Latin 520: Caesar's Gallic Wars
Winter Quarter 2021 -- MW 3:30-5:20 (via Zoom) -- taught online
Professor A. M. Gowing
Office: Denny M262C
Phone: 543-2266 (Dept. of Classics)
Please note that this graduate seminar requires an advanced reading knowledge of Latin.
For many decades, if not centuries, Caesar’s Bellum Gallicum was a central text in the canon of Latin writers, the product of an author whose style was considered the gold standard of Latin prose and thus the best writer with whom to begin one’s foray into the language. The subject of the Bellum Gallicum, on the other hand, has generally taken a backseat to his prose, favored mostly by hardcore Roman historians and occasionally by those interested in the cultural and social history of Roman Gaul. Some recent work on Caesar has sought to rescue him from the dustbin of irrelevance – most significantly and recently, 2017’s Cambridge Companion to the Writings of Julius Caesar -- but for the most part he has become a largely neglected author, read, if read at all, in AP Latin classes or at the college level in beginning to intermediate Latin classes and rarely after that.
In this graduate seminar we will revisit Caesar’s Bellum Gallicum, reading select portions of Books 1-7 in Latin and the remainder in English. We will pursue two overarching goals: to acquire some appreciation for why Caesar was such a popular author and the nature of the scholarly tradition(s) that has evolved around this text; and, somewhat more provocatively, to consider this question: should we bother to read Caesar anymore? If yes, what might be some fruitful avenues for future scholarship on Caesar? If no, why not?
In addition to reading the text (selections in Latin and the remainder in English) each week, we will read representative samples of the secondary scholarship on Caesar. Participants will be required to write a seminar paper (10-15 pages) on some aspect of the BG; preliminary thoughts on the paper will be presented to the seminar via short oral presentations. There will be brief translation assignments. Class time will be split between translating portions of the assigned text and discussion.
NB: Although I realize you could use other resources for both the Latin text of Caesar and translations, I choose these two for specific reasons, so please make every effort to acquire them in one form or another!