In the Summer of 2020, several of my old Latin classmates and I started a Latin reading group, to honor the memory of our professor, Bill Godfrey, who tragically passed in the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to being the only Latin professor at our institution, Bill was a close friend and mentor to us. He hosted the Latin literature courses at his house on Wednesday nights, complete with home-cooked meals, desserts, and the camaraderie of the local Latin community. K12 Latin educators, professors from other departments for whom Latin study played a vital role in their education, and former students of Bill’s would come join us for dinner, sometimes also for the literature discussions. One such former student happened to be my mother’s cousin, a man in his seventies now, who had been so impacted by Bill’s teaching that they regularly exchanged letters over the decades following his graduation.
Bill started this dinner party tradition early on in his over-fifty-year-long teaching career, and insisted on its continuation until, just a couple of years before the Pandemic, his health finally caught up with him. He entered “semi-retirement”, teaching one class per semester mostly in exchange for retaining an office on campus. This marked a distinct end of an era in a few ways. His class moved back to campus, during an afternoon time slot. In lieu of dinner, he brought pastries as afternoon snacks. The department hired another Latin lecturer to pick up the introductory courses and the gen-ed literature-in-translation courses. The tight-knit group of us, who took all of the Latin courses listed in the registrar, graduated, and a few of us left the state to pursue our various career paths.
Although I was the only one who had continued formal Latin study, the five of us resolved to meet regularly over video chat and form a Latin reading group. Here are a few of the things we’ve read and discussed:
- Horace odes 1.4, 1.5, 1.6, 1.7
- Petronius’ Satyricon
- Fabulae Aesiopae (Phaedrus)
- Regulus (ISBN 9780156014045)
- Pliny Epistula 27 (Ghost stories for Halloween)
- Quomodo Invidiosulus nomine Grinchus christi natalem abrogaverit (for Christmas)
We also had a few sessions where we translated songs and quotes into Latin, and had to guess what they were from.