Belfast Summer School
In July 2018, 35 students and seven staff gathered at Queen’s University Belfast for the third Belfast Summer School in Latin and Classical Greek. Many students came from Belfast and the surrounding areas and some travelled from as far as Enniskillen, L/Derry, County Donegal, County Clare, Birmingham, Kent, and even Massachusetts, USA.
Nineteen students signed up for Latin at Beginners, Intermediate and Advanced level. The Intermediate class reviewed grammar, while the Advanced students read Ovid’s Metamorphoses in the original language. Ten students studied Greek at Beginners level, with the remainder taking Lower Intermediate and Intermediate classes. Intermediate level provided a grammar review while the Lower Intermediate Greek class was intended for students who had completed the Beginners’ level course.
This year we also introduced translation workshops on the Saturday. The Classical Greek workshop was led by Dr Martine Cuypers (TCD), examining the beginning of Homer’s Odyssey. The Latin workshops were led by our tutors, in which students looked at a few unadapted extracts from texts including Catullus, Caesar, and the beginning lines of Virgil’s Aeneid. All of our students performed admirably with these difficult texts after only a week of study.
The range of students was as diverse as previous years. In the Beginners’ Greek class alone there were high school students, a postgraduate student about to embark on the study of Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic, and an English graduate entering his training for the ministry. Among the Latin classes, there was a GCSE student who wanted to read a Latin text as preparation for A level, a solicitor returning to her Latin roots having rediscovered the Ecce Romani books from her schooldays, and a trainee primary school teacher who hopes to inject some Classics into her lessons.
Many others said they were taking the course for fun. Each of our students has their own story and it was a joy to meet them and chat with them during the course of the week. In particular, Anita, Amber and Ava have attended the summer school for three years’ running. In 2016, Ava had just completed her GCSEs though her school did not offer any Classics subjects: she is self-taught in Latin and learned Greek from the summer school. We are extremely proud that she has been accepted to study Classics this autumn at the University of Cambridge.
The summer school prides itself on the language skills of its tutors. Each year the number of classes has increased and this year’s new appointments to the staff were Dr Laura Pfuntner (QUB, Advanced Latin) and Dr Steph Holton (Newcastle University, Intermediate Greek). Other tutors were Dr Kerry Phelan (Maynooth University/UCD, Beginners’ Greek), Helen McVeigh (Lower Intermediate Greek), Stephen McCarthy (Maynooth University, Beginners’ Latin) and Stephen Strickland (Intermediate Latin). Solomon Trimble, a student of Greek and Latin at Belfast Inst, was the summer school assistant.
Academic talks were presented by Intermediate Greek tutor Dr Steph Holton who spoke about the interpretation of dreams in ancient Greek medicine, and CANI’s Dr Peter Crawford who offered evidence in a mock trial of Gaius Julius Caesar. On both occasions, there was standing-room only for these fascinating talks, with many interesting questions offered from the floor. Many thanks to both of our speakers.
An informal dinner took place in Town Square on Botanic Avenue and was also attended by members of the CANI Board. After the concluding classes on Friday morning, certificates were presented to the students by Dr John Curran from CANI and QUB’s School of History, Anthropology, Politics and Philosophy. Dr Curran congratulated the students on completing an intense week of study, and thanked all the staff for their hard work and enthusiasm.
Student feedback this year was overwhelmingly positive, in many cases expressing a desire for a longer course, more Greek and Latin!
Other comments included:
“I would like to thank CANI for this amazing opportunity.”
“I liked the instructor’s energy and enthusiasm and want to come back next year for another class.”
“(The course) was very absorbing, thoroughly planned and a real pleasure to attend.”
We could not have had such great success without our wonderful students. We love teaching Latin and Classical Greek and clearly there is an audience for these languages.
Grateful thanks are due to Dr John Curran, Dr Peter Crawford, Dr Martine Cuypers, Queen’s University Belfast, Maynooth University and the Classical Association in Northern Ireland.
Plans are afoot for next year’s summer school so…
If you are thinking about signing up the Belfast Summer School 2018, but are just not sure if it is for you, here are a couple of videos featuring answers to the questions you might have given by those who attended last year.
If this has made your mind to snap up one of the few remaining places for 2018 (or to start planning for the inevitable 2019 school), check out the following link for more information and the official brochure.
The second Belfast Summer School took place from Monday 3rd until Friday 7th July, 2017, and offered classes in Beginners and Intermediate Latin and Classical Greek. The expansion to Latin and the great increase in attendance this year speaks to both the success of last year’s Summer School, and to the desire for ancient language courses in Northern Ireland. We extend our sincerest gratitude to the Open University in Northern Ireland for its generosity in allowing us to use its facilities for classes.
The four classes, two Latin and two Greek, ran concurrently with 12 lessons timetabled over the course of the week. Invited speakers gave presentations on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons.
On Tuesday, Stephen Strickland (Maynooth University) gave a talk on Food and Character in Suetonius, regarding the emperors Augustus, Claudius, and Caligula. One of the ways in which Suetonius characterised his subjects was through descriptions of the foods that they ate. For instance, the reserved and moderate Augustus was described as having simpler tastes in food than the likes of Claudius, or indeed Caligula who was so extravagant as to eat loaves of bread made from gold, and to drink pearls dissolved in wine. Claudius was the main focus of the talk, an emperor somewhat in between the extremes of Augustus and Caligula, and the students’ discussion afterwards centred on his character and reign.
The second presentation to the summer school took place after Thursday’s classes. Giulio Di Basilio (UCD), provided an introduction to Plato’s Ethics, explaining the dialogue format and giving an overview of the development of Plato’s ethical thought. Giulio talked about humanity’s search for happiness and how, for many philosophers, this required a life of virtue. He then focussed on Plato’s Republic to speak about justice and truth, demonstrating how ancient philosophy remains relevant to the modern world. There was an excellent turnout for both invited speakers, and healthy discussions followed each talk.
On the social side, a large number of summer school students joined members of CANI for drinks and dinner. We had an enjoyable afternoon/evening in Granny Annie’s, Chichester Street. At the close of the School on Friday, Dr John Curran, Convenor of the Classical Association in Northern Ireland, presented certificates of attendance to all participants.
The students attended the Summer School for a wide variety of reasons and for different purposes. There were a number of PhD students, two of whom were studying medieval history and wished to have some knowledge of Latin to further their research. Others were undergraduates thinking about further study in Classics. Yet others simply wanted to revisit their love of languages from school, and some were veterans of the 2016 Summer School who had returned for more! During the course of the week, Open University staff were on hand to speak to students interested in humanities courses in general or classics modules in particular.
Informal feedback has shown that many students would return next year to continue their studies at more advanced levels of Classical Greek or Latin. When planning this year’s expanded Summer School, we had hoped we would have the same success with Latin as we did last year with Classical Greek. Attendance for both languages exceeded our expectations, and both the tutors and students found it a great success.
But what did the students themselves have to say? The feedback was overwhelmingly positive with remarks such as
“I wasn’t expecting to learn so much Latin in a short space of time.”
“I loved the course!!”
“My confidence in Latin has gone way up. I’ve loved this week.”
“The teacher created a friendly and informal atmosphere from the start. His explanations were lucid and the classes were well-prepared and well-organised.”
“This course is wonderful. What a great opportunity to have something like this running in Belfast.”
Thanks are due to the Open University in Northern Ireland for their hospitality, the Classical Association in Northern Ireland for its continuing support, Dr John Curran for always being there, the tutors for their hard work above and beyond the call of duty, and to the 2017 students for being so inspirational!
The summer school staff are already looking forward to the 2018 Summer School, scheduled to run from Monday 16th to Friday 20th July. Given the extraordinary success of the summer school to date, we have bigger and better plans for 2018. Watch this space!
Helen McVeigh and Stephen McCarthy
For more videos and photos of a great Classical day in Belfast, check out our Belfast Summer School 2017 Gallery and our Facebook album below.
After the roaring success of 2016, the Belfast Summer School in Classics returns in 2017 in partnership with the Open University in Northern Ireland. The school is open to all over the age of 18 and thanks to the level of interest we will be offering courses in beginners and intermediate Latin and Classical Greek.
Classes will be small, with a maximum of 10 students and will take place at the Open University in Northern Ireland premises at 110 Victoria Street, Belfast, BT1 3GN, from Monday 3rd – Friday 7th July 2017. There will be two hours of teaching each morning, at 10-11am and 12 noon-1pm, Monday to Friday, and afternoon classes from 2.30-3.30pm on Monday and Wednesday, allowing time for independent study between sessions. On Tuesday and Thursday afternoons, guest speakers will present on Latin and Greek authors.
The Summer School is non-residential. The fee for the course is £80 and the closing date for receipt of applications is Friday 2nd June 2017. For informal queries, further information and an application form, please contact the co-ordinator, Helen McVeigh on email@example.com.