Living with a Dead Language: My Romance with Latin

Living with a Dead Language: My Romance with Latin

by Ann Patty


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Living with a Dead Language: My Romance with Latin by Ann Patty

“A delightful mix of grammar and growth, words and wonder.” – The Washington Post

An entertaining exploration of the richness and relevance of the Latin language and literature, and an inspiring account of finding renewed purpose through learning something new and challenging

After thirty-five years as a book editor in New York City, Ann Patty stopped working and moved to the country. Bored, aimless, and lost in the woods, she hoped to challenge her restless, word-loving brain by beginning a serious study of Latin at local colleges. 
As she begins to make sense of Latin grammar and syntax, her studies open unexpected windows into her own life. The louche poetry of Catullus calls up her early days in 1970s New York, Lucretius elucidates her intractable drivenness and her attraction to Buddhism, while Ovid’s verse conjures a delightful dimension to the flora and fauna that surround her. Women in Roman history, and an ancient tomb inscription give her new understanding and empathy for her tragic, long deceased mother.  Finally, Virgil reconciles her to her new life—no longer an urban exile, but a rustic scholar, writer and teacher.  Along the way, she meets an impassioned cast of characters: professors, students and classicists outside of academia who keep Latin very much alive.
Written with humor, heart, and an infectious enthusiasm for words, Patty’s book is an object lesson in how learning and literature can transform the past and lead to an unexpected future.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781101980224
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 06/14/2016
Pages: 256
Sales rank: 856,505
Product dimensions: 5.60(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

Ann Patty worked in New York trade publishing for more than thirty years. She was the founder and publisher of The Poseidon Press and an executive editor at Crown Publishers and Harcourt. She lives in Rhinebeck, New York.

Reading Group Guide

1. Patty makes a strong case for taking on something new and challenging in retirement. Do you agree? Is there value in hard work for its own sake?
2. What reasons other than love of words and language might one have for learning Latin? Do you think learning a new language helps you see the world through new eyes?
3. How do you see Patty’s relationship with her mother changing over the course of her studies?
4. One of Patty’s yoga teachers says, “You cannot change your future, you can only change your past.” How do you interpret this enigmatic statement?
5. Patty calls one of her ex-husbands her Ablative Absolute, a person unrelated to the main story of her life. Do you have any Ablative Absolutes in your own life?
6. Latin is still the official language of the Vatican, a sovereign state. What is the value of a “dead” language? Does it help welcome all nationalities into the church, because the language transcends nationality and belongs to everyone?
7.  The study of Latin has decreased greatly since Vatican II, when the church directed priests to celebrate mass in the language of the country where they lived rather than in Latin. What has the church gained and lost by doing this?
8. Do you think the study of Latin should once again be part of any educated person’s curriculum? Do you think knowledge of Latin might improve our advertising, media, and political discourse?

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