ROMULUS in Review
1996 --- 2006
The ROMULUS paper the original text of which follows below, was first put together in the spring of 1996 and on the web a few months later. It attracted much attention with many visits in that year, and I have since enjoyed communication with various students and scholars. But it was not developed after the Persus group which had completed its Greek library and secured funding to go ahead with a similar Latin project. The Perseus group had started to develop a large Latin project, which will occupy some of the discussion outlined by ROMULUS, but one critical function -- the writing of new and up-to-date commentaries for all Latin author, working bit by bit over a period of a decade or more ---- was not in their plans. What they do will be excellent for many uses, but for students reading Latin in the original, modern commentaries are essential. The old ones are long gone out of print, even if available now in reprints, and beyond that there is a need for a new look at the old texts for the 21st Century!
If you take a look at one of the authors in the Perseus Latin Project, you will see the complexity of their system of linking for every word in a Latin text with a reference to a detailed grammatical analysis for that passage and for Latin overall; to the somewhat obsolete Lewis and Short l879 Latin Lexicon; to history and art links; and to older pre-copyright sections of commentary. This system of "Infinite and Ultimate Referencing" was something the early web-designers felt was natural for the electronic speed and connectability of the new electronic media, giving the student-reader total access to the mind of the most learned and accurate (hypothetical) Classical Teacher. Although this seemed good in 1995, it ended up with two serious flaws:
First, the text became a complex patchwork of visible links and connections, so a simple poem like Catullus #I no longer looked like a cleanly printed Latin text, but a newly coded page in a neo-foreigh language. Good for someone who had not mastered his basic grammar, it was clearly in the way for one who wanted to read Catullus as poetry, just those few lines as they stood drawn from the ancient MS tradition. Now that we have alternative methods of text presentation available, the Perseus method seems crowded, fussy and overly documented, to the extent that many teachers of college Latin will go back to plain text with or without student notes as a better road into the world of Latin Literature.
The Perseus Latin is so complex that it stands electronically fixed for the future. All things change with time. Locking Latin Literature into a complex electronic format probably does more harm by overkill than the Perseus designers could have imagined. Not only is the text generally over-wrought, but the system which is called up by the web or preferably by a set of CDs from Yale, is more expensive and less usable than any of the old Ginn-style student commentaries common around 1900. Many of these have been reprinted both as books and also for online use, and are felt by many teachers to be preferable to the Perseus electronic highway. Times change and the modes of presentation should also be alterable and editable to survive. The Latin Perseus of 1996 is clearly not at the cutting edge of expectations for the year 2006, at which point I am reviewing it.
Back in 1996 when I published on the web the following study called ROMULUS, I felt that a forward looking Latin Library should have two attributes. First, it should be based on such modern methods of language teaching as have become a part of the modern foreign language pedagogics. Using an archaic Latin grammar drawn from the late 19th century seemed out of place with today's needs. Since there are abundant models at hand for a better approach, there is now no excuse for the ultra-traditionalism of Latin Grammar as presented. Teachers are still asking for classroom translation of Latin as their stock approach to Latin literature, and successful Latin students learn how to translate automatically in preference to reading the way they would read a modern foreign language. Perseus does not help with this, it rather shunts the student through a set of academic passageways, away from the light of getting a real "reading" knowledge.
Second, I felt in 1996 that there was a need for newly written commentaries to the Latin authors, not only because there is much new information, but because there have been important changes of taste in commenting; although the Latin texts have not changed, our interpretations of them is always adding new layers. There are no connections in the Latin Perseus to references in criticism since the middle of the 20th century, and without an update, we tend to read Latin authors in a literal 19th century manner. Living texts become alive when they are read in live intellectual and critical conditions.
I had hoped that a major university or coalition of Universities would undertake the creation of a new Latin project as the Romulus Project which you will find below. But as it turned out, few university professors were interested in other work than their personal book and journal publications, as a part of their career output, and there was little interest in any combined and cumulative effort. On the other hand the Tufts University Perseus Group was able to get several millions of funded dollars for their Greek and Latin Projects, and this financial backing proved far more productive of real results than any sense of academic community in the professional Classical world. As in many situations, money does seem the final determinant for undertaking largescale academic projects.
This may all seem to be a recount of past history in the world of 1995. Where do we stand in 2006 in relation to entering the portals into Latin Literature? In many ways we have now a greatly expanded vista of what can be done with the Internet. Rather than constructing a single and central Latin teaching system, we now have a wide choice of separate materials from worldwide universities and also from interested individuals, some of whom are working on their out of personal interests without academic connections. This speaks to a healthy new spirit in the classical world since it is based on hi-tech technology but in a wide-spread and low-cost landscape over the new world-wide electronic planet. Diversity and multi-facedness may be the best way toward future educational ventures, and although my Romulus Project of 1996 did target some of the lacunae of that time, I think it may not ahve been in toto the best answer to a complex teaching situation. Linking of materials is now so ubiquitous and so adroit that we can switch from texts like those of the collections of The Latin Library to a grammar or a dictionary lodged on your HD desktop, even further to a cached Journal article searched by a future google, to get the best of accessible information on an instant's notice. That is the heart of the Internet, far better than a pre-designed set of cross-links to pre-arranged information. After all, it is the learner's search which is at the heart of education, not his attention to sorted and prepared information, even when from the best of the world's omniscient teachers.
William Harris, January 8, 2006
ROMULUS PROJECT 1996
AN E -LIBRARY OF
WITH VIRTUAL COMMENTARY
Phase I, Feb. 1996
In the years since 1990 it has become apparent that electronic publication is to be the method of choice for all but long-run editions of books. Electronic publication is clearly the only cost-effective mode of publication for short- and medium-run academic publications, whether student oriented or written for scholarly purposes.
Many of us would prefer to read our Latin in fine typography on clear white paper, but as time goes by, this is becoming less of an option. At the start of this century printing was cheap, Latin scholars, courses and students were everywhere, there was a rash of annotated textbooks on every author taught in high school or college. Ginn's Classical Series was ubiquitous, some of the books like Merrill's Catullus were so full and scholarly that they were being reprinted by University Presses eighty years after publication. But the cost of printed books has gone out of sight, publishers now will only consider works which sell in very high numbers, and every year another handful of Classics texts disappears from the market. The Oxford text series without notes or commentary, our mainstay for generations, has become overly expensive, while Harvard's Loeb Series with an uneven translation and no notes to speak of, is not well suited for student reading.
But merely reprinting existing editions in electronic format is not really a satisfactory answer to changing times and needs. Better texts are slowly but constantly emerging, while each generation adds it own commentary to the body of received opinion.
Even at the Introductory Level many books used to teach Latin are obsolete, based on methods current when Latin was equated with Logic, when one learned rules first and saw texts as virtual illustrations of the rules. Since 1930 there have been great advances in teaching methods in the modern Foreign Languages, but little of this has rubbed off on the Classics. Part of the reason for this may be the fact that teaching of the Latin language ante-dated the modern language methods by several centuries, which gave a false sense of 'rightness' to traditional people in a traditional discipline. At the present time there is great need for new introductory approaches, based on practical linguistic experience garnered from the other language disciplines.
New introductory Latin textbooks face the same situation as editions of the Latin authors -- they will have to be electronic for reasons of a) cost b) editability and c) interactive linking to an electronic dictionary and grammar text. We mention this here as an important ancilla, though not a part of the ROMULUS Project.
The ROMULUS PROJECT proposes a new series of Latin texts encompassing the body of the humanist, literary authors, with language notes for intermediate students as well as sensitive commentary on the text as literature, accompanied by a selection of scholarly detail culled from two centuries of philological research. We need this in a form which is instantly available on screen, with direct access to an electronic dictionary search, with links to maps and an encyclopedia -- and it must be so inexpensive that cost is not really a factor.
A FACTUAL LOOK AT THE PROGRAM
Let us first take a look at the range of conditions and operations necessary to put the ROMULUS program into effect. We are now at a point in the development of the computer industry, at which we have a wide choice of equipment with large memory capacities. Since one CD ROM disc can contain several whole encyclopedias, there is little question about the feasibility of putting the whole of a developed ROMULUS program on CD ROM. The space a CD offers makes inclusion of pictures in color and of auditory material possible, as well as metrical readings of texts by actors, and more. But ROMULUS need not be restricted to CD ROM, it can be put on the network with immediate access wherever there are terminals.
1) The heart of the ROMULUS system is the Latin texts with commentaries. At the present time all editions printed 75 years ago are in public domain, so there is a wide choice of legally available texts, which the new generation of text-scanners can convert to electronic text with great accuracy. First, we plan to select reliable older texts for scanning, or where possible lease electronic text from various sources, but our editing scholars can add or substitute variant readings which they consider important. For the Classical period, from Comedy through 2nd c. A.D., the amount of text is not large, it is actually less than a bookshelf of printed texts.
2) Two areas, often not generally accessible for students, are a) the monumental world of Latin inscriptions, which shed light on social history as well as public and legal matters, and b) the developing world of Christian thought and writings. A delectus from the delectus of Dessau is feasible, but it should be accompanied with an expanded epigraphical, social and historical commentary to be useful. It is essential to include Christian authors, from the classical Minucius Felix through Tertullian and on to Augustine, along with the Itala and/or Vulgate translations of the Bible. Church Latin is without question a crucial part of the Latin experience.
2) We plan to have translations available with the Latin texts, but unlike the Loeb series, our EBook system stacks the translation page facing the text with several layers, which instantly toggle on/off to display pages of: Reading-notes, Essays, Literary Commentary, Scholarly detail, and Bibliography or summaries of studies. These pages accompany the Latin text page by page, each supplementary page is a second away from being summoned to the front. By electronic 'layering' of the pages, the reader can leaf through supplementary material, with the Latin text always in sight.
This new format avoids pages of heterogeneous footnotes crowding the text or excursuses and appendixes at the back of the book. Everything relevant is at the fore, right next to the text.
3) Vocabulary is always the besetting problem for language students, who can learn grammar as a system, but not vocabulary, which is an on-going and troublesome continuum. Thumbing through paper dictionaries has been the bane of eager minds for centuries, now we can provide an instantaneously Latin dictionary, with brief and definitive definitions in clear and current language. Words can be summoned up by clicking on a text-word, so the dictionary search, which took minutes before, now takes seconds. Faster learning and faster reading are clearly possible with better tools, and we can hope that Latin students will in the future begin to read Latin almost as easily as they read French. A compact dictionary of this sort has been prepared and proofed, and is available for use on screen simultaneously with the ROMULUS texts.
4) A built-in grammar is a necessity, with examples of each item discussed, exemplified in good Latin writing, with quick links from the text for students and a grammar-search system for more advanced readers. The out-of-copyright grammar of Lane has excellent illustrations in Latin with English translation, and can be used entire, with appropriate search-mechanisms.
5) An encyclopedia of Classical information is necessary, for which we plan to use all the Classical articles from the out-of- copyright 11th ed. of the Encyclopedia Britannica of 1910. The signed articles in that edition are excellent, the unsigned ones quite good, and the quality is evidenced by the fact that no good academic library fails to have a copy of this edition in its Reference Section.
6) A detailed set of maps will have to be organized, with large zoom in-and-out capabilities. Much work has been done with ancient maps, but maps focusing on certain areas in specific time-periods will require further, detailed scholarship. Fortunately there are cartographic experts in this area. Maps are ipso facto cost-effective since they are basically line- drawings which do not consume excessive bytes.
7) A great deal of the art of the ancient world has been incorporated in the magnificent video-disc published by Yale for use with the Greek Perseus Project. We can use their video-disc for Greek art, which is basic to Roman art, but for specifically Roman, Etruscan and Christian art we may want to develop electronic pictures at a later date. However by restricting ourselves initially to text, we make our project smaller, cheaper and certainly much more feasible economically.
ROMULUS AND PERSEUS
a) Brilliant as Perseus has been with art materials, it has not been effective in dealing with the literary materials. The Greek texts with their often nondescript translations, are mere reprints from eighty years of Loeb history. No commentary has been added, nor regular readings of textual variants. The visual materials have been given a wonderful treatment, but Greek Literature, which is certainly the jewel of the Greek experience, has been sadly neglected.
b) Cost is critical. Over the years Perseus has proved very expensive. We believe ROMULUS can be done economically by staying mainly with text materials, with careful administrative planning by a core Board of Editors, working closely with a range of university graduate departments. (More on costs and funding below...)
WAYS AND MEANS
The first need after designing the basic parameters of the ROMULUS program, is to secure a committed source of funding. Without money, nothing can be done, but of course money by itself does not ensure success. All application for funds must be based on a clear idea of where the money is to be spent, and the disbursement of funds must be carried out with the precision required of a successful business enterprise. Planning and accounting must be the watchwords!
1) Administration must be kept to a minimum. A director of planning, an administrative director, an editing director are needed, while all subsequent work done for the ROMULUS Project should be done on a contract or third-party basis, paid for with grants or fees, while the copyright for work done remains permanently with the Project.
2) Contract work is eminently feasible at the present time. There are scholars who can use supplementary income, there are Ph.D. holders and advanced graduate students who do not have positions and are seeking employment in Classics part time, as an alternative to seeking another work. And there are established scholars who can review contract-work as it is done, make suggestions and reject insufficient work, on an hourly consultation fee.
In other words, we see as practical a widespread network of people working on specific sections of text, for example the first book of Horace's Odes which has some 33 poems, or Vergil's Aeneid Book I, designed for school and college use. Following a prepared sample text, the scholar can prepare his 'section' for review, and if all is approved he can undertake another section. Graduate students in good universities are probably the best- prepared persons in the world to work on developing a matrix of translation, comment and scholarly detail, mainly because the materials are fresh in their minds, and they are not yet worn down by interminable committee duties in their colleges. Writing new commentary for students might well come from the generation nearest them in age.
3) What is needed in terms of what appears on the screen?
The screen itself should be the largest size currently common at the time the project is expected to be completed. The 15- inch screen is becoming ubiquitous, and opens up much more 'real estate' for text and commentary. We can now have two pages of text visible at the same time, a basic necessity for a commented Latin text.
At the present time such a display cannot be used on the WWW, but we believe that with further work on cross-platform considerations, the web format will be expanded to larger display and multiple-page formatting. A number of programmers are working on this at the present time.
ROMULUS has available a new format called EBook, designed for the 15-inch screen. At the present time it uses the Mac Hypercard system, but can later be converted to PC with Hypercard-emulating programs. EBook puts the Latin text on the left page with a translation facing it, not unlike the Loeb format. But behind the right page are five (or more) 'layered' pages, appearing instantly when a selector button at the bottom of the window is pressed. These layered pages can be used for any special purpose, and additional layers can be added. As a suggestion, these page-assignments seem workable for ROMULUS:
LATIN TEXT on the left book-style page side
On the right side a facing page, click-selectable:
.... even a personal NOTEPAD
Note: This was developed in 1994 as my "EBook" Project in a rather tight 640x480 px format as then used for Apple's Hypercard, which now obsolete and gone from the scene. But it was at that time a good user-programmable system useful to test out new ideas with myriad links, buttons and separate page segments or fields. At the present time this can all be done better with the aid of experienced programmers, there are now few limitations on page size, format and inter-connectability. Things which seemed novel and difficult at that time are now common and easy to arrange.
This is a complex and sophisticated format, which I can replace the crowded 'variorum' page with its endless footnotes. It brings to the reader's attention what is needed instantly and is completely editable at the keyboard with no more expertise than is usual for word processing. This makes EBook text editable for entering extended material or for personal use.
EBook retains the basic notion of the 'page', which has found favor since the introduction of the Codex format in the 2 c. A.D. We feel that electronic scrolling, while excellent for 'overflow' material, should not be used for primary materials, so our text pages are organized as Pages with numbers and page-searches, and with word searching. The layered commentary pages, on the other hand do scroll in order to contain extended material, but with page up/down from the keyboard. Pages suit the Macintosh Hypercard system well, each page being a 'card'. (However this can now be emulated successfully on PC machines.) Perseus users will be aware how tiresome it is to scroll up and down a small window of Greek text and at the same time scroll the translation to match it.
The three icons directly below this paragraph* will download to your terminal samples of EBook for Mac Hypercard use. Perhaps read first the VERGIL sample stack, which show the kind of things EBook can do with an actual text and a sample of a commentary. The MANUAL gives detailed directions for use of the EBook system, instructions for adding text, editing, and making changes to the setup. The TEMPLATE is a 'Stationary Pad' file, which allows you to make any number of copies of an empty template, which you can use for your materials, entering your own text and commentaries. The DICTIONARY sample (not shown here) is for the complete letter -M-. 2006: The complete dictionary of 16,000 words is available from the author-publisher along with "The Intelligent Person's Guide to Latin".
EBOOK -- HOW IT CAN BE USED
EBook is a radically new format utilizing the Macintosh Hypercard program to superimpose or 'stack' multiple pages of commentary and secondary material, which can be viewed one by one while the primary text remains in full view. This offers many of the advantages of the book as we know it, while making available additional material on an eight-to-one ratio.
1) First the electronically prepared text is entered on the left hand page, a standard text or one with alternative readings if desired. On the right hand page a translation is entered, for our purposes it can be a new translation or possibly one electronically copied and edited up from an available 19th c. Bohn or Harpers Series translation. Since we are aiming at a basic prose translation as aid to the reader, and not at 'art translation' which is an entirely different matter, many of the old students' translations can be usable with some changes. In some cases an old translation will be excellent, e.g. Conington's prose translation of Vergil from mid 19th c, a masterpiece of subtle translation/commentary. There may be need to change a word or phrase, or break up a long sentence into short ones for modern readers, but this can be done deftly with modern editing techniques.
2) Serving as an alternate behind this 'translation page', we have a second 'layered' page with the kind of notes students need, pointing out the details of grammar they miss generation after generation. The old Ginn textbooks have much material which can be used here, but a teacher who has taught Latin for a few years knows precisely what is required for his students. This page can be oriented toward beginning-to-intermediate students, that is upper high school through second year college Latin. More advanced students students can skip this page if they find it redundant. since it only apopears when you ask for it.
3) Another selectable page of 'Commentary' represents the talents and taste of the editing scholar at work. This page can include background materials, as well as comments on literary matters, the quality of poetic wording and the way the poet's mind is turning. For this Commentary we need a scholar tuned to esthetic detail, to the fine points of the literary tradition in a historical setting. Here the watchful eye of the ROMULUS Review Board is essential, not to edit every line of comment, but to adumbrate at the start overall parameters for the project.
4) Another page can be oriented to the needs of the advanced student, to sketch out the kinds of things covered in a good graduate seminar. There is much material buried in L'Annee Philologique or the electronic TOC from Toronto which a fact- oriented scholar can elicit and abridge for the intelligent student/reader. How much detail is enough? The 'layered' scrolling page can be seen as a sensible size, with its 30K limit!.
5) A page for the 'Apparatus' can be developed to include textual variants and scholiastic comments. If presented succinctly, these materials should give a sense of the two thousand years of copying and commenting which accompanies the canon of every Classical author. The general literary reader may not wish to look in here, but this material should be included and available.
6) Linking to a composite encyclopedia in ROMULUS is not difficult, since there are names for most articles, and further indexing to keywords can be done later. Linking to maps is a special matter, and must be entrusted to the person in charge of a substantial Map Project. Linking to pictures of art, archaeology and sites is a matter which must be left to the specialist in this area. Linking to the Latin Grammar can best be done by a table-of-items, connecting to a search for sections, again a detailed but not difficult project. Linking to the Humanist Latin Dictionary, mentioned elsewhere in this paper, is valuable for readers at any stage.
7) A Latin Electronic Dictionary is already completed and available for use with ROMULUS. It contains all the 15,000 words used in Latin literary texts, down to the hapax level, and works efficiently by typing a word, or part of a word, into a dialog box. The search is completed in a few seconds, after which a click returns the reader to the Latin text which remains in view. As a future convenience, it will be possible to connect the text automatically to the dictionary, so that the reader can search a word in the dictionary by merely clicking on it.
COSTS FOR THE PROJECT
There are two ways to approach this project:
a) It can be done through a cooperative Consortium of a number of universities which have interested Classics staff and Latin graduate seminars from which to draw materials with grad-students' aid in preparing text and commentary materials. Because of the ease of working with the EBook format, no expert computer knowledge or programming expertise is needed for compiling and entering materials.
As the mass of edited material accrues, decisions as to publication on the Net or on CD ROM, or simultaneously on both for a different range of users, can be faced. If CD ROM is used, better control over the materials can be exercised, as well as realization of some profits to be plowed back in the no- for-profit organization. If on the Net there is great world- wide use, but the sophisticated format with layered secondary material is lost since our present Netscape does not allow formatting of this kind.
b) Or it can be done by seeking Foundation support and funding, much as Perseus did when it started out in the early 1980's. When dealing with dollar funding, the approach must be exact, with projections of costs, time frame for completion, and final use and distribution of the materials produced.
After a few time-study experiments, we should be able to supply budgets for the scholarly contributions, many probably done by advanced graduate students. These along with staff costs, some modest equipment and out-of-house costs (scanning, leasing prepared electronic texts) should provide a workable total cost estimate.
By working coherently and planning a date for making the project usable in a test version, we feel we can be far less costly than comparable educational software programs have been in the past. We believe we can have the first working files available in two years, the whole project possibly nearing completion in five years.
Consider for a moment the range of potential users for a low-cost, high quality program like ROMULUS.
1) There are at present some 175,000 Latin students in public high school with an equal number in private and parochial schools. Most of these enrollments are in the first three years, with only 20,000 pursuing Latin into the fourth year, the Vergil level, which is unfortunate. (It is like studying Italian intensively and stopping just short of Dante...)
By designing some materials suitable for the high school level -- a beginning level, an easy prose level, a harder level with optional poets, and a college level -- we foresee a reasonably large body of users. There still exists in many high schools a 'traditional' sequence, with grammar/language first year; Caesar for the second year with student-notes, perhaps a commentary by a retired military person, with abundant maps; an introduction to Cicero not only as orator but as letter-writer and man; and finally the great artist, Vergil.
2) In the colleges there are some 20,000 students of Latin although some feel that this is a low figure. There are also many persons, some in later life, who have taken up the study of Latin again, and of course there are English teachers and modern language scholars who would have immediate use for a Latin program as open and user-friendly as ROMULUS.
Some of the upper level high school material is suitable for a first or second year college course, but to be used at a faster pace, and followed by literature more suitable for college students -- Horace's Odes and Satires, the scientist Lucretius, Ovid, Pliny as judge and epistolographer, and of course Tacitus. A course on Satire can be organized about Horace, Juvenal and Persius with up-to-date commentary. Roman Comedy is a field unto itself, as remarkable in its style and flow, as in its vast effect on post-Renaissance European comedy. With such materials at hand, much of the old 3/4 year college Latin major program can be re-established if materials and interest coincide, using modern commentary, electronic dictionary, and links to the historical tradition.
3) In short, a reasonable public use should exist for ROMULUS, given proper marketing techniques and a solid business approach. This can be done on a not-for-profit basis, but if continued research and work on the 'product' is felt necessary, it may be necessary to consider ROMULUS as a 501(c)3 Public corporation, so that legitimate profits can be plowed back into its operation, thus cutting it free from the need for continual funding which besets many a good academic project. One of the serious disadvantages of a program operating under the traditional academic shelter is the fact that almost half of the funding of such sheltered projects is known to be currently consumed by the sheltering institution. Since these matters cannot be determined at the outset, either financially or legally, options for the exact implementation of the ROMULUS project should be left open as long as possible.
4) A question has been raised whether publication should be on the web, or on CD ROM. An up-to-date sense of computer technology favors the web, as being available world-wide, and continually editable from the parent server. On the other hand an inexpensive CD ROM makes the material available to those not web-connected, e.g. many smaller schools and colleges, those with crowded terminal facilities, and some commercial services which do not have access to all server facilities. The web use is free by its nature, whereas small profits from sale of CD ROM can be put back into a continued ROMULUS operation.
Until Netscape makes provisions for complex, formatted texts like the EBook, it can present only pages of plain text and then link these to secondary materials. The remarkable facilities which EBook offers are lost on the Web, but EBook files on the Web can be downloaded for later use. This is, however a complicated and indirect use of the multiple levels of commentary which ROMULUS is planning.
But there is no reason to decide on either Web or CD ROM. The costs of putting text on CD ROM is not large, and it may be found feasible to publish all materials on both systems. But a major decision like this warrants further information and careful discussion.
After you have perused this document, please enter your name on the form below, and add any comments which you care to make. If you would be interested in participating in this project, on any level, please note your interests, your background and position, and your email address.
This concludes Phase I of the ROMULUS, which is intended to bring the project to public view, outlining the scope, need and some of the means to bring the project to completion. Further development can only be done by a corps of interested persons in the field of Classics, people with training, drive and an intimation of what such a project can mean to them as teachers and as scholars. By compiling a roster of interested parties who will add their names and further discussion to this paper in the following Section as Phase II, we can hope to establish working groups of conferees, who can take steps to pursue and develop the ROMULUS Project of Latin Literature.
ADDENDUM March 1996:
The above material was begun after attending the CALICO Computer Aided Language Conference which was held in the spring of 1995 at Middlebury College. The Conference displayed the wide range of materials and projects with electronic media which can be used for better teaching of languages. I was apparently the only Classicist attending. During the summer of 1995, I worked out details of the EBook concept and developed a working template, after which the parts of what I called the ROMULUS plan began to fall into place.
Just as arrangements were being made in March 1996 for putting this material on the web, Perseus' plans for a Latin Project were announced. This was welcome news, since Perseus has shown expertise in dealing with high quality pictures and materials to supplement the teaching of Greek culture. On the other hand, there might well be fear that a Latin Perseus would come up with wonderful visual materials but bare Latin texts without language and literary commentaries for students of Latin as Latin, not in translation.
Hence it seemed appropriate to append a few general remarks:
1) The swing toward visual impressions is part of the TV-based world we live in. No longer is a picture worth a thousand words, but there is question if the words have much meaning anymore. Think of the vague and fuzzy wording of politics, or the world of advertising.
On the other hand, with serious use of computers, a generation of people is appearing up who realize that ideas are in Plato's sense IDEAS, the DNA of Mind, as it were. Chasing and processing data, or constructing a complex interlocked script, we move into a world where there is little image relevancy beyond a few icons on screen, and very few words to describe the world in which we are working. When you ask someone working a complex computer problem what he is doing, you get mumbles and chopped words -- because they are in the world of pure thought, not words.
But words are a critical part of the operation of the human brain, one of its distinguishing characteristics. Close and slow language study, in one's native language or not, re-focuses the mind on the chunks of encapsulated meaning we call WORDS. We have all seen that serious Latin students, where hard learning is still valued, seem to do well later in other things later, not only writing, but also in law and science. There may be some self-selection here, but part of it is in the close and hard attention paid to the building blocks. Language is not the only human tool, but it is one which this generation seems to be consistently undervaluing.
2) Suggestion for any new project in Latin:
a) Continue with the visual materials with the expertise Perseus has developed over the last dozen years. This part is well done and firmly in hand.
b) Develop the literary and text aspects of the new program separately, put its direction in the hands of a Board of ten solid and representative Classics scholars, who can ensure that the work with the text and comment is the best show that we can have as this century ends. Some philology is by its nature dry and inaccessible, but much is basic and needed for the understanding of difficult parts of many texts. If the body of Classical learning, as it has developed since the days of Mommsen, is cut out from public awareness now, it will probably never recover.
3) Philology, seen as intense, research-oriented language study, does a double duty:
First, it provides information, bringing often unsuspected and recondite information necessary to the interpretation of written materials. Writing from another culture, especially from another culture in another time-frame, often cannot be "read" as it stands. Words and notions go through elaborate changes in time; a detailed study of these changes in necessary for understanding non-native texts.
It also concentrates attention minutely on individual lines, words and sounds, even when the process seems dry or overly detailed. Reading at today's prose rates, we winnow meaning out of the chaff of the words; that's usually the way we read novels or assigned college readings. But when one reads art-writing, especially poetry, the meanings are intertwined with the form and sounds of the words, which is why Frost rightly remarked: Poetry is that which disappears in translation.
A careful approach to literature has to begin somewhere in the high school years to take firm root. (The same would be true of math: if you don't get a good sense of algebra early, it will probably not become a useful tool in later education.) Many high school and college courses do not demand this kind of close attention, they are often discursive, intended to expose students to new areas of consideration. This has great value overall, but when it starts to replace the "hard" courses, which students often shy away from for perfectly natural human reasons, it establishes a wrong twist in the process of learning.
Latin has broad cultural meaning, but it also has a tradition of focusing the mind on detail. A first-rate Classics college major often becomes a first-rate in other, unrelated areas. Was it the innate mind, or the Latin training?
Of course it was both.
4) Perseus has been unusually effective in bringing interesting supplementary materials to high school and college courses. If wide use of supplementary material finds its way into courses in English translation, that is to be expected in a country where over ten times as many students study Greek or Latin in English as compared to those working with the languages.
At the same time, teaching materials in Latin are disappearing. A few popular textbooks which sell widely are available, but most Latin authors outside the basic canon have disappeared entirely. Without new inputs into available commentaries from working scholars of our own time, the books high school and college students use often seem hopelessly outdated, reflecting the Classicism of sixty years ago.
The wide use of interesting supplementary material relating to the Classics MUST bear the burden of also producing first-rate new literary and cultural commentaries associated with language texts. If this is not done, the supplementary materials will become the primary materials -- and study of original language texts will eventually disappear.
PHASE II: Implementation In response to the above paper, there was a remarkably strong show of interest and approval as numerous readers perused the materials on-line. A questionnaire at the tail listed readers who noted their thoughts and interests, and some dozens of persons reached the author by email with comments, offers of help in work projects, and general approval of the project. This indicates that the general outlines of this ROMULUS Project are perceived as timely, needed and important for the future of Latin as an authentic field of study.
This document was prepared by the beginning of January, and a set of general CONSIDERATIONS was added in March of 1996. Now in May 1996 a closer and more finite look at the future of the ROMULUS Project is in order:
1) A siting for the project at one or possibly several Universities is needed. Immediate concerns are the research necessary for the widest possible view of cross-platform possibilities on the one hand, and on the other hand, plans for assembling an initial prototype text/commentary example.
2) Siting is furthermore necessary to provide an address to which to direct funds sought from public and private foundation resources. Applications for funding must have an academic address in the initial proposals, and if funds are granted they go automatically to that location.
Since there may be different talents at different sites, it seems wise to address separate functions separately.
a) Latin texts, leased or scanned, re-edited, furnished with Apparatus Crit.
b) Development of literary and scholarly commentaries, reference materials, scholarly citations. c) Development of formatting possibilities and cross-platforming to make materials available in the widest possible range. This requires persons with eactensive computer programming skills.
If these three functions can be done at one site, that may be preferable. But it may be easier to find the special talents necessary for these areas in separate university locations.
As an example of Searching for Funding, the following condensed outline of a PROPOSAL for development of technological aspects is appended for illustrative use.
A CLASSICS RESEARCH PROJECT This is a proposal for research to establish an electronic infra- structure for extension of ROMULUS materials to other platforms in connection with a new Language and Literature format called EBook, at the present time developed on the Mac platform. This research is seen as a first stage for the construction of an extended Commented Latin Literature Library, designed as a teaching tool for students from high school through advanced college Latin. The project requires the development of cross-platform usages, especially for universal use on the web.
This EBook format features a two-page display, with a language text on the left facing six *layered* pages on the right side. The present overall plan, building on a basic prototype stage, is to develop a complete library of literary Latin as a basic teaching/ learning tool. However this format can be used with any foreign language or for English literature. The present project plans to work with the basic level of the program, the electronic *infrastructure*, which we feel we can extend to the PC and more critically to the net level, in the course of one year.
Starting with the program we have at hand, with its new and sophisticated use of supplementary and critical materials joined to a language-text, we plan to work with the wide range of programming tools currently available to create a universally usable format for handling teaching materials on several levels, from high school through college study. It must be usable on all current hardware, and in addition bring the sophistication of the prototype multi-page display to the web.
The www offers a new vision of universal communication, but at the present time it is limited to a single-page display with very simple page-linking. Establishing first the advantages which are offered by multi-page formatting, this project plans to develop a web format which approaches the remarkable sophistication of the present EBook prototype.
But before this broad scheme of texts with commentaries can be developed, we have to attend to the electronic INFRASTRUCTURE. Just as a system of roads, railroads, airports and telephone networks is needed before an economy can operate, so a system of universally usable electronic communications must be developed before newly constructed text-based information can be disseminated and used. For these purposes we propose the following plan for estimating a reasonable budget:
1) Work with university programmers at a university site to lay out the groundwork and approach for extensive cross-platforming.
2) Consultation with non-university and business groups on subjects which are germane to their work and experience.
3) Estimation of costs for electronic and telephone conferencing, leading to one or more conferences on the university campus. The purpose of such conferences is to elicit new ideas in a person-to- person session, a well-tried technique widely used in the business world. The costs of conferences can be estimated beforehand, but a small margin must be left open for hidden costs.
4) Publication of a printed monograph, also available electronically, summarizing the results of this Research Project. We are here planning the first stage of an extensive Latin teaching project, but since the results will be usable in other disciplines, we want to be sure that other sectors of the academic world are informed of the new tools which we are generating.
This whole project, under the name ROMULUS, was anounced to the teaching public in March of 1996, and has been received with a show of interest and support. This paper has been prepared by:
Prof. Em. Classics