Friday, April 13, 2007

Coping without Perseus

As many of you will know, one of the finest sites on the internet, Perseus, has been experiencing serious problems over the last couple of weeks. The latest announcement on the site is as follows:
On April 3, 2007, Perseus hardware was compromised. In order to protect our data and comply with university policy, a number of servers were removed from the network, making Tufts-hosted Perseus sites inoperable. Repairs are in progress to methodically restore services while improving their overall security. We apologize for the inconvenience.
I was chatting to one of my students the other day about her frustration at trying to translate portions of the classics without the aid of Perseus. The upshot was that although it is frustrating, it is a reminder of the importance of really trying to understand the text, and not becoming over-reliant on what can become electronic prompts. In the same spirit, I enjoyed reading Elizabeth Kline's posting on b-greek this morning, Travelling Alone and the Death of Perseus, from which this is an excerpt:
Reading the GNT with all the electronic tools at your fingertips and all the printed resources isn't going to tell you if you know greek. All of these resources are great and I use them regularly but at some point along the way it is healthy to pick up a Greek text you have never read in your native tongue and spend some time traveling alone with LS (intermed.), LSJ and H.W.Smyth. It certainly trims some of the fat from your ego if nothing else.
I agree, and the point is even more focused when it comes to reliance on the multiple electronic resources available as helps for the Greek New Testament. Useful as these are in teaching and research, and grateful as we are to their developers, perhaps we should all sponsor "electronic free April" every year and insist that everyone has a good month each year when they are only allowed access to print resources for Greek. Perhaps we could institute it as a kind of compulsory Lent abstinence for all NT scholars and students?


chris bruno said...

I agree. I used to read my GNT every day with my computer open, but after I had to go for several weeks w/out access to it, I realized how much I was relying on it.
Now I have a rule not to open the computer until after I have finished my Hebrew and Greek readings, and it makes a world of difference.

Randy McRoberts said...

I am trained as a scientist and have gone through the same emotional battle about electronic tools for calculation. I know that students today do not understand mathematics as well as my generation did. But on the other hand, they can still get the answers they need because they will always have their calculators and their computers alongside. At least, almost always.

I suppose the same is true for electronic aids to reading of Greek. I can see and feel myself becoming softer because I rely too much on Logos and its ability to keylink. But I doubt I will give it up any time soon.

I do, on occasion, just go sit in a chair, away from the computer, with my GNT and a small lexicon, and read. It's still fun to do.

stephen said...

When I was in school, I made it a point to avoid electronic aids for my translation of texts. I remember showing up to classes with folks who had just printed pages and pages from Perseus or TLG or whatever. It made me a little furious. I sat down one summer to read Latin with a fellow who was preparing for a Latin exam. The lexicon seemed completely foreign to him.

Now that I'm out of school, I don't practice even a shade of that same rigor. I'm sure I'd be humbled by going a few weeks without Accordance (esp. for Hebrew)....but I will probably do no such thing.

JD said...

I once heard a great comment after Bibleworks came out:

"And now our students can make dumb exegetical mistakes at lightning speed!"

Colin Toffelmire said...

You've inspired me Mark. I have decided to begin a Great Translation Project, all for my own edification. A couple of verses every day from Genesis and Matthew using nothing but the text and a lexicon. Great post.

Wm said...

I have replied to this blog post on my own blog, with a somewhat different take. :) Perseus is not a new kind of crutch.

Mark Goodacre said...

Thanks, William. I enjoyed your post. Of course my comments are largely facetious, but in so far as I am making a serious point, I am referring in context to all the electronic helps that are available to the Greek student, especially when they are working on the NT, with clickable parsing, etc. The post arose partly from a conversation with a student who was expressing her frustration at the lack of availability of Perseus, and the considerable inconvenience it was causing her.