Classics Department: Goals and Objectives
Majors in the Classics department approach the ancient world by developing their knowledge of ancient languages and literature and by developing their ability to apply the methods of a particular interpretive framework (historical, art-historical, archaeological, literary) to ancient societies. Students vary in the balance they choose between these approaches, some concentrating more heavily on learning the language and reading literature in Greek or Latin, others doing more advanced work using texts in English translation. We train students to think about the way disciplinary boundaries such as religion, philosophy, archaeology, and art function differently in the study of antiquity, and we ask students constantly to make connections, by analogy or polarity, between the past they are studying and the present they are living in. Finally we emphasize connections between Greece and Rome and the other cultures of the Mediterranean, as well as the relationships between different groups within the Greek and Roman world: e.g., slaves, women, foreigners and disenfranchised others.
The department is committed to exposing non-majors to the study of the ancient Mediterranean world. Our 100-level introductory courses (on literature, history, and archaeology) are highly enrolled with non-majors, as are our 200-level courses in translation. We purposefully design the 200-level offerings to address broad interests that will benefit both majors and non-majors. We value in particular this opportunity to expose ourselves, our majors, and non-majors to a diverse set of approaches and perspectives learned across the curriculum. Our general education goals include helping students gain or improve: A critical understanding of some of the major texts of the Western Tradition; an understanding of the skills and mental attitudes necessary to study the past and how it bears on the present; critical reading skills, including the ability to pay careful, close attention to a text and explore the relationship between language and meaning; expository writing skills; memory as a mental capacity; an understanding of the interactions between different kinds of evidence (literary, epigraphic, archaeological, historical) that help us understand a culture; an understanding of the ways other cultures differ from our own in the definition of central concepts as selfhood and family, relationships with others, and cultural, social, religious and political norms.
Our primary goal for majors is to help them acquire the knowledge, critical skills, and habits of mind that will allow them to become sophisticated contributors to our understanding of the ancient world and to better understand their own and others' perspectives by comparison and contrast with the world of Classical antiquity. Our other goals for majors include: proficiency in language; a general knowledge of ancient Mediterranean history and culture; a more detailed knowledge of a few particular texts and topics; critical reading skills, including the ability to pay careful, close attention to a text and explore the relationship between language and meaning; the ability to engage with unmediated primary materials; an understanding of what questions can and cannot be asked of the ancient world due to the nature of the evidence or different ways of thinking in antiquity; an ability to understand the kinds of evidence on which a piece of scholarship rests; expository writing skills that conform to disciplinary expectations; for Ancient Societies majors, who study less language, additional expertise in one or more of the disciplines/sub disciplines for studying non-literary evidence (material, epigraphic, comparative) for the ancient world.