Pompeiian wall painting, 1st c. CE
Cave canem!

CL311 Petronius' Satyricon: Discussions
TuTh 11.10-12.30

Prof. Michael Arnush Ladd 209 x5462
marnush@skidmore.edu Office hours: M 11.15-12.10 Th 1-2
Classics Department
Skidmore College

Each student will lead two 20-minute class discussions of topics and themes related to the Satyricon. You will research your topic and must locate, read and incorporate three pieces of scholarship (more on this below), one of which you will share with the rest of us at the class meeting prior to your presentation. Schedule:

Date Topic Discussion Leader Respondent
1.25 Discussion: Author of the Satyricon M. Arnush --none--
2.3 Neronian-age history* Tom Laura
2.8 Neronian-age literature/Roman novel* Sarah Amanda
Slaves, freedmen and freedwomen*
Evan Tom
2.22 Roman cuisine and dining* Amanda Sarah
3.1 Roman sexuality* Laura Evan
3.22 Pompeii/Herculaneum: 'cities' of the Satyricon Laura  

Oplontis: a 'typical' Imperial villa

4.5 Gladiators and chariots: entertainment Amanda  
Funerary monuments
Post-classical reception of the Satyricon
*For the first five presentations, the discussion leader will hand in a 3-page paper that summarizes the main points and includes a "Works Cited" page; one other member of the class will hand in a 1-2 page paper on the subsequent Thursday that responds to the selected reading and the in-class discussion. After the midterm and Spring Break, while you will still lead one of the five remaining discussions, your writing will focus on the final project, a research paper of your own design (see Research for further details).
These student-led discussions of topics explored in scholarly articles and book chapters will be at the heart of our investigation into the text and related issues, and their success will depend upon your preparation for and participation in the presentations and discussions. Your preparation (whether you are leading or participating in the discussion) 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 are 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 class.
Begin your research with the tools you have readily at hand: Courtney's A Companion to Petronius; books on reserve in the Library and articles in the Classics Department (see the Readings page for these); your own research, utilizing L'annee philologique, JSTOR, WorldCat, and other databases.
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, ask yourself some of the following:

  • 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?
  • what does it omit? Does the author ignore religioius, economic, intellectual, social, cultural or literary perspectives? Whose voices are ignored?
Preparing the Discussion
As you prepare to lead a class discussion, keep the following points in mind:
  • break the discussion into two segments: a presentation by you which lays out the main points you want to make, and a discussion that involves all of the class which you moderate. Give your presentation a clear structure. State its theme, make the central section easy to follow (on a handout, you might bullet the main points), make the conclusion sharp and controversial when possible.
  • produce any handouts, particularly a "guide" to the presentation and/or discussion, in a word processor. Feel free to organize it formally - you might number the paragraphs, for example, for reference during the discussion. When you lead 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 presentation with irrelevancies. DO NOT SUMMARIZE WHAT YOU HAVE READ. Assume that all of us have read the main piece you've shared and are familiar with the factual details of the topic.
Participation in a discussion led by another student in the class
  • Arrive on time. Have a copy of the reading and your notes on it handy.
  • Listen carefully, take notes during the presentation and the discussion that follows, especially for the response paper you will submit for the next class, but you're there to participate, so keep your notes succinct during the discussion and write them out more fully after class. The discussions may appear on the midterm and final exams.
  • Join the discussion early on 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 use stating your agreement to introduce another point or question.
  • ASK QUESTIONS IF YOU DON'T UNDERSTAND SOMETHING. If you're confused, others probably are, also.
  • Don't be embarrassed by silences. Short pauses will occur, 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. If you haven't spoken yet, this is the time.