Goals and Expectations

An AP course is, in substance and intent, a college course offered to high school students. As such, it presumes a level of preparation and commitment beyond what is normal at the high school level. I take that mandate seriously, and hence I expect from the students:

There is no way to make Latin simple; it’s hard, and though it offers real rewards commensurate with the investment of time and effort, there’s no way to learn it painlessly. There’s also no way to make Vergil an easy author. He is the complex product of an allusive and self-conscious poetic culture, still struggling out from under the shadow of a brutal civil war, and yet somewhat uncomfortable about not being Greek. Vergil is not given to obvious exposition. It’s not always clear that even he knew exactly what he was driving at; at spots he’s clearly struggling toward what he wants to say. On that basis, it isn’t surprising that we have to dig pretty deeply to follow him.

I am currently working with the College Board to secure official recognition of this course as an official AP course, but until that is completed, I cannot advertise it as an AP class. The syllabus readers are somewhat backed up at this point, and it may yet take a few months before the process is completed. Students may take the AP Exam irrespective of whether the syllabus is officially recognized.

On the other hand, he gives you most of the tools you need. He’s one of the greatest wordsmiths ever to grace any language, and once you attune your ear to the magic of his verse, it will change your perception, and you will see and hear things there that you could never pick up from translations, no matter how attentively you read them.

In short, it’s going to be a challenging course with difficult material. But it is possible, and it is worth the effort. But do yourselves and your fellow students a favor: don’t let yourself fall behind. You are, on the other hand, free to get a little bit ahead.

The assignments for this course have been laid out rather precisely. I’ve tried to allow plenty of time to complete the required passages well prior to the AP Exam to allow time for review; the translation assignments start out relatively small (10 lines or so per session), and get larger toward the end of the course, for a total of 1856 lines. This is not due to my own inability to plan ahead, but reflects an expectation that your command of Latin in general, and of Vergil’s poetry in particular, will mature. I expect all your assigned passages to be translated into the most accurate English you can produce; I would like you to have the text available in a disk file so that you can cut and paste any pieces of it that may be required for class. I may or may not require you to submit the translations for review: it depends on how things go.

In addition to translation assignments, you will be expected to complete regular assigned review of the basic features of Latin morphology (word formation) and syntax using either Wheelock or a more formal grammar (e.g., Allen and Greenough, Hale and Buck, Gildersleeve and Lodge, etc.) and vocabulary, relying on the three layered vocabulary lists in Clyde Pharr’s Aeneid. These will be quizzed regularly, and keeping up will be a vital part of passing the course. None of these assignments will be very long, but they will be regular.

Finally, we will look at the Aeneid as an artistic product in toto. I will expect you to have read, and to read again during the course of the year, Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey, and a good prose translation of the Aeneid. We’ll supplement these with assigned readings from a collection of essay material. We will talk somewhat about Vergil’s meaning in the context of his own culture.

Contents of this page © Copyright 1997-2006, Bruce A. McMenomy.