HI363 Age of Augustus
LI213 TuTh 2.10-3.30pm

Prof. Michael Arnush Starbuck 201D x8113
marnush@skidmore.edu Hrs.: TuTh 1-2


Directed discussions of readings
These presentations will be at the heart of our discussions about the topics at hand and their success will depend upon your preparation for and participation in the presentations and discussions. Your preparation (whether you are presenting the reading or participating in the discussion led by classmates) should include
  • doing the reading prior to the class discussion;
  • identifying key terms that frequently occur, and asking yourself what they mean and how they're used;
  • determining if there are different schools of thought on the topic and what the different arguments "for" and "against" are;
  • making a list of points you want to raise and the questions you want to ask before you go to the seminar.

Reading critically:

Can students really have an opinion? Many students feel that, having only done a few hours of reading on a topic, they can not argue against an author who is the "authority" on the topic. You should realize that one of the main purposes of a Classics education is to enable students to read rapidly and to evaluate critically what they read. As you grapple with a topic, consider

  • when was the piece written? does it reflect the views of its time in any way?
  • from what intellectual standpoint (Marxist, conservative, feminist, nationalist, etc.) was it written?
  • who wrote it? Where is the author located? What other scholarship has the author published?
  • what previous scholarship does the author employ? Does the author aim to support or refute previous scholarship?
  • for whom is it written - who are the audiences? Both Galinsky's study on Augustan Culture and his edited collection of essays in the Cambridge Companion series aim at a specific readership. How does that affect how you read and interpret your piece?
  • is the piece theoretical in nature? How does the author structure the essay?
  • what contribution(s), if any, does the author make to the scholarly discourse on the topic?
  • what does it omit? Does the author ignore religious, economic, intellectual, social, cultural or literary perspectives? Whose voices are ignored?

Preparing the discussion:

A directed discussion is neither a research paper nor an essay, but an opportunity to guide your classmates' consideration of issues and introduce and provoke discussion. With that in mind,

  • give your presentation a clear structure. State its theme, make the central section easy to follow (you might bullet the main points in a handout or Powerpoint presentation), and make the conclusion sharp and controversial when possible.
  • organize the discussion coherently. When you present the main points and interject into the discussion, speak clearly and slowly and to the group, not down at your notes.
  • stick to the topic. Do not give lots of detail and do not pad out your directed discussion with irrelevancies. DO NOT SUMMARIZE WHAT YOU HAVE READ. Assume that all of us have read the piece and are familiar with the factual details of the topic.
  • coordinate your plan to lead the discussion with your partners, since the readings connect to a general theme for that specific class meeting. Avoid reiterating what your partners have to say; you can, however, reinforce a point that appears in more than one reading.

REMEMBER: Your preparation for a directed discussion is neither a research paper nor an essay and so it need not be in narrative form. Its purposes are to help you guide your classmates through a discussion and to focus your thoughts for your presentation. Your direction should lead the class to further thoughts or questions worthy of our consideration; thus, it should create an opening for continuing exploration, rather than closure.

Key points to remember:

  • arrive on time, whether you are presenting or participating. Have a copy of all of the texts, a copy of your notes and a watch/clock handy.
  • listen carefully and take notes during the discussion, but you're there to participate, so keep your notes succinct during the discussion and write them out more fully after class.
  • join the discussion early on and often (commenting on a portion of the reading is a good place to begin) so that you don't feel like a spectator.
  • you don't always have to be negative or critical; you can intervene to agree with someone. You can also state your agreement with a classmate to introduce another point or question.
  • ASK QUESTIONS IF YOU DON'T UNDERSTAND SOMETHING. If you're confused, others probably are as well.
  • don't be embarrassed by silences. Short pauses will occur, particularly when an issue has been exhausted. This is a good opportunity to look at your notes and see if you have other questions or points you wish to make.