On the evening of Friday November 13th, Fordham University kicked off its first annual Biduum Latinum Fordhamense, otherwise known as “Latin Bootcamp,” co-sponsored by the Classics department, the Center for Medieval Studies, GSAS Futures and the Fordham Graduate Students Association. Professor Matthew McGowan delivered the opening lecture, which emphasized how a knowledge of the Latin language provides special access to the nuances and layers of meaning in a range of texts from the classical, medieval, and renaissance eras.
The crowd didn’t seem to need much convincing on that account–the event drew a large, enthusiastic, and truly interdisciplinary audience. With students and faculty from the philosophy, history, theology, and classics departments, as well as the Center for Medieval Studies in attendance, the premiere of Fordham’s first Latin Bootcamp brought together members of the entire community, both within and outside of Fordham University. Several tri-state area secondary school teachers came for a lesson in pedagogy, as well as many instructors and alumni of the Paideia Institute. One area teacher even brought two of his own young students–his high school-aged children, who were accomplished in both Greek and Latin.
The following Saturday participants translated selections from Seneca, Hugh of St. Victor, and Petrus Paulus Vergerius, giving special attention to each author’s treatment of the Liberal Arts and use of the Latin language to describe the nature of their role in personal edification. The teachers–including Professor McGowen, Charley McNamara (a PhD candidate at Columbia University), and Jim Hunt (PhD Classics, Fordham ’10)–made sure every single student got the chance to sight read a bit of Latin, and all emerged from the translation sessions surprised by their collective ability to master Latin literature of three distinct cultural periods.
Professor McGowan gave an impromptu tour of the Fordham Museum of Greek, Etruscan, and Roman art at Walsh library before our group headed to Spellman Hall for Latin Mass lead by Father Christopher M. Cullen, one of the Jesuit priests residing in Fordham’s Jesuit community. After a beautiful service featuring readings from several of our participants, the group finished the day with a medieval banquet, complete with a few merry rounds of “Gaudeamus Igitur.”
The convivial atmosphere and collaboration between Fordham students, faculty, and guests was inspiring and fostered a productive scholarly discussion about Latin and the Liberal Arts through time and across disciplines.
By Alexa Amore