Iter Mirabile Dennis et Debrae: The ancient world meets modern in an intermediate level story.

For some reason my students do not often read Iter Mirabile Dennis et Debrae.  One of my goals next year with SDR (Self Directed Reading) is to do a better job of introducing and highlighting the Latin titles which are now in our library.  The story line seems compelling to me as both Dennis and Debra travel to ancient Rome and Julius Caesar ends up in America.

The story starts with 2 friends, Dennis et Debrae in New York.  Chapter 1 has significant repetition but it maintains a subject, object, verb word order.  There are genitive nouns and dative indirect objects early on in the text.  My guess is that a lot of my students are at a Novice High or below reading level therefore perhaps Iter Mirabile Dennis et Debrae is above their reading levels.  I find that Novice level students struggle with the subject, object, verb word order found in Latin often.  Add frequent use of indirect objects and I am comfortable placing this title as an Intermediate level text.

The machina, which will eventually bring Dennis and Debra to ancient Rome and Julius Caesar to America, is introduced at the end of chapter 1.  There is some conflict between friends which leads to learning some detail about Dennis.  And suddenly Dennis is in Rome for chapter 2.  Julius Caesar meets Dennis, who clearly sticks out as a non Roman.

Somehow in chapter 3, Dennis’ family discovers that he is absent.  As you might expect, they do not believe Debra when she tells them that Dennis is in ancient Rome.  Debra has a problem and sets out to solve it.  She needs another machine.  This chapter has much potential to add back stories to characters who are family members to Dennis and Debra.

In chapter 4, Caesar is presented as a Roman who fears any group of people who are not Roman.  This seems another chapter ripe with opportunity to explore ideas such as citizen versus foreign or travel.  These themes continue into chapter 5 which also introduces Caesar’s daughter, Julia, to the story.  This is another place that seems appropriate to flush out some ideas about Roman families and the historical period of Caesar’s life with students.

As chapter 6 begins Dennis and Caesar are in America.  Caesar seems overwhelmed and is clearly out of place.  He is fascinated by modern technologies that he sees quite soon after arriving in New York.  The frightened Caesar finally demands to speak with the leader of America and seems ready to act with aggression toward America.

What will happen in the story as Caesar attempts to find the White House?  Will he enact an aggressive Roman war policy against America?  Will he make his way back to ancient Rome while Debra makes it back to America?  Make sure and pick up a copy of Iter Mirabile Dennis et Debrae to find out.

Iter Mirabile Dennis et Debrae is not suitable for Novice readers.  A reader must have comfortable command of recognizing subjects, objects, indirect objects, possessive genitives and the occasional ablative descriptor within the story.  Although vocabulary is somewhat limited and there is ample repetition of core phrasing, the vocabulary is varied enough to be out of bounds for a typical Novice reader.  Iter Mirabile Dennis et Debrae will be most comfortable for students at the end of level 2 or beginning of level 3.

I see potential for Iter Mirabile Dennis et Debrae to be read as a class novel, perhaps at the end of level 2 or beginning of level 3.  Themes such as citizenship, what is foreign, family, travel and architecture resonant throughout the story.  The story offers a general base for a teacher to easily supplement and elaborate the details of these topics.  There are natural places to stop and add Personalized Question and Answers, Picture Talk, Movie Talk, Class Surveys, Perference Tasks and much more to create your classroom’s communicative context with Iter Mirabile Dennis et Debrae at the center.

If you have the funds and end up purchase a class set of Iter Mirabile Dennis et Debrae, let us know how teaching it as a class reading goes in the comments.

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