We are delighted to have contributions of all types from scholars, teachers, and students, and will fully credit them on the site. We always need help. If you would like to contribute in any way, please contact one of the senior editors.
The following guidelines are directed at the authors of notes, who we expect will typically be college or university teachers with experience teaching and writing about the author they annotate. The creation of one of these multimedia editions is a large and collaborative endeavor, different in some (though not all) ways from the creation of a traditional print commentary. Please watch the following videos and contact one of the editors with any questions.
Commentary proposals should include:
- A curriculum vitae
- An approximately ten-page sample of notes
- A summary of the specific types of introductory matter envisioned, with bibliography
- A summary of the specific types of multimedia enhancements envisioned, whether audio, video, maps, images, or something else, and how those might be created, or from what sources drawn. Images are particularly welcome, but must be annotated to make clear their relevance and relationship to the text. How will those annotations be created?
- A statement of what collaborators, if any, the editor can bring on board to help complete the work. These might include students, colleagues, or web developers at the author’s institution, or elsewhere. Please note any grants for which you might apply to speed the work.
Key points from the videos above:
Note Writing: Ten Rules of Thumb for Annotation of Classical Texts
- MODEL CLOSE READING PRACTICES
- Humanists and scholars like to read slowly and carefully, to bring out the precise meanings of words, and to appreciate the beauty of the style. They read critically, alive to what’s left out, what’s partial or unfair. They want to take something away and apply it to life and lodge it in the soul. It’s a lofty goal, but DCC tries to model this kind of humanistic reading in a basic way by offering both explanatory notes that elucidate the language carefully, and sometimes close reading essays that delve more deeply into the context and meaning as well. The other rules flow from this central purpose.
- RESPECT THE READER’S TIME
- Our ideal reader is a person who knows enough Latin or Greek to understand the text but is not already deeply familiar with it. This reader could be a wily veteran or a novice who just finished the basics of the grammar. The needs are in many ways similar. Something that slows the expert down for a few ticks will stop a novice cold. Both need such things explained efficiently for a smooth reading experience. Explanatory notes should be concise: as short as possible, but no shorter. They should stick to what a curious reader would want and need to know to help understand and appreciate the text at hand. Tangentially related material and ancillary texts can be handled in an introduction or in a close reading essay.
- SEPARATE INTERPRETATION FROM ELUCIDATION
- When it comes to these first-time readers, even expert ones, literary interpretation is not where we are at just yet. If you advance a clever observation in a note that doesn’t help elucidate the language itself, you are likely to alienate rather than to enlighten. And there’s not enough time in a note to make a literary argument effectively, anyway. Save that for a close reading essay.
- WHEN THE TEXT MAKES NO SENSE TRANSLATED LITERALLY, TRANSLATE IT IDIOMATICALLY
- Many commentators on classical texts see translation in a note as vaguely dishonest, allowing reader to cheat. Think of it instead as modeling the sort of careful, close translation you’d like to see: not over-literal pseudo-English, but the real, satisfying mots justes. Don’t translate long passages, of course, because that just relieves the reader of the necessity of grappling with it. The trick is to isolate the truly troublesome phrase. If you would like to avoid translation, one efficient approach can be to rearrange the words of the original into a more comprehensible order in the note and supply some assumed words. There may be other concise ways to make the sense clear, but don’t neglect that first duty.
- ELUCIDATE FIRST, OBSERVE SECOND
- When confronted with a tricky phrase, first make clear in some way what is going on, whether by judicious translation, paraphrase, rearranging the order, or what have you. Then move to whatever comment you would like to make, be it grammatical, historical, literary, mythological, or aesthetic. Don’t make a confused reader guess or hunt through to get to the meaning of the words.
- LOOK OUT FOR WHAT IS ASSUMED
- Artistic language is often suggestive rather than explicit. Readers frequently need to know what’s not there, or rather what’s there but invisible, for example the omitted antecedent of a relative pronoun, half of a compound verb form, or the explanation of some constitutional nicety, religious custom, or mythological arcana that the author takes as common knowledge.
- LOOK OUT FOR WHAT IS TYPICAL OR ATYPICAL
- Unlike a novice reader, a commentator knows what is unusual and what is standard, what is distinctive and what is cliché, what is central and what is peripheral. The expert can perceive tone and can see interesting word order and striking word choice or diction. Point these things out. The novice reader needs to know both what is common, to be on the lookout for it next time, and what is strange, to be able to see it as strange. And they need to be alerted to something they likely would not have encountered before but may be quite typical for the author at hand. This rule applies especially to words that are part of the core vocabulary (and hence not glossed in our vocabulary lists) but used in an unusual sense.
- SAVE SPACE BY LINKING TO STABLE RESOURCES
- Rather than re-explain the wheel, link to DCC grammars for grammatical points, to Logeion for lexicography, to Wikipedia for literary devices, to Perseus for classical texts, to Smith’s Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology for those topics, and to Pleiades for geography. But don’t link to a news article or blog post that’s likely to be gone in a year or two. Many authors find it helpful to keep a spreadsheet with a list of links for later re-use.
- GO EASY ON CROSS-REFERENCES
- Many classical commentaries contain litanies of parallels. But compare rule II, “Respect the Reader’s Time.” (Nice cross-reference, right?) Only use a cross-reference when it’s genuinely important for comprehension, or to spell out what is assumed. And never include untranslated parallel passages.
- USE JARGON FOR A REASON
- One flaw in a lot of commentaries is that they try to explain difficult language by simply naming the grammatical construction. Or they explain the tone and effect of a line by merely naming a literary or rhetorical device. Technical terms are ok, but as a tool, not a substitute for explanation. Keep in mind the variety of grammatical and rhetorical labels that people might be familiar with. Not that you must use every version of the names for various subordinate clause types every time. Explain in a way that doesn’t simply rely on everybody being fully familiar with your own favorite terminology, at least the first time through.