– Marcus Aurelius
|my little Plutarch notebook|
On an airplane trip a few years ago I was reading Howards End is on the Landing. The distinguished gentlemen next to me struck up a conversation about literature after asking what I was reading. I eventually learned that he knew a bit about Plutarch since he was a classics professor at UC Berkeley. I just kept asking him questions and loved listening to his stories, his love of Plutarch since childhood, his archeology excursions, and more. The flight was too short. How much of who he is now was inspired by his reading of Plutarch? I don’t know for sure, but listening to his passion on the topic was a treat for me.
1. I like to listen to the late Professor J. Rufus Fears. He has two lecture series that are part of The Great Courses – Famous Greeks and Famous Romans. He weaves historical, archaeological, and literary scholarship with a life from Plutarch, nicely blending it all together and providing me with a fabulous and interesting overview. Not all of the lives are covered in this series, but most are. Preview them from your public library or buy them from The Great Courses. Famous Greeks has some handy maps, too.
2. Retellings are sometimes nice for the teacher to read first. My favorite is by Charles Robinson, but it only covers 10 lives. You can read some children’s retellings at the Baldwin Project for free – Plutarch’s Lives For Boys and Girls and Our Young Folks’ Plutarch.
4. North’s translation of Plutarch’s Lives. I do think this is important if your aims are the same as CM’s when it comes to Plutarch and I touched on that in Part I. Personally, I don’t care for the Wordsworth Classics of World Literature edition. It’s too big and unwieldy, the formatting doesn’t break the text up nicely, there are no notes at all. I’m just not a fan. You can find nice editions online at the Online Library of Liberty and the Hathi Trust digital library.
5. Here is a book that Sara Dalton put together for teaching Timoleon. She formatted North’s translation and added a few pictures. She recommends that you use the “booklet” setting when printing. Really, you could do this for any of the Lives to make it more convenient to read. (Make sure you tinker with the settings to get it right before printing!)
That’s about all I want to recommend because I don’t want you to get bogged down in the planning, preparing, and presentation of Plutarch. Just remember that this is a mind-to-mind thing. A little scaffolding, reading, and then narrating. You can do this! And who knows what your student will take away from it. He might just want to be a classics professor someday.
Here is a post about the Blackie editions Mason used.