“How do you remember all those forms?” – Part II: on Plato, JaMarcus Russell and tea pots

One of my all-time favorites is Plato’s Symposium, an open-ended meditation on desire.   The lengthy chitchat at the beginning of the dialogue clearly informs you at length, albeit less directly, that the narrative you’re about to hear about the party at a popular playwright’s house is a first-degree hearsay.  Then you are plunged, in some cases against your will, in a bizarre sequence of speeches about Eros, some of them pretty funny.  Then comes Socrates’ speech, and you may think you’re done, even if you have no idea what he’s talking about.  But just as you are ready to go back to your other funs, in comes this Alcibiades, well soaked already, urges everyone to catch up, and as they do, delivers yet another speech – about Socrates.  More heavy drinking ensues, and Socrates is the only one who withstands it.

What fascinates me about this dialogue is that it gives me no definite stance on desire.  It is like when I ask my students to describe my purse – everyone around the room has something new to add.  Thus it is also with the study of Latin in Greek, and everything else. 

Pleasure, huh?  Jeff slammed me hard on this one, and Sons-of-Blanda tried to finish me.  Not so fast, guys.  I may take my time, but I do come up with nifty new discourses.

Here is one about JaMarcus Russell and his relevance to the study of Latin and Greek.  For those of you who don’t know JR, he is an incredibly talented football player with absolutely no interest in football or desire for it .  At least so it seemed while he played for the Raiders.  He is no more a Raider – Al Davis came to his senses under the beneficial influence of  the Silver and Black Pride bloggers (as I said on the “About Rali” page, I ‘m one of those chosen ones). 

JR is a perfect example of of the deleterious impact of THUMOS.  Sons-of-Blanda – take heed: thumos is not irrational.  JR’s thumos was (is still?) focused on things accidental to the game of football, paramount of which was his enormous first-round draft pick contract and the perks that came with it.  He thought he had arrived.  No need to improve on perfection.

So – jamarcussing whatever you do is not the best idea.  I mentioned in Part I of this post that I loved the serene harmony of the Greek and Latin paradigms.  In fact, I loved it so much, that at one point I started jamarcussing.  The result was loss of purpose. 

So, Jeff, I don’t need to convince my students that the study of paradigms is pleasurable.  Pretending to be a tea pot while skiing down the slopes is not pleasurable at first – as a matter of fact, it felt grotesque when I first did it under ski instruction.  But man, it was a brilliantly devised drill, as I discovered later, when the repeated self-inflicted torture resulted in sudden click in coordination.  That is what made the tea pot pleasurable.  FYI, I already ski some black runs.


6 thoughts on ““How do you remember all those forms?” – Part II: on Plato, JaMarcus Russell and tea pots

  1. Hmmm, I am struggling to think of ways to make memorizing forms fun. I think in in my case I should strive for a way to make it easy (er). The fun comes when I find that I can actually read something in Greek. So the fun already exists, hanging out there, waiting for me, tantalizingly out of reach. If the memorization were easier, then the cost/benefit ratio would decrease and fun would ensue.

    And on the subject of languages as mutable and evolving: “Jamarcussing” – nice one!

        1. Not if accompanied by good mysic and rhythm. Plus, studies suggest that most people don’t actually perceive the lyrics unless they like the music. And if they like the music, they are curious about the lyrics too. Jason and his band will start a revolutionary trend.

  2. Though I am sure you are right Rali about the music acting as an excellent mnemonic device, the thought of setting Greek paradigms to music sounds a bit daunting, especially given my limited free time!

    However, I have thought about making language “tapes” that I could listen to while I’m out and about – or at home doing the dishes. I was able to learn a decent amount of Hebrew primarily by listening to some good recordings. It doesn’t replace reading and writing the language, but it certainly augments it, especially for someone with very little time to sit down with a book and study.

    Unfortunately the only recording I have ever seen for ancient Greek is a CD of New Testament vocabulary. Nothing wrong with that, but it’s still not the paradigms. And the format is pretty dry – the dictionary forms read out, one after the other.

    I then started wondering how such a recording should best be composed. I thought perhaps that short sentences, each one designed to illustrate a single element of morphology, might work. For example, a sentence with a 1st decl. nom., then one with a gen., then a dat., etc. a lot of work to put together, but it would only have to be done once.

    Plus, once the content of the this aural learning aid has been created, setting the whole thing to music could be done for version 2. 😉

    So, I have a question: What do you think the best format would be for a recording to help one learn Greek paradigms?

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