Friday, November 02, 2018


A Noble Educational Aim

T. Robert S. Broughton, "Lily Ross Taylor," Gnomon 42.7 (November, 1970) 734-735 (at 735):
"My aim as a teacher," she used to say, "is to make my students feel that they are walking the streets of Rome, and seeing and thinking what Romans saw and thought."
Hanna Holborn Gray, An Academic Life: A Memoir (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2018), pp. 109-110:
The apex of my undergraduate education was to study Tacitus, Livy, and Lucretius with Lily Ross Taylor. Every one of my teachers was highly competent, every one of them a scholar, each one knew his or her students and wanted to help them succeed. What set Lily Ross Taylor apart was a singular and vital connection to her subject, her distinctive breadth of intellectual curiosity, and her passionate, rigorous, and effective way of communicating the essence of Roman history and literature, and of demonstrating the relationships among seemingly disparate texts, subjects, and events. Our advanced Latin classes were small (I think six was the largest) and held in her apartment. At some point tea would be served. By the end, whenever that happened (time was not kept), the floor by Miss Taylor's armchair would be strewn with books she had pulled off her shelves in order to read out some favorite passage or answer some question or make some new observation that had just occurred to her. She taught us to read, which is to hear, Latin poetry as it should be read and heard, and had us memorize and recite quite a bit of Lucretius; those lines are still etched in my memory.

Miss Taylor's standards were formidable. Proud of a paper I had written, I looked eagerly for her comments and found only this: "I have checked all your footnotes and found them accurate." Crushed, I consulted another professor about what this indicated and was told it was actually a compliment. Some years later my husband and I had the great experience of visiting Miss Taylor when she served as director of the American Academy in Rome, and spending an entire day with her at the Forum—the most extraordinary passage into the ancient past one could imagine.
Thanks to Michael Johnson and Kevin Muse for drawing my attention to the passage from Gray's memoir.

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