Asaf Bartov (ijon) wrote,
Asaf Bartov

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TAU Life, vol.1 issue #3

In this issue:
  • Prof. Rubin's Curriculum
  • How I was kicked out of English Reading Comprehension (Gender Studies) class
  • Prof. Perry's stand-up bible comedy
  • Greek is good for your digestion!

I have been sneaking into Professor Ze'ev Rubin's "Introduction to Roman Society, Regime, and Constitution" classes. I could get credit for that course instead of one of my Classical Studies courses which I couldn't take due to time-table collision with the Lit courses, but it's full, so I wasn't allowed to register. I'm attending the class anyhow, hoping to distinguish myself in the eyes of Prof. Rubin, to get him to authorize my registration retroactively. I must confess that I did not come up with that ruse myself -- ygurvitz, a past disciple of Rubin himself, begat the idea.

Rubin began the course with the obligatory periodization sketch (the kings, the republic, the early empire, ...), which matched my expectation. But immediately after covering that (over two lessons, including several delectable digressions), and before explaining such basic terms as "pontifex maximus" or "censor", he spent four(!) lessons (including today's lesson) problematizing the availability and reliability of historical sources on the Roman monarchy and the early republic. I find it an interesting choice for the course's exposition. In great detail, and while incidentally explaining many terms and discussing figures such as Cicero and Cato Censorius, Rubin demonstrated the highly questionable nature of sources such as inscriptiones imaginum, laudationes funebres, and the perhaps-entirely-fictitious annales maximi. I found it a refreshing surprise; I expected a more ordinary approach -- basic terms, important figures, and a slow chronological traversal of the course's material.

update: In today's class, Rubin was particularly pleased with my accurate answer about Polybius's report of an ancient monument recording a Roman compact with Carthage, and said something roughly translatable as "ach! Music to my ears!". I decided to strike the iron while it's hot, and at the end of the lesson approached him and confessed that I am a stowaway in his class, and that I would very much like to be registered in this class's roster after all. He nodded benignly, gesticulated vaguely and answered "yes, yes, go register with the department secretary; tell her I said it's okay." I am unspeakably pleased, and much relieved. Whee!

second update: Apparently, I'm not the only one who was surprised at Rubin's approach: an hour ago, a classmate approached me, introduced himself, and asked for my help in figuring out "what am I doing in Rubin's class?" I was perplexed, and he explained that he just doesn't understand what it is he's learning in that class, and why he needs it. I agreed with him about the unusual choice of opening subject matter, but defended it rather well, I think. He seemed somewhat relieved when I assured him that now that Rubin is done talking about unreliable sources, we should be moving on to the actual topic of the course (see above).

So Humanities students at TAU are required to take an additional English Reading Comprehension class, and those classes are offered on a variety of subjects (i.e. the articles you read belong to a certain discipline, presumably corresponding to your major). However, the only class that fit in my schedule was the class for "General B.A. and Gender Studies". The class has about 22 people -- four of whom are male. The teacher declared that the class is way too big, and that she would seek ways to get rid (so!) of as many people as possible. Along that line, I respectfully approached her at the end of the second week (my hubris is all booked for my Greek studies) and suggested that I might be a candidate for exemption from the course. She nodded and said that my English does seem to justify exemption, and that next week there'll be an in-class writing assignment, and that we shall see then.

Next week was last week, and we got to choose the topic for the writing assignment from a list of three topics: two bland general topics (e.g. "choose a feminist theory, explain it, and give your opinion"), and the third was to critique the one article we were asked to read previously. When she presented the topics, she explain the first two, and then said "or, if you want to be less profound, write a critique of the Ellis article". I found that puzzling -- we are expected to explain and theorize about feminist theories we haven't yet read about, and writing about the one article we have read is less profound? I posed this question to the teacher, she did not understand my question. I repeated and rephrased, and then she flew into a rage, said "there's a limit to everything!", and emphatically said we should start writing immediately. I was shocked; a week later, I still have no idea what enraged her so, nor does a classmate I asked about this. So I wrote a page-long critique of an (interesting) article entitled Where did Feminism go wrong? (from memory, title may have differed slightly), by John M. Ellis, a professor of German literature. I handed it in, the teacher motioned for me to leave the class, then followed me out of the classroom, and said "you are excused from this class." If looks could kill, I wouldn't be writing this. "Thank you," I said, and left.

I should figure out what this exemption means -- do I get a grade for this class? If so, what grade am I going to get?

Professor Menakhem Perry's Introduction to Prose class, despite its uninspiring name, is very interesting so far. The last two classes featured a long discussion of another bible story -- that of Rebecca and Abraham's slave (Eliezer), in Genesis 24. That chapter seems amazingly boring -- practically the same thing is repeated over and over and over again -- but Perry interpreted every single word of the text, and more interestingly, every omission, and delivered an intriguing, clever story. Also, he was funny as hell, and had us laughing a lot. Fun!

I'm enjoying my Greek lessons very much. Everyone agrees that it's a very difficult language; in fact, a Classical Studies graduate has gone so far as to say "Greek Language is the course that separates the men from the boys". ygurvitz, having ignominiously flunked Greek in the past, was metaphorically rubbing his hands in anticipation of my own ordeal (all in good humor, of course). The first test was given last week (and will be given every single week henceforth; I took another one today), and I got a perfect grade (100, in Israel). I must confess that after all the build-up and all my past snide remarks to ygurvitz about Greek, the perfect score pleased me more because of the thought of ygurvitz's face than because it suggests that I absorbed the first four lessons of Greek correctly. But it was an easy test, and I don't expect to maintain a perfect average, of course. But I do feel that I get Greek; its idiosyncracies (those I've learned so far, anyhow) make sense to me, I am comfortable with its somewhat intricate tonal system (i.e. vowel lengths, polytonic accents and where to place them, etc.), and I read well. That makes me very happy; I was in love with the idea of studying and knowing ancient Greek, but was afraid I might not actually get along with it once I try pursuing that idea. So I am relieved and happy to see that, so far, it agrees with me.

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