Finishing My Final Paper and Closing Reflection

Well, this is my last blog post of the independent study. Earlier today, I finished my final paper, titled, “Government of the People: Populi as a Genitive of Possession in Cicero’s De Re Publica.” You can see it on my “Final Paper” page of this blog. Now, I want to reflect on my overall thoughts about the independent study.

This has been a truly amazing experience. I have hardly ever learned as much as in this independent study, and I think the overall process is what caused that. Even though I did not think of it like this while planning, I now see three distinct phases of the study: learning Greek over the summer, reading Plato and broadly studying Classical political theory in the first and beginning of second quarter, and reading Cicero and working on my final paper since then. Learning Greek was extremely fun, and I have already written about that extensively in other blog posts and reflections. When the school year started, I began reading Plato’s Republic in Greek. The text exposed me to new and fascinating philosophical ideas. I mostly focused on Plato’s ideas about forms of governments and constitutional stability, but I also got to learn about some of his philosophy as a whole. Even though this did not really influence my final project, I am very glad that I spent time on it. Just studying Plato’s theory of Forms on a basic level has been valuable, and I cannot count the number of times I have heard references to philosophical ideas that seem easily traceable to his own. I even got to talk to Dr. Monahan’s husband, who has a philosophy PhD, about these topics. This reflects one aspect of my study that I am most happy about: that it was not too focused on my final product. I had a plan of what I would study from the outset, but I did not feel like I was just trying to reach some final destination. I learned what seemed most interesting to me instead of just what would assist one end-goal. Moving on from Plato, I spent a week or two reading about two Greek political theorists that came between him and Cicero, Aristotle and Polybius. Even though this was only a short portion of my study, it was certainly one of the most valuable, and I completely credit Dr. Monahan for advising me to do this. I gained a much better understanding about the development of Classical political philosophy, both with respect to methodology and specific theories, especially the mixed constitution. After this, I started reading Cicero’s De Re Publica. It is honestly hard to express how much I love this text. I had not read Cicero since 9th grade, and his writing style amazed me. The interlocutors follow such a clear, logical progression of ideas, but there is still so much to unpack about the text’s meaning. I quickly latched onto one specific part of the text, one which it is possible I may never stop thinking about, Cicero’s definition of the state, “res publica res populi.” As soon as I came across these words, I was obsessed by thinking about what Cicero meant, along with his elaboration on a people joined by agreement of law and shared interest. I kept pursuing this idea, reading the discussion of it in Book III and researching academic thought on the definition. Since I have extensively discussed my paper in other posts, I won’t write about that hear, but I eventually decided to write it on specifically the word populi as a genitive of possession over res. I am definitely happy with how the paper turned out, and I hope to use it in a more official capacity in journal, such as publishing it to an undergraduate journal or submitting it to a conference. The paper was my first opportunity to spend an extensive period of time working on one specific problem, engaging with other academic research and formulating my own, new ideas. Overall, I am extremely happy about how this study went. It has probably been the most fun thing about my senior year and truly one of my best experiences in high school. I especially want to thank Dr. Monahan for this; she was the best independent study advisor possible and was always unbelievably generous with her time, whether answering my many Greek questions over the summer, meeting weekly to discuss Classical political philosophy always having prepared new resources to show me, or guiding me through the research process.

On a separate note, I in fact enjoyed my independent study so much that I decided to do one next semester too! With Dr. Shores as my advisor, I will primarily be learning Old English but also studying translation theory, a topic I have long been interested in but never explored in a formal setting. Though I haven’t started editing it at the time I write this, here is the link to my new blog, where I will post regularly beginning next week: http://mschwartz2.sites.da.org/.