Posts Tagged ‘summer school’

Linear B at the Summer School in Homer, UCL 22-26 July: Day 0

July 21, 2019


I thought I would keep a diary of doing Linear B at the Summer School in Homer to give people an idea of what it is like.



 What do they mean, registration from nine to ten?  I haven’t got a train up to Town in the morning rush for more than a year now.  Doubtless I will have to stand, and Bloomsbury is in the wrong bloody place anyway.   And what’s this talk about ‘Disability’–the ancients certainly didn’t go in for that kind of polite language.

Three-and-a-half hours less five minutes of classes.  I suppose I will survive.  But I don’t imagine there’s going to be anything interesting on at the Renoir if it does become too much.



But then I have to admit that the Day 1 programme looks very interesting, and I would regret missing it.  The main cause for optimism is surely that all of the participants will be at the same level of not knowing anything about Linears B or A.

Translate at City: 26-30 June 2017

April 9, 2017

Robert Chandler (Russian) writes:

This is a truly excellent summer school. I greatly admire ALL the other tutors, and the general atmosphere is always enthusiastic, intelligent and constructive. We are later than usual this year in advertising it, so I will be very grateful if you can forward the information to anyone who might be interested. This year we are running courses in translating from 11 different languages.
See details here.

Leiden Summer School 2011

March 3, 2011

We have received the email below about this year’s Leiden Summer School in Languages and Linguistics.  It looks rather tempting–as well as Russian Literature you can do (for instance) Lithuanian and Church Slavonic. Those who are interested can see my reminiscences of 2007 here.

Dear Sir/Madam,

We are happy to announce the sixth edition of the Leiden Summer School in Languages and Linguistics which will be held from 18 July – 29 July 2011 at the Faculty of Humanities of Leiden University.

The Summer School offers a number of courses on a wide range of subjects in the field of languages and linguistics.

This year, the Summer School will consist of six programmes, including courses for beginners as well as for advanced students, taught by internationally renowned specialists:

Germanic Programme
Indo-European Programme
Indological Programme
Iranian Programme
Semitic Programme
Russian Programme

For more information and registration, visit:

Yours sincerely,
Alexander Lubotsky (director)
Tina Janssen (organizer)

Comparative Indo-European Linguistics
Leiden University
PO Box 9515
NL-2300 RA Leiden
The Netherlands

Studying Indo-European, Historical Linguistics, Sanskrit, Russian Literature (etc)

September 12, 2009

Now we’re reaching the heights of unreality of course–like a city with poems in foreign languages painted on the walls of the houses.


So for the past four years there has been a Summer School in Languages and Linguistics in Leiden. While the focus of this varies from year to year, there are usually courses on Indo-European, Sanskrit and Russian Literature (among many others). I went in 2007 and it was very interesting–I did courses in Indo-European Phonology and Morphology, Indo-European Origins, and Russian Literature.

It was basically aimed at first-year graduate students (the director, Sasha Lubotsky, told me it was meant to compensate for the decline in Indo-European studies in Germany and the effects of the Bologna protocol), but there were some…older…people doing Russian and Sanskrit mainly as I recall.  And there’s a 1-year MA in Comparative Indo-European Linguistics if you’re really keen, while you can find a site dedicated to Leiden poems-on-walls here.

OK, so let’s have some more detail in an attempt to be helpful.

There were four timeslots of 90 minutes each, each one corresponding to one course, with time in between for coffee/tea and lunch, so the day lasted from 0930 to 1730, and there were quite a few lectures/activities in the evenings.  I did three courses, as I’ve  said above and as I thought was advised, but lots of people did four.

Sunday 29 July

I arrive at Leiden station and go to the Leiden University Visitors’ Centre.  Alwin isn’t there, but when I go back 15 minutes later he is.   I get a key to Hugo de Grootstraat 32 and set off to walk.  When I get there, I can’t see any card-operated lock.  After a long period of desperation, I realise that the main door isn’t locked, so I manage to get to what is a very large underground studio by waving the card.  I start to fill out the inventory, somewhat confused by the dual functionality of many things (the locker for instance doubles as the headboard of the bed–that’s how you make space in a country like Holland).

In the evening, I set off for the reception; I manage to find ‘de Groote Beer’ but not the reception!  I find a useful supermarket by the station as well.

Monday 30 July

After we have managed to get into the building and Alwin has scolded defaulters from the reception, we have Jim Mallory on Indo-European Origins (once someone has got the computer to work) and jolly interesting it is too.  There must be 50 or so people for this one!

In the afternoon, it’s PIE Morphology and Phonology with 25 or people and then ‘Stalin Terror in Russian Poetry’, where everyone else seems to be Dutch speakers, and they do break into Dutch from time to time.

Tuesday  31 July

Jim Mallory announces he is breaking us up into teams, and a not very numerous ‘Team England’ is formed.  At coffee, we worry about our PIE homework from yesterday.  Prof Lubotsky goes through the exercises in the afternoon and when in the discussion of Akhmatova I say there is a star in Revelations Mrs Lubotsky says that I should have more to say for myself.  The non-Dutch presence doubles with the arrival of Jeremy.

Wednesday 01 August

Jim Mallory says the presenters from the different teams have more-or-less covered the necessary points between them.  Yesterday’s PIE homework turns out to be as easy as it seemed.  We finish going through Реквием and read the end of it in unison.  We start Поэма без героя and I disagree with Mrs Lubotsky about Greek tragedy.  Discussion ensues.

At dinner, people complain about the repeated testing in US graduate schools.  Beth says it sounds like the kind of life for her.

Thursday 02 August

I point out that Jim Mallory can’t really do a chi-square test with expected frequencies < 5 and he says he has 672 cells and no significance anywhere.

Interesting PIE in the afternoon–we get on to de Saussure and his coefficients sonantiques.  Mrs Lubotsky tells me they are going to consult the Professor of Greek on Sophocles’s views on the individual and society.

Friday 03 August

Jim Mallory tells us about time depth.  Prof Lubotsky surprises me with a question about glottalisation in London.  Mrs Lubotsky plays us recordings of Aleksandr Galich

A very interesting lecture on ‘BMAC and its language from Prof Lubotsky in the evening.

Saturday 04 August

I wander round Leiden and buy a couple of books.

Sunday  05 August

Cleaning, tidying, homework…

Monday 06 August

Prof Mallory displays some worryingly unstructured data.  I turn out to have got 4/20 in my PIE homework.  Russian poetry is quite fun, apart from Jeremy having disappeared.

Lecture on ‘Coping with words, ideas and things’ in the evening–is he talking about natural kinds or something else?

Tuesday 07 August

Prof Mallory gets us to discuss how to change the language of Ireland from English to Japanese, adding that he knows how poor the response can be on the basis of his students in Belfast.

More unsuccess with PIE Homework.  And then pretty interesting Mandel’shtam (Jeremy has reappeared).

Lecture on ‘Ancient Egyptian Pyramid Texts’ in the evening.

Wednesday 08 August

The Italian girls put forward the Roman Empire as a model for IE language dispersal ‘after a night of sleepless scientific work’ and in the alternative suggest that the Proto-Indo-Europeans were just better looking.  The American lad sitting next to me puts forward the warrior band/priestly caste model, after which Nina for the Slavs agrees and also wants to say something about the position of women.

I have a headache during Professor Lubotsky’s lecture, while in Russian I offer a talk <<По просьбе учащихся–о греческой трагедии>>.  Jeremy and I go to look at a sofa he is buying.

Thursday 09 August

Sessions pass.  Frans tells me we are going to buy Mrs Lubotsky a book of Flemish poetry and I cough up 4 euros.  Jim Mallory gives a jolly good talk in the evening.

Friday 10 August

Jim Mallory springs a surprise at the end of his lecture, claiming a recent date for European languages apart from Greek and wanting to know what the linguists think–they don’t, or not openly.

I can’t find any overview of Greek drama in the library, so write down my own ideas in Russian.

Prof Lubotsky entertains us with a reconstruction of shin-bone in PIE and its dissimilation from shank.  He gives us each a copy of his inaugural lecture (in Dutch).

I give my talk on Greek tragedy in Russian, saying it was not Greek and not tragic, and people appear interested.  We pretend to sing along to Gorodnitsky and Galich.  Lena gives us a DVD of Love’s Prayer in Dutch.  We give her a book of Willem de Korning and a photo album.

At dinner we talk about favourite Greek authors and which Russian leader spoke the worst Russian.

Saturday 11 August

The normal anticlimax of going home is a bit painful!

Greek Summer Schools I Have Been To

August 27, 2009

Here are my impressions of the Ancient Greek Summer Schools I have been to over the past 9 years and in four different places:  Lampeter, London, Durham and Edinburgh.  My memories of the more recent ones will be obviously be sharper.   The purpose is to give people who are interested some idea of what they are like, though it might be a little impertinent of me to call what follows a review.

In all of the groups reported on below, the basic procedure was that the students would take turns to read alound and comment on a piece of the text and then the teacher would…help.  Given the time constraints, the groups covered a certain portion of the texts mentioned, rather than the whole of them.

I believe that all of these summer schools will be running in 2010, and (irrelevant as it is to me) including Latin courses as well.  Update 03 May 2010: I’ve now located the following on the Edinburgh Classics Department sitePLEASE NOTE THAT NO SUMMER SCHOOLS WILL RUN IN 2010.

Lampeter 29 July to 9 August 2001


Old picture of Lampeter


I was doing Advanced Greek here and (from my records) we did two sessions a day of Works and Days in the first week and two sessions a day of Plutarch’s Life of Antony in the second week, together with one session a day of Pindar over the two weeks. There was also a prose composition class (something like one session per day?) that I went to.

The pupils in the literature classes comprised in the first week 5 retirees, a postgrad student (who I had in fact already encountered serving in Tlon Books down the Elephant) and me; or 2 Italians, a Japanese, a Portuguese and 3 Brits; or 2 people called Antonio and five who weren’t.

Before the first session on the first day I felt like running away and hiding (but then everybody does);  after that it was basically fine.

The tutor (another Japanese by origin) was very keen about Works and Days, and so was one of the Antonios, so this general level of interest spread to the rest of the class. But at one stage preparing Hesiod did feel like being crushed under 17 miles of plutonium.

We had somebody else to teach Pindar, and he chose people at random to read/translate, which led to a closer engagement with the text (also Pindar was and is a great deal more interesting).

In prose composition, we had the two Italians from the Hesiod class, a further retiree who was ‘really’ doing Latin [and didn’t approve of this literature nonsense when you could be doing grammar] and a young woman from an elementary class [who said she was just fired by curiosity and eagerness]. I think we may have had one prose per day to do and I actually did them (strange person), which took a lot of time and effort.

And there was somewhat of a change of personnel for the second week’s Plutarch, but we had about the same number and age range of students.

There was an examination you could do at the end (and I did), and a couple of excursions–I didn’t go to New Quay and did go to Laugharne, which was jolly nice.

I think that the best thing about this school was being in the middle of Wales, where I’d never been before, in the God-haunted landscape of hills, sheep and streams and the signs in a foreign language.

The worst thing was probably the eating arrangements, which may have been peculiar to this particular year. There was no place for all the participants to eat together–since on such exercises the clientele tend to be either A-Level/first year undergraduate students or retirees, these two groups do need some encouragement to mingle with each other!  And that’s surely the point of a summer school–ἡ δ’ ὁμιλία πάντων βροτοῖσι γίγνεται διδάσκαλος (being together is the teacher of everything for mortals–a remark of Menelaus in Euripides’s Andromache).

London 8 July to 16 July 2003


We were in the Institute of Archaeology


So the normal initial panic came when I was standing in a hall in UCL surrounded by crowds of people, many of them young.  Then a young  Modern Greek blonde woman came up and took a few of us away to do Advanced Greek–there were 7 of us in the end:  3 retirees, 3(!) people of working age, and one A-Level-ist.

The instructor had prepared some passages touching on Alcibiades from Plato and Thucydides with the idea that the students could compare and contrast, but this was really a bit beyond what the group felt able to do.  What was good was that she used overheads to show how complicated bits of syntax fitted together and also handed out extracts from Modern Greek textbooks on Ancient Greek with comforting diagrams and explanations.  She was very proficient (especially for someone not really a teacher) at dealing with the different levels of the class members and it was interesting that at the end we got to read the hypothesis of a (lost) play by Cratinus she was writing her thesis on.

So the good things about this were the syntactical explanation and the chance at the end to see some live classical research in action.  And all the groups were herded into one room to have tea and coffee which meant we had got to talk to other people (and had for instance an interesting conversation with a young woman who wished to study Latin at university rather than science as her family required).  I think the main problem was just being in London–I ended up trying to get some electrical work done and trying to retrieve some undelivered parcels and also going to a Russian class one evening after a day’s Greek…

Durham 22 July to 28 July 2007


St John's College--formerly some houses I guess

So this time I didn’t really feel any panic at all.  We had a class of 12(!) that first of all did a book of the Iliad I’d said on my application form I wanted to avoid because I’d done it recently and then Andromache.  Mostly it was retirees.

We had three sessions a day, and the group was probably just too large!  In the Iliad, the teacher kept people awake by asking random questions about grammar, but in the Andromache the (different) instructor even dispensed with reading aloud, and there was rather a lot of chat about what people thought the play ought to be about, rather than the text itself.

In the evenings we had lectures on classical subjects where attendance was…expected.  Even though many of the participants in the Summer School as a whole were ‘real’ students, they didn’t display an acceptable level of resistance to this idea (but we were housed in a theological college, which may explain it).  And we had an excursion to various sites on Hadrian’s Wall.

As for good points, we were very well fed and all in one dining hall, so mixing was promoted!  And we had among us a group mother, who exerted herself to make sure everyone was happy and getting along with each other.   I also enjoyed seeing some real scenery from the coach on the Hadrian’s Wall trip.

But the bad point is that I got seriously bored with the content of the teaching sessions…

Edinburgh 20 July to 26 July 2009


David Hume Tower

Well, this was different!  For a start, I was doing Intermediate/Advanced NT Greek.  Then the process of getting enrolled was interesting in itself–for months and months and months the Summer School website just sat there promising details for 2009, so I finally fired off an email and then for weeks and weeks nothing happened.  Then I suddenly got an email a few days before the start to say I could come if I wanted…

So I did, and the Summer School turned out to encompass 20 or so people in all.  There were three of us doing NT Greek and we proved to be at extremely disparate levels.  The instructor reacted to this with angelic patience and by doing an extra 7 hours of individual tuition on top of his scheduled 23.5 hours.  And I was most impressed–not only did he know and explain an awful lot about the ancient world at the time of Christ, he also interested me in grammatical explanations of things that I knew perfectly well by relating them to general structures and Indo-European origins.

In our organised time off, we had a trip to a surgical museum (since one of the girls from the Classics Dept was working there) and an hour or so of palaeography–a brief explanation of the manuscript tradition combined with trying to read some fairly old MSS.  And at the end there was an evening in a Turkish cafe given over to rembetika songs for the occasion.

And I liked it a lot–the rackety atmosphere was probably due mostly to do with uncertainty about whether the thing was going to go ahead this year, but I enjoyed it anyway–if something’s worth doing, people will try to prevent it.  And the idea of getting students to actually do things in terms of for instance very elementary palaeography (get them to try and read ancient MSS and see how difficult it is).  Similarly, I think it has to be right not to present Ancient Greek as a thing on its own but accompanied by and in the context of Koine, Byzantine and Modern Greek.  Otherwise you’re left with something like a story about invaders from outer space.

I’ve now posted some more on possibilities for studying NT Greek in particular here.

What I conclude from having written this posting

It’s probably time I desisted from these summer schools!  Of the 22 or so fellow-students alluded to above, maybe one knew as much Greek as me (or more).  So it’s not clear that I’m going to learn anything new–I think I got away with Edinburgh because of the particular circumstances.

As for teaching Ancient Greek and how it should be done I have come to some conclusions that aren’t necessarily what I started off with.  I think that the instructor needs to hit the students over the head with grammar quite regularly, even if they say they know it.  The way to make this interesting is to relate to to general structures and historical principles–for instance, the fact you have φέρω, οἴσω and ἤνεγκον isn’t a random act of motiveless malignity, it’s because the ancient Indo-Europeans had a system of suppletive stems.  One stem for each of their three tenses, so you can never have more than three stems for one verb unless different verbs got roped together in post-IE times (but I can’t think of any examples of this!)

I do think you need a text that can be finished in the time available, otherwise people feel disoriented by a collection of fragments…So that would be either poetry or a particular philosophical argument say. Or maybe someone like Herodotus who’s fairly episodic by nature.

I wonder what exactly people are doing sitting in a classroom reading and translating the text of a play that was originally delivered orally?  That’s what Byzantine schoolboys did under the spur of lavish punishment, but otherwise it’s a bit strange.  Should a Greek play be a text anyway?–Did the dramatist actually ever write it down and hand round parts or did he personally rehearse the actors and chorus and leave them to make notes if they wanted?

But anyway…I think it’s a very good idea if students get to do something in terms of ‘acting’ scenes from a play or extremely elementary palaeography or epigraphy–an inscription cut into a monument is a raw historical fact in a way that a carefully accented, punctuated, capitalised, word-divided modern text of an ancient historian isn’t.  And it’s surely possible to play at textual criticism on the basis of early texts of Shakespeare (or even of the NT) if ‘real’ ancient authors are too difficult.