Joshua Katz, Princeton University.(Edith Bleich Speaker Series 2017)Joshua Katz

Cotsen Professor in the Humanities
and Professor of Classics
Princeton University

What is English and How Do We Know?

Thursday, February 2, 2017 at 7:00pm

Shalala Student Center - Ballroom East
1330 Miller Drive, Coral Gables, FL 33146

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Free & Open to the Public

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This sentence is written in English. So, however, are these:

itjmhoF oj ofuujsx tj fdofuoft tjiU
We synt gumcynnes Geata leode
I shall not want
All mimsy were the borogoves
There was me, that is Alex, and my three droogs
That was a lekker braai, bru
i <3 u

What it means to be English is evidently not a simple matter. In this talk, Joshua T. Katz will consider the state—or, rather, states—of the language in 2017 and compare how things were in the past (1917, 1817, 1017, …); He will also risk looking into the future (2117, 3117, 4117, …). While no one will come away from the lecture with a firm definition of “English,” his hope is that everyone will understand both the historical and the contemporary reasons why it is so difficult to capture the essence of any language and to define its boundaries.

Joshua T. Katz is Cotsen Professor in the Humanities, Professor of Classics, and a member (and former director) of the Program in Linguistics at Princeton University, where he has taught since 1998. A linguist by training, he is widely published in the languages, literatures, and cultures of the ancient, medieval, and to some extent modern world, with interests from India to Ireland and from the Ancient Near East to the American Southwest. He has received numerous national and international awards for his scholarship, including a Guggenheim Fellowship; has been a Visiting Fellow at All Souls College, Oxford and a guest professor at the École Pratique des Hautes Études (Paris) and the Humboldt University of Berlin; and is especially proud of having won all three of Princeton’s major teaching prizes.


“The Goddess and Damned Wrath: How a Linguist Reads the Iliad”

Lunch Seminar for UM Humanities Faculty & Graduate Students

Friday, February 3, 2017 at 10:00am
Otto G. Richter Library, Third Floor Conference Room

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There is arguably no bit of text in the Western tradition more famous than the opening six words of the Iliad, which lay out the central theme of Homer’s great epic: Μῆνιν ἄειδε, θεά, Πηληϊάδεω Ἀχιλῆοϛ | οὐλομένην “Of the wrath sing, o goddess — the baneful wrath of Achilles son of Peleus.” Despite intensive study since antiquity, there remain things to learn about this poem, and in this talk I will try to explain, in as non-technical a way as possible (though there is no way around certain linguistic details), why a closer look at the words for ‘goddess’ and ‘baneful/damned’ is desirable. Among my conclusions will be that the former tells us something remarkable about actual Homeric performance while the form and meaning of the latter have been repeatedly misunderstood.