Classics Lecture on Origins of Human Language

Date, time, location

Thursday, April 18, 2024
12:20 pm to 1:20 pm EDT

King Building, 101

10 N. Professor St.
Oberlin, OH 44074

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John Oksanish will present the lecture "Chance Encounters of the Word Kind:  Vitruvius on the Origins of Human Language".

Abstract:  The late Republic and early Augustan era reimagined many aspects of human (and Roman) culture; not least among these aspects was language itself. When it comes to Roman writers on the latter, we often think first of Varro or Cicero. And yet, they were hardly the only writers interested in the question. This paper 1) introduces the architect Vitruvius and his treatise On Architecture (20s BCE), and 2) weighs how Vitruvius' views on the origins of human speech reflect important aspects of his architectural program in the early Augustan era.

John Oksanish, Assistant Professor of Classics at Wake Forest University, holds degrees in Classics from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst (B.A., M.A.T.) and Yale (M.A., M.Phil., Ph.D). Prior to pursuing the Ph.D., he worked for HarperCollins Publishers in New York and taught secondary school Latin (Walpole, Mass.). He regularly teaches courses in Epic, Latin Historiography, Latin Epistolography, and the CLA seminar on Cicero.  Dr. Oksanish specializes in the prose literature of the late Republic and early Empire, though he has published research on topics ranging from Vergil’s pastoral poems to “universal” historiography. He is especially interested in ancient notions of expertise and authority in civic life. 

Art credit: Frank Cotham comic titled "Declarative Sentence"

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