Memento Mori

Greek Word OrderToday I’ve been scanning the obits of K.J. Dover who died a week ago. Dover was my professor of Greek at St. Andrews University and a commanding figure though not in the way one might have assumed. By the time I arrived in 1970, he had already put St. Andrews on the map for classics, but  at first sight he was a reserved and dignified figure whose  lectures were delivered in almost a monotone, with none of the declaiming or rhetorical flourishes employed  by some of his colleagues  (not that declaiming was really called for in the intimate classrooms of Swallowgate!) But like The Times obituary writer, I do remember how well written Dover’s lectures were so that the temptation was simply to transcribe them word for word  – encouraged by the fact that they were delivered at the exact pace that made this possible (albeit at severe risk of writer’s cramp.)

I think that feeling of exactitude is what I remember most. How else could anyone possibly grapple with the use of the Greek particle  or to even begin to decipher the finer points of Greek Word Order?

The latter title still sits on my shelf.  I probably read it once. I’m sure I never understood it. It’s a memento of having been in the presence of its author, a man of fierce intellect who let his learning speak for itself.

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4 responses to “Memento Mori

  1. Richard Fieldsend

    Alison,
    thank you for a little bit of an insight into what ‘Classics’ actually is (the subject actually came up in our house while watching ‘Too Poor for Posh School’ last week on Channel 4.

    Shamefully, being the kind of person whose education was pure science nerd I had to admit that beyond learning about ancient history and literature I didn’t really know what it entailed.

    Don’t envy you having to read ‘Greek Word Order’ though… I think I’d stick to books about chemistry (but that is just me)

    • debutnovelist

      Chemistry definitely all Greek to me (I actually found Greek pretty hard too!)
      Apparently classicists do make good computer programmers, though. Something to do with logic, apparently, or the analytical mind.

      • Richard Fieldsend

        I remember being told at Uni that doing chemistry proved you could cram a lot of knowledge in your bonce in pretty short order and so could pick other stuff up… Never been very convinced by the argument though.

        As for Greek, another language is bad enough, but one that doesn’t even use the same character set is just asking for trouble…

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