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Review: Online Companion to The Worlds of Roman Women

Bust of a Roman Lady

The online companion to the print book The Worlds of Roman Women is an important resource that should be far more widely known and used than it is. It offers annotated primary texts, images, and pedagogical materials for teachers of Latin and was called “the gold standard for a web translation resource for intermediate as well as more advanced students,” by Andrew Reinhard nearly a decade ago,[1] and this judgment is still accurate—not because of a sleek or beautiful interface, but because of the wealth of carefully curated content it provides.

The book The Worlds of Roman Women appeared in 2005. Its authors, Ann Raia, Cecelia Luschnig, and Judith Lynn Sebesta, had seen “a need for an anthology of readings about women that was directed to the intermediate stage of Latin learning (p. vii),” and responded by gathering an excellent selection of readings and supplementing them with plentiful grammatical and lexical aids.[2] Early on the authors realized that there were a number of important items that could not be included in the book, and turned to electronic publication “as a way to accommodate our growing appetite for new texts, images, hyperlinked aids, and 21st century pedagogy.” To house these resources Professors Raia and Sebesta launched the online Companion in 2006.

The benefits of the electronic medium’s flexibility are clear. While the book offers a small number of black and white photographs of artifacts, the Companion presents an abundance of full color images, all drawn from the VRoma Project’s Image Archive.  The editors were able to publish corrigenda in response to early reviews “pending reprinting.” A decade later the book has not been reprinted, but its readers nonetheless have access to the corrected information.

The landing page shows its two major divisions, Instruction and Worlds. Primary sources, both texts and images, are organized under Worlds—that is, aspects of women’s lives. Here the editors have significantly expanded original book’s content. To the six Worlds of the anthology—Childhood, Learning, Marriage, the Family, the Body, the State, Work, and Flirtation—they have added Class and Religion. Within each World the reader will find an introductory essay with bibliography, passages from Latin authors or inscriptions (including useful notes and vocabulary), and images. Under the World of Class, for instance, the editors explain the significance of class and status in Roman life, the ways in which class can expand or contract a woman’s horizons, and the kinds of evidence that are available for exploring these questions; they also point to appropriate and helpful bibliography. The Latin texts include passages from major writers (e.g. Livy on the cult of Pudicitia Plebeia and Tacitus on the life of Junia Tertia, wife of Cassius and sister of Brutus) and supplement them with funerary inscriptions. Images range from sculpture in marble or clay, to wall paintings, to coins. Within each World the reader finds, on average, a dozen readings in addition to those in WRW, as well as easily 100 images.

The Text Map lists all the Latin passages on the site (with links), arranged in order of difficulty. A second list identifies all the authors whose works are included, and a third catalogues the women who are named on the site.

This expansion of the content of WRW alone would justify the existence of the Companion. But we also find something different and comparably valuable in the second major division of the site, Instruction. Here, the editors and their many collaborators discuss specific ways in which the content can enrich both teaching and learning. Raia and Sebesta provide a Guide in which they outline their goals for the original WRW and for the Companion. Notable is the last: “to create a communal venue for research and publication of text-commentaries about Roman women and for sharing pedagogy and activities for the Latin classroom.”

Accordingly, with the help of teachers at the pre-college and college levels, they have developed a library of pedagogical materials. These resources include an annotated bibliography, course syllabi, and instructions for classroom activities and projects that offer models and inspiration for the kinds of activities the Companion can support. A fine starting place is Liz Gloin’s ”Ovid and his Ars: Preparing a Commentary for the Online Companion to the Worlds of Roman Women.[3]

Few students approaching a Latin text know everything they should to put the reading into context. Under Resources for Translation and Interpretation they can find a wealth of links to topics useful for students, and for their teachers: Calendars, Coins, Grammars, Inscriptions, Lexica, Meter and Rhetoric, Maps and Reconstructions, Oral Latin, Latin Pedagogy, Latin Texts, Timelines, and Cultural Materials.

The editors’ decision not to content themselves with a static anthology has resulted in an invaluable resource. Their commitment to collaboration challenges all of us to use it and to participate in its growth. In particular, like any site that employs many links to other electronic resources, the Companion needs constant vigilance first, to ensure that those links remain active and second, to identify new sites for inclusion. Asking students to locate documents whose links are broken or to update a bibliography is an excellent way of teaching or reinforcing the skills required for information literacy. I’m already crafting an assignment for my upcoming course!

Metadata:

Title: Online Companion to The Worlds of Roman Women

Description: Supplementary materials (Guides, Syllabi, Bibliography, Texts, Commentary, Images) for the Latin reader, The Worlds of Roman Women (Ann Raia, Cecelia Luschnig and Judith Lynn Sebesta; Focus Publishing, 2005).

URL: http://www2.cnr.edu/home/sas/araia/companion.html

Name: Raia, Ann R. and J.L. Sebasta

Publisher: [none]

Place: College of New Rochelle

Collection Title: [none]

Date Created: 2006–2016

Date Accessed: November 20, 2016

Availability: Free

Rights: No statement, by the editors’ choice.

Classification: anthologies, epigraphy, images, Latin, pedagogy, reference materials, texts

(Header Image: "Portrait bust of a Roman matron," 2nd cent A.D. Athens, Agora Museum S 2437. Photo by Christopher Francese. Licensed under CC BY 2.0.) 

[1] Reinhard, Andrew. “From Slate to Tablet PC: Using New Technologies to Teach and Learn Latin and Greek,” Classical Journal Online Forum 3 Mar. 2008.

[2] Raia, Ann, Cecelia Luschnig, and Judith Lynn Sebesta. The Worlds of Roman Women: A Latin Reader. Newberryport, MA: Focus Publishing, 2005. Reviews: Stacie Raucci, Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2005.12.05; Ortwin Knorr, Digressus 2006 (pp. 1-5); Michael Lovano, NECTFL Review 60 (2007) 115-116.

[3] Teaching Classical Languages, Spring 2015.

Mary Pendergraft's picture

Mary Pendergraft is Chair of the Department of Classical Languages at Wake Forest University. She is currently chair of the American Classical League's National Committee for Latin & Greek, in addition to serving on the Development Committee for the College Board's A.P. Latin Program and several other academic boards. In 2011, she received the Merita Award from the ACL; in 2013, she was honored by CAMWS with an Ovation and Award for Excellence in College Teaching. She holds a B.A. and Ph.D. from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. pender@wfu.edu

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