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Classics

Administrative Information

Director of Undergraduate Studies: Prof. Joseph Howley, 854-4551; jah2220@columbia.edu

Departmental Administrator: Gerry Visco, 854-2726; gwv1@columbia.edu

Departmental Office: 617 Hamilton; 854-3902; classics@columbia.edu

Professors
Kathy Eden
Marco Fantuzzi
Helene P. Foley (Barnard)
Carmela V. Franklin
Stathis Gourgouris
Seth R. Schwartz
Deborah T. Steiner (chair)
Karen Van Dyck
Gareth D. Williams
Nancy Worman (Barnard)
James E. G. Zetzel
Katharina Volk

Associate Professors
Elizabeth Irwin
Kristina Milnor (Barnard)
Ellen Morris (Barnard)

Assistant Professors
Marcus Folch
Joseph Howley

Lecturers
Vangelis Calotychos
Collomia Charles
Elizabeth Scarffenberger

 

 

When one visits Rome or Athens, they also visit the many layers of physical, historical, and cultural development that have contributed to the complex evolution of those cities. When one tours the Roman forum or the Greek Parthenon, they set foot on monuments whose physical impressiveness symbolizes political strength and historical importance; in a very physical way they experience the past. When one studies Latin and Greek language and culture, they embark on a tour of an alternative kind, making their way through texts and other cultural forms — such as paintings, sculptures, philosophical ideas — that bring them directly into contact with the Greco-Roman past. Literature, philosophy, history, art and architecture, linguistics, papyrology, religion: all (and more) are branches of investigation to which the modern student of classics/classical studies has access through the surviving literary and material evidence.

But when one studies in the original language Virgil's Aeneid, say, or Plato's philosophical writings, they find that ancient Greek or Latin literature deals with issues and ideas that are, for us, of central contemporary importance: e.g. how can I be happy? What is the best political constitution for our (or any) state? What responsibilities do I have to the society in which I live? What national significance is served or owed by literature? The study of Greek and Latin language and culture concentrates in one main area (ancient Greece and Rome) and on many of the questions that are of direct pertinence to the ways in which modern lives are shaped and lived; at the same time, Greco-Roman literature and philosophy, so fundamental to the later development of the western tradition, boast works of great intrinsic worth and interest. While all Columbia students get an introduction to classical texts in Literature Humanities and Contemporary Civilization, classics/classical studies provides a more advanced study of ancient cultural issues and habits of mind already sampled in the Core.

Study abroad in Greece or Italy offers a variety of educational experiences that are continuous with those of the major, enriching both linguistic expertise and cultural awareness. Students in classics have the opportunity to take part in archeological digs abroad, and on occasion to assist faculty in research projects that require, e.g., bibliographical collection or the checking of research data.

Many majors progress to graduate study in classics and classical studies, and upon earning their graduate degrees they often embark on teaching careers in universities, colleges, and high schools. Many graduating majors also enter a number of other professional fields, among them law, banking, accountancy, publishing, and museum-work. Employers tend to find that students in classics are articulate on paper as well as orally, are organized of mind, and have good skills in general reasoning, an ability developed by the study of Greek and Latin language. In effect, the study of classics opens up a wide array of options, both in education and in the wider world.

The program of the department has as its twin aims a comprehensive understanding of classical literature and culture, and the mastery of Greek and Latin on which such understanding depends. Careful study of the language occupies the largest part of the first-year courses and is not omitted in the more advanced courses. Although literature becomes the chief subject only in the advanced courses, important authors like Homer, Plato, and Vergil are studied as literary texts already in the intermediate courses. A wide variety of courses are offered in translation.

Through a joint program with Barnard, the department offers a broad range of subjects. The department annually offers four advanced courses in each language (at the 3000- or 4000- level), the content of which changes each year in order to provide a curricular range and to balance authors and genres over a two-year period.

Opportunities for individual projects of reading and research are available. Students are permitted to take graduate courses as well if they are sufficiently prepared. They can also supplement their studies within the department by work in other departments, such as art history and archaeology, history, philosophy, and the other departments of languages and literature.

It is not necessary to have previously studied either language in order to major in it. A student starting Greek or Latin at Columbia can meet all the requirements of a major within an ordinary undergraduate program.

In Fulfillment of the Language Requirement

Students beginning the study of Greek or Latin at Columbia must take four terms of either of the following two-year sequences: GREK V1101-V1102 Elementary Greek and GREK V1201-V1202 Intermediate Greek; or LATN V1101-V1102 Elementary Latin and LATN V1201-V1202 Intermediate Latin. With the permission of the director of undergraduate studies, GREK V1202 may be taken before GREK V1201. The intensive elementary courses GREK V1121 and LATN V1121 may be substituted for the two-term V1101-V1102 sequence, and the intensive intermediate courses GREK V1221 and LATN V1221 may be substituted for the two-term GREK V1201-V1202 sequence.  LATN V1201 should be taken before LATN V1202.

For students with secondary-school training in Greek or Latin, the director of undergraduate studies determines, on the basis of records and test scores, what further work is needed to fulfill the language requirement.

Advanced Placement

The department grants 3 credits for a score of 5 on the Latin AP exam, which also satisfies the foreign language requirement, upon successful completion (with a grade of B or higher) of a Latin class at the 3000-level or higher.

Major Program

The department offers a major in classics and a major track in classical studies. The major in classics involves the intensive study of both Greek and Latin, as well as their cultural matrix; the track in classical studies offers a more interdisciplinary approach. The major in classics is recommended for students planning to continue the study of classics in graduate school. The department also participates in the interdepartmental ancient studies program and offers a concentration in classics; these are all described below.

The major in classics and the track in classical studies are designed in part to build on the experience of the ancient world that undergraduates have acquired at Columbia in the Core Curriculum (especially in Literature Humanities). The major in classics is structured on the principle of gradual and closely monitored linguistic progress from the elementary (1100- level) to the advanced (3000- and 4000- levels) and ultimately to the literature survey courses (W4105-W4106) in Greek and/or Latin.

Those majors intending to embark on graduate study in classics are especially encouraged to undertake, in their senior year, an independent research project (V3998). This option is designed to allow students to personalize their experience in the major by conducting advanced study in a specialized area, and under the guidance of the specializing faculty member of their choice.

V3998 is required in the classical studies track. Otherwise, students in classical studies are not required to take advanced courses beyond V3996 The major seminar, but are expected to follow a coherent plan of study by taking a sequence of cognate courses in different but related departments (e.g., art history and archaeology, history, etc.).

The director of undergraduate studies is responsible for overseeing the path of study followed by each student in classics or classical studies. Through close interaction with the director of undergraduate studies, as well as with other faculty members where appropriate, each major is strongly encouraged to debate the strengths and weaknesses of his or her own trajectory of study even as the requirements for the major are being completed.

Students should contact the director of undergraduate studies with any questions about the classics majors and course offerings.  The director of undergraduate studies can provide students with a worksheet to help in planning their progress toward major requirements.