What’s in a name? (The Plutarch Project)


” Writing studies for Plutarch’s Lives is a bit like watching my husband restore a 1934 Crosley Fiver radio. (It was one of the first radios you could just bring home from the store, plug in, and listen to.) …Plutarch doesn’t need me to make his Lives work. I am the first one to insist that I am not a classical scholar… About the only thing that qualified me to take this project on is that, like my husband, I like to take covers off and see what’s inside. What I have tried to do is make Plutarch more of a plug-in model than a workbench project.” (From the introduction to The Plutarch Project)

When I first got the title idea for Minds More Awake, I searched  online to see if other people had used that one much before me.  I found the phrase a few times in older books, but there wasn’t anything current, so I used it without worry.

Putting the Plutarch’s Lives studies (well, three of them) into book form was a let’s-do-this job that came up quickly, and needed a title quickly. Thinking of it as The Plutarch Project, though, wasn’t new. In our workbenchy family, a project isn’t just something you throw together for a teacher after a stop at the encyclopedia (I did a few of those). It’s something that starts with the spark of an idea, perseveres through the messy middle, and ends up with (in my husband’s case) something shiny and playable, or (in mine),  something you can read.

And I really wasn’t expecting that anyone else out there would have put those two particular words together. Yes, there are all kinds of projects, but Plutarch Project? I figured not, and put it out of my mind until it was almost too late.

It turns out there are at least two other Plutarch Project entities in the world (besides a few documents labelled “Plutarch Project for Mr. HistoryTeacher’s Class”). One is a Greek heritage group. Another has more of an academic focus, although it’s not specifically about Plutarch.

I thought I knew some history, but I didn’t know Publicola; I didn’t know what a consul was; I was even vague on the difference between the Roman Republic and the Empire. Still, I had the whole summer before the next term started, so I printed out and read through Plutarch’s “Life of Publicola.” I read it again. Then I read it again. I wrote down questions, circled words, and underlined place names. The story of Rome and its founding fathers started to make sense to me; but would my ten-year-old get anything out of it? (Minds More Awake)

Would I have to change the title to avoid confusion? I didn’t know what else to change it to. Plutarch Studies from the Electronics Workbench didn’t quite cut it. There were a couple of other more serious suggestions that could have worked. But now you know why this Plutarch has become a longterm “project,” both for our family and for others who enjoy the Lives.

So at this point and until further notice, the title is staying put.

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