Ἑρρίκος τοῖς φίλοις ἀναγιγνώσκουσιν εὖ πράττειν.
Quillen School began as a sort of dream that one could be dedicated to learning for its own sake without starving or losing the respect of oneself and those whose judgments are most worth regarding. I owe it to the support of my wife, Katie, that this dream has taken life, and to the students and supporters who have helped me to build Quillen School into something viable. Seeing that no end-of-year reflection could be satisfactory that didn’t express my deepest gratitude to these three groups, I do so now, in the order listed, along with a sincere hope for your continued faith and support in the future. Thank you; without your support, Quillen School could not exist.
It seems most appropriate that those who have supported the Quillen School from her infancy should know how she has progressed, as should those who may join them in the future. This end-of-year reflection, then, inaugurates a series of regular updates, conceived in gratitude, on the work and progress of the Quillen School.
The early priorities of the Quillen School have been three, discussed in the order of their priority: infrastructural development, intellectual development, and project development.
The Quillen School being an online project, the need to prioritize the development of a basic online existence was undeniably obvious. I needed a functional website with both an integrated learning management system and the ability to process payments. I also knew that, if I were to be able to tolerate a website myself, it would need to be low-maintenance. Even more, I knew that I would need at least some of the aesthetic trimmings of more sophisticated websites in order to catch viewers’ interest. Most of all, I wasn’t willing to bring Quillen School deeply into the red in order to get this done by professionals, so I needed to do it all myself.
I’ve spent much time since July learning and using the basics of web design, graphic design, photography, and videography. Much of the functionality of the website still isn’t available to the general public, but can be learned about here. Having built the website to the point that it could support private tutoring and project development, I decided to postpone its completion until experience better elucidated the direction it would need to take. The website will be accessible in more complete form sometime in 2023.
The Quillen School was founded in rebellion against the idea, common in American schools, that one can teach what one doesn’t know. To prioritize becoming one of the very best in the world at reading, writing, speaking, and listening to Ancient Greek was therefore imperative. And, while I believe I’ve made serious progress towards this, I’ve discovered that the bar hasn’t been set particularly high – many “experts” in Ancient Greek don’t really seem to have much command of it – and that the difference in ability within the top ten percentile is rather great. My standard for mastery, I’ve therefore found, needs to be not to become just among the best, but among the best of the best, and by means of reaching for maximum attainable proficiency without regard for proficiency relative to others.
I’ve spent much of 2022 reading, writing, speaking, and listening to Ancient Greek as well as taking classes from others. The Greek readings that I can recall at-hand include (* Text that I taught; ^ Text that I studied in a class):
Primary Texts Whole:
- Aristotle, Poetics
- Gorgias, Encomium of Helen
- Gregory of Nyssa, Ad Simplicium, De Fide (x2)*
- Homer, Iliad I (x2)
- John, Gospel of John (x2)
- Lysias, On the Murder of Eratosthenes (x3)*
- Mark, Gospel of Mark
- Plato, Apology of Socrates
- Plato, Euthyphro (5+)
- Plato, Hipparchus or Lover of Gain (5+)
- Plato, Ion (5+)
- Plato, Symposium
- Plutarch, Life of Demosthenes (x3) ^
- Plutarch, Life of Cicero
- Xenophon, Anabasis 1
Primary Text, Large Selections:
- Aesop’s Fables
- Apollodorus’ Library ^*
- Cassius Dio, Historiae Romanae *
- Gregory of Nyssa, De Opificio Hominis *
- Herodotus, Histories *
- Isocrates, Panegyricus *
- Marcus Aurelius *
- Pausanias, Description of Greece ^
- Philo, De Josepho *
- Plato Gorgias
- Plato, Phaedo
- Plato’s Republic
- Plutarch, Life of Agesilaus ^
- Polyaenus, Strategemata *
- Sextus Empiricus, Adversus Mathematicos *
- Thucydides *
- Xenophon, Agesilaus ^
- Xenophon, Anabasis *
- Xenophon, Education of Cyrus
- Xenophon, Hellenica
- Xenophon, Memorabilia ^
- Athenaze, vol. 1 (5+) *
- Athenaze, vol. 2
- Athenaze, vol. 1 Italian *
- Reading Greek *
For a sample of some of my composition exercises, see here. I also set about a half-dozen of Aesop’s fables into dactylic hexameter, but I’ve only been able to find one.
My primary project of 2022, to develop a completely asynchronous course on Plato’s Hipparchus, taught entirely in Ancient Greek, focused on philosophy rather than language, has proven far more time-consuming than I expected. Writing in Greek can certainly be difficult, but by far the biggest obstacle has been making sense of the Hipparchus, which quickly proved far more difficult than expected as I began to put my thoughts onto the page. The project, which I thought would take a few months to complete, now seems likely to require the greater part of a year. It has, at least, proven to be philosophically and intellectually worthwhile; I’d liken it to writing a second M.A. thesis, except of course in Greek.
I’ve also spent considerable time experimenting with using videos to introduce Athenaze students to vocabulary before they read each chapter, reducing dependence on the provided glosses and making the experience both more visual and more driven by comprehensible input. These were well-received in my very preliminary, very informal market surveys, but I haven’t given much attention to them since early fall. Feel free to email me to learn more about them.
In more recent months I’ve also been developing my own pronunciation scheme for Ancient Greek, which I’m tentatively calling “Late Attic / Early Aristocratic Alexandrian.” While this project really deserves a much longer explanation, for now, suffice it to say that I found myself agreeing with the historically grounded arguments made by Luke Ranieri for his catch-all Lucian pronunciation, but also realizing that (1) while I don’t struggle to produce the aspirates of an Attic pronunciation, I struggle with many of the phonemes in Lucian, (2) the average date of composition for works that most interest me is closer to the “Attic Golden Age” than it is to the late Roman Empire, and (3) I feel more indebted to the Alexandrians than to the Romans for the endurance of the Greek classics. So, I’m making my own system. More information to come soon.
Lastly, I’ve been experimenting with a free course to help self-learners get started with Athenaze more easily. I have in mind something like Ranieri’s Ancient Greek in Action, but more narrowly focused on easing students into the first few chapters of Athenaze.
Only time will tell how many of these projects will actually see the light of day, but they’ve all been rewarding in their own ways.
Thanks again for your support; I’m looking forward to writing another update again soon.
Special thanks also to my wife Katie, Father John Perdue, Phil Solorzano, Alan Dalke, Zoltan Tomko, and Seumas Macdonald.