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Prof J. M. Claassen
42 Rowan Street
Stellenbosch, 7600
883 2956
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Grand-ducks, Donald and Daisy
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Jo-Marie's grand-doggie, Mini (click for "Author's dogs)

Jo-Marie Claassen

Jo-Marie Claassen

Author of academic books on Latin literature and language
Associate Professor at the Latin Department
of Stellenbosch University until 2001

Extract from the closing chapter of her book

Johanna Maria Latsky was born on 9 June 1940 in Cape Town. She studied at Stellenbosch University (BA in Latin and English, cum laude, 1960; MA in Latin, cum laude, 1970; Third major in Greek, 1972, PhD, 1986)
MA thesis: Humor by Tertullianus (in Afrikaans)
Doctoral thesis: Poeta, exsul, vates: a stylistic and literary analysis of Ovid's Tristia and Epistulae ex Ponto.
Jo-Marie also attained a teaching diploma at the University of Cape Town (Senior Education Certificate,cum laude, 1961).
She was a visiting fellow at different times at the universities of Princeton, Cambridge, and Texas at Austin.
She taught at Stellenbosch University Latin Department (later Classics and then Ancient Studies) for about 34 years; first as temporary part-time lecturer, and following 1979, full time as junior lecturer,becoming associate professor in 1994. She retired in March 2001.
She has served on the National Executive of the Classical Association of South Africa and is presently Chair of the Western Cape branch. She organised a Latin Olympiad for schools on four occasions (1989 - 96), and is SA Certification Board Moderator for Latin.
She is internationally known for her work on the poet Ovid and the prose author Cicero, and for research on Latin teaching and the use of computers in education.She has presented many papers both locally and abroad; her particular interest being the academic development of students.
Jo-Marie is married to Pieter Eduard Claassen and has a daughter and a son. She lives in Mostersdrift, Stellenbosch. She is a niece of Lulu Latsky.
Hobbies: People, family life, academic pursuits, singing, nature
Favourite books:biographies, historical novels, nineteenth century literature
Quote:"People are more important than things"
"A large part of the world's work is done by people who are not feeling very well"


1978: Harry Crossley scholarship: research on innovations in Latin teaching in the USA
1990-97: US merit awards
2000: US Rector's Commendation for Excellence in Research
Ovid revisited - click for blurbDisplaced Persons: the literature of exile: from Cicero to Boethius
London, Duckworths, 1999; Madison, University of Wisconsin Press, appearing in USA

NP van Wyk Louw, Germanicus, translated into English verse (e-book)   (flyer of the English translation of Van Wyk Louw's Germanicus

Co-author :
1 Latin text with commentary
Tria Saecula , series of Latin texts with commentaries
1 Latin/English/Afrikaans .vocabulary list
Ovid revisited: The Poet in Exile, Duckworth, 2008   (See blurb of the book pdf)

Author of some 80 academic and popular articles

The following is an extract from the closing chapter of her book on exile in the ancient world. It traces the continuation of the genre, also in modern South African literature:

"I close with an interesting double example that may be traced back to Ovid as establisher both of the conventions of exilic literature and of protest against public interference into private morality. When the Afrikaans poet N. P. Van Wyk Louw was teaching in Amsterdam in the fifties of this century, he produced a volume of 'sad songs', entitled Tristia. Longing for South Africa, his patria and his spiritual Rome, is a central theme, but so too is criticism of the country. South Africa was then in the first years of the formal establishment of racism as a political principle ('apartheid') and as a means of ordering the state, a system that later turned the eyes of the world upon the country as the place where the state interfered with the basic fabric of human existence. As with his predecessors, Louw's work reflects the political issues of his era, but also his own cultural preferences. He would like to remake Africa in a European, Mediterranean image:

My land, my dor, verlate land:
iets wens olywe groei in jou:
dat alles klein, Latyns, gaan word
en kalk-wit kerkies bou.
'H. Petrus', Tristia

My land, my drab, deserted land:
oh, that olives grew in you,
that all could shrink to Latin size
and sprout small chalk-white churches too.
'St. Peter', Tristia, translated by JM Claassen

Strongly influenced by Louw, in the seventies came Breyten Breytenbach, the enfant terrible of the Afrikaans literary scene. No Latinist, he had a stronger and more direct affinity with Ovid; he transgressed the grotesque, race-besotted South African marriage laws by wedding a 'brown' Vietnamese.{90} The ideology of apartheid had become firmly established as the ruling principle of South African society, and central to it was a rigid set of embargoes on interracial marriage, far more stringent than Augustus' attempts to regulate Roman domestic morality by means of legislation. These embargoes turned that most private and moral of human customs, marriage (if contracted between 'unsuitable' partners), into the most immoral of South African public 'crimes'. Breytenbach spent many years, with his wife, in self-imposed exile in Paris, writing in his beloved and hated Afrikaans, but publishing in his home country. He, too, wanted to remake his lost home into a spiritual haven, an ideal state, an alma Roma where amor is replaced by a universal caritas:
My broer, my dor, verlate broer:
iets wens dat mens weer in jou groei
dat alles groots, Afrikaans gaan word
en jy ook in mensbruin mense bloei.
'Bruin reisbrief' ,Oorblyfsels

My brother, my drab, deserted brother,
oh that your human heart would come alive
that greatness Afrikaans could be
and you too as brown humanity could thrive
'Brown travelogue', Remains, translated by JM Claassen.

This poem consciously imitates Louw, but Ovid looms large in it as an unconscious intertext. Ovid would have understood its political thrust and the love of his mother-tongue which the poet exhibits while rejecting its authoritarian abuse in the kind of oppressive and censorious legislation that strove to direct private lives by public decree. And when Breytenbach, inept political intriguer that he was, secretly slipped back into the country and was caught red-handed in a vain political plot, his love-hate writings from prison, also in English, reflect the psychological resilience that we have seen enhanced in our Roman exiles by the solace offered by their literary exertions.

Breytenbach in prison exhibits an inner exile, an alienation from the religion that was subverted for political ends, a questioning of the values of the wielders of political and judicial power, a concern for literary and cultural issues voiced in ingenious, punning play, and an ostensible self-denigration, that point for point agree with the intellectual resistance voiced by Ovid in his own love-hate relationship with Roma aeterna

Text by Jo-Marie Claassen, March 2002-2014

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