This is Noah Cogan, one of the newest Latin Academy teachers on the block, coming to you with a description of my class this summer.
As I mentioned in my introductory video, the title and, to a certain extent, the substance of my class is inspired by Billie Eilish’s song “Bad Guy.” According to Eilish, she wrote the song to make fun of how individuals present themselves. In an interview with 102.7KIISFM she states “if you’re going around all the time saying like, ‘Yeah, I’m bad, I’m always breaking rules, and doing this and doing that.’ You’re not.”
Like most people listening to “Bad Guy,” I was immediately reminded of the portrayal of villains in Roman historical literature (I’m honestly surprised that Billie Eilish didn’t reference this in her interview, but her true fans get it). When I read Livy’s account of the Punic Wars, Sallust’s description of the Catilinarian conspiracy or Caesar’s sketch of the Gallic Wars, what strikes me most is the way in which each author portrays the major antagonist in each conflict. Livy, Sallust and Caesar portray Hannibal, Catiline and Vercingetorix respectively as not altogether evil. Instead we read a mixed characterization as each author creates space in their text for a discussion of what, in their eyes, are the positive traits and actions of these villains.
In my lecture, I will provide you with a brief description of each author and their work. Then we will examine their characterizations of these villains in detail, looking particularly at word choice and how descriptions of the antagonists compare to those of the protagonists. Finally, we will draw our conclusions about the reasons for these nuanced portrayals and reflect on what we can learn from them and apply to our everyday lives.
Thanks for taking the time to read about my class and I look forward to meeting you all later this summer.
This blog will document the MMXX virtual session of the Virginia Governor's Latin Academy.