educational opportunities to all students.  If you have a documented learning disability and will need any accommodation in this course, you must request the accommodation(s) from me as early as possible and no later than the third day of the term. Additional information about the policies and procedures for accommodation of learning disabilities is available on the Cornell web site at


Cornell College
600 First Street West
Mt Vernon, IA 52314

John Gruber-Miller
(319) 895-4326

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