As a seventeen year old UA freshman from Phoenix, Clinton (“CJ”) Armstrong fell in love with Latin, and eventually dropped his math major for one in Latin to complement his other major in British literature. He eventually took several classes taught by Dr. Richard Jensen, as well as courses from Dr. Cynthia White (Ovid, Medieval Latin, and Prose Composition), and Dr. Marilyn Skinner (Catullus and Horace). He also studied Greek and Classics with Drs Thomas Worthen and Norman Austin before earning his M.Div. at Concordia Seminary (2001) and an M.A. in Classics at Washington University (2001). CJ considers Dr. White and Ovid to be his most formative influences at the UA. He eventually went on to receive his Ph.D. in Classics at the University of California at Irvine, where he wrote a dissertation entitled “Ovid’s Catalogue Tradition and Poetic Debate” (2012). He is currently Assistant Professor of History at Concordia (CA) University, where he teaches courses in ancient studies (part of Concordia University’s core curriculum), as well as upper division Greek and Latin.
We interviewed CJ by email:
What are your fondest memories of your time in the department?
My memories of Latin at Arizona are many and fond, both because of the high level of education I received at the feet of full time faculty, in addition to great adjuncts and grad students, as well as the cherished relationships developed with fellow students. I became infatuated with Roman poetry in my first metrics class, a passion that was confirmed and enflamed in Dr. White’s Ovid class and while learning lyric poetry under Dr. Skinner. These, as all language classes, formed me and my peers in the crucible of preparation, daily and hourly, drawing us to the good of pondering every word, analyzing every thought, and accurately understanding the beauty of the classical world in its languages and literatures. That crucible shaped us into people who could celebrate accordingly, whether it was enjoying a communal study session with friends on campus or Christmas party at Dr. Jensen’s place, considering echoes of medieval Latin and Latin mass with Dr. White, or Italian wine and cheese over a bit of Latin verse at a friend’s house. All of these experiences and many more besides have worked their way into the way I teach students and encourage them today in their classes with me and in their endeavors and vocations.
What about your studies at UA has benefited you most in your subsequent career?
I took Latin as a freshman just because I wanted something different that would stand out from the crowd. I had no idea that the bug would bite and infect me so completely. Arizona prepared me at a high level for an academic career in Classics in which I find myself very fortunate to be doing what I love – teaching, reading, and researching – because I love what I do.
What project(s) are you currently working on?
Teaching a full load at a small liberal arts university makes up much of my time at Concordia, where I serve as one of our lead faculty for our 4-semester, 8-course Core Curriculum, as well as teach Greek, ancient history, and Latin (which is a requirement for our History majors!). I will be leading a history of Rome class on site in summer 2014 for our department’s “Great Cities” elective as well. I am also currently in the midst of revising my dissertation on Ovid’s Metamorphoses and the tradition of Hellenistic catalogue poetry.