The pitfalls facing intermediate Latin students as they move from a basic knowledge of forms and the simplified Latin of textbooks to actually reading Latin are well-known. It’s not just the artful word order or sophisticated grammar of classical texts. As Kenneth Kitchell emphasized in a well-known article (Kitchell 2000), the geographical and cultural knowledge required can baffle even the student well trained in verb forms, case usage, and syntax. Then there is the well-known tendency of students themselves to ignore low-hanging fruit, to spurn the solicitously extended helping hand in the form of commentaries on their Latin texts, notes specifically designed to help them surmount these difficulties. What can be done?
New ideas customarily enter the classroom in a kind of scholarly trickle-down, from the university to daily educational practice. Think of the New Criticism of the 1950s, social history, or backward design. The phenomenon in Latin versification known as the “golden line” represents a striking example of the reverse: an idea generated in the classroom and resisted by the academy for decades, if not centuries, before becoming mainstream in erudite classical scholarship.