Garnjobst’s Greek trip inspires makeover for classes

Garnjobst’s Greek trip inspires makeover for classes

Earlier this August, deep in a beautiful, remote resort on the Peloponnese, Professor of Classics Joseph Garnjobst spent his days diving into the discussion of Greek literature and enjoying scholarly conversation with peers in an intensive course.

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Meg Prom '16 and Professor of Classics Joseph Garnjobst enjoy the streets of Greece. Meg Prom | Courtesy
Meg Prom ’16 and Pro­fessor of Classics Joseph Gar­njobst enjoy the streets of Greece. Meg Prom | Courtesy

Earlier this August, deep in a beau­tiful, remote resort on the Pelo­ponnese, Pro­fessor of Classics Joseph Gar­njobst spent his days diving into the dis­cussion of Greek lit­er­ature and enjoying scholarly con­ver­sation with peers in an intensive course.

Despite the obvious attraction that any clas­si­cally edu­cated student would feel towards such a course, there came one twist that made this class elite: every­thing was read and dis­cussed in ancient Greek.

Fol­lowing his return from this once-in-a-lifetime expe­rience, Gar­njobst plans to ini­tiate new prac­tices into his Intro­duction to Greek course this fall.

Gar­njobst spent these two weeks as a part of the Living Greek in Greece intensive course offered by the Paideia Institute. The range of Greek expe­rience among the 15 stu­dents ranged from under­grad­uates with one year of college Greek to pro­fessors with decades of expe­rience, like Gar­njobst.

A typical day included a morning class with readings from various writers: Plato, Longus, Aris­totle, Euripides, Her­a­clitus, and John the Evan­gelist. Afternoon classes worked with “The Odyssey,” pri­marily focusing on books six and eight, where Odysseus encounters Nau­sicaa and then is wel­comed by the Phaea­cians. Fol­lowing the last class, all the stu­dents came together to discuss the day’s work at Greek table.

“We would never translate into English, but we would para­phrase, sum­marize, and discuss all in Greek,” Gar­njobst said.

The long days speaking Greek with peers were not without inde­pendent work. Stu­dents were expected to keep up with class assign­ments derived from the ancient Pro­gym­nasmata, a series of rhetorical exer­cises for stu­dents.

“We had to write and perform speeches in ekphrasis: description; enkomion: in praise of someone; and ethopoeia: char­ac­ter­i­zation,” Gar­njobst said.

Preparing for the fall semester, Gar­njobst gave himself his own per­sonal assignment: a new approach to his Intro­duction to Greek class. After playing with dif­ferent ideas, he decided to add a spoken Greek com­ponent to his intro­ductory course, some­thing never done in his pre­vious classes.

“I want to have the stu­dents hear the lan­guage every day, speak the lan­guage every day, read the lan­guage every day, and write the lan­guage every day,” Gar­njobst said. “Ideally, I want to add cul­tural com­ponent in addition to that.”

He decided to do this by writing the Greek equiv­alent of a Latin book.

“I am working on a book of my own, essen­tially a Greek version of the ‘Lingua Latina’ book used in a pre­vious Latin class of mine at Hillsdale,” he said.

“Lingua Latina” is a book written in Latin that intro­duces new vocab­ulary while rein­forcing themes about Latin culture as well as common themes such as geog­raphy and family.

While there is an appeal to speaking a dead lan­guage, some Greek stu­dents question its ini­ti­ation into the classroom.

Joshua Shaw ’17, a classics major who has taken Greek for the past two and a half years, said the spoken com­ponent of a lan­guage brings with it an addi­tional workload.

“Speaking a lan­guage adds another dynamic to a lan­guage,” Shaw said. “It takes a lot of time and work, which makes you ask, for as much work as it is, is it really worth the amount of work? Espe­cially if the goal of learning Greek is to access the books of the Western tra­dition, reading Homer and Sophocles doesn’t require that you can speak the lan­guage.”

According to Gar­njobst, these addi­tional com­po­nents will enrich his stu­dents’ overall expe­rience.

“Even for my first year Greek stu­dents, I want them to have one page of Greek to read each night,” Gar­njobst said. “If I can do this, by the end of the semester they will have read a couple hundred pages of Greek. Get them that much Greek, rein­force vocab­ulary, and add a cul­tural com­ponent and you’ve got a real game changer.”

Meg Prom ’16, a former student of Garnjobst’s Latin courses, spent her summer interning for the Paideia Institute. After being sent to the Greek program that Gar­njobst was attending, the two started meeting.

“Once a day, we would meet for civ­i­lization hour,” Prom said. “I had been talking to Gar­njobst earlier and I men­tioned to him that I wanted to learn Greek, and that I kinda wanted to learn ancient Greek and modern Greek at the same time. He needed a person like me to test his ideas. We began to try it out. Each day we would meet for an hour and a half and I would read para­graphs in Greek. It was amazing.”

Prom started from reading 300 words a day and built up to reading sec­tions of Homer’s “Iliad.” She said Garnjobst’s pro­posed book and new teaching method will change the process of learning Greek for many and could perhaps even spread to other schools throughout the nation.

Speaking ancient Greek cer­tainly will add a new dynamic to classroom learning. Garnjobst’s book will aid in the well rounded pursuit of knowledge for his stu­dents, res­ur­recting ancient Greece in a new way for Hillsdale’s stu­dents.

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Josephine von Dohlen
Josephine von Dohlen is a senior from Minneapolis, Minnesota who appreciates the communicative power of journalism and the community that it fosters. A graduate of the National Journalism Center in Washington, D.C., she has previously interned with Catholic News Service and the Santa Barbara News-Press. At Hillsdale, she is a member of the Dow Journalism Program and majors in American Studies. Email: jvondohlen@hillsdale.edu