Classics

Chair: Dana Burgess
Leanna Boychenko
Kathleen J. Shea
Elizabeth Vandiver (on Sabbatical, Fall 2014)

Classics Department Website »

Classics is the study of Greek and Roman antiquity through the ancient languages, literatures, histories, arts, cultures, and thought of those periods. This is an area of study which seeks to employ a variety of analytic tools in understanding the cultures which lie at the heart of the western tradition. The major programs in classics and classical studies draw on the offerings of the departments of classics, history, philosophy, politics, and rhetoric. The major in classics places the greatest emphasis upon mastery of the ancient languages. The major in classical studies emphasizes a broad familiarity with Greek and Roman cultures.

A student who enters Whitman without any prior college-level preparation in classics will have to complete 52 credits to fulfill the requirements for the classics major. That same student will have to complete 44 credits to fulfill the requirements for the classical studies major.

A course cannot be used to satisfy both major and minor requirements; e.g., History 226 cannot be used to apply toward the 36-credit requirement for the history major and the classics minor requirement. Courses taken P-D-F prior to the declaration of a language major or minor will satisfy course and credit requirements for the major or minor. Courses taken P-D-F may not be used to satisfy course and credit requirements for the major or minor after the major or minor has been declared.

Distribution: Courses completed in classics apply to the humanities and cultural pluralism (selected courses) distribution areas.

Learning Goals of Classics major: Upon graduation, a student will be able to:

  • Major-Specific Areas of Knowledge
    • Graduating Classics majors will be able to use original language materials in both Latin and Greek in their development of arguments and analyses.
    • Though a student may have greater familiarity with either the Greek or the Roman culture, all graduating Classics majors will be able to use materials from the other of the two cultures in developing an argument about the classical world.
  • Communication
    • Graduating Classics majors will be able to develop a sustained written argument.
    • Graduating Classics majors will be able to compose mechanically acceptable English prose and to use a formal academic writing style.
  • Critical Thinking
    • Graduating Classics majors will be able to draw upon a breadth of knowledge of the classical world in formulating responses to individual texts. 

The Classics major: A minimum of 36 credits including:

  1. Latin 205 (or equivalent) and Greek 205 (or equivalent);
  2. seven credits of Classics 355 (Latin), 365 (Greek);
  3. Classics 490;
  4. twelve credits to be drawn from coursework in Classics. No more than four of these credits may be drawn from Classics 355 (Latin), 365 (Greek);
  5. four credits of coursework in Greek and/or Roman history from either History 225, 226, or 227, or other courses approved by the department of Classics;
  6. all classics majors must also complete either Classics 497 (two credits) or Classics 498 (two credits).

The senior assessment in classics consists of a three-hour written comprehensive examination, a senior thesis, and a one-hour oral examination consisting of a defense of the thesis and, when appropriate, further response to questions from the written examination.

Learning Goals of Classical Studies major: Upon graduation, a student will be able to:

  • Major-Specific Areas of Knowledge
    • Graduating Classical Studies majors will be able to use original language materials from one of the ancient languages in their development of arguments and analyses.
    • Graduating Classical Studies majors will be able to place their arguments and analyses of specific questions into the broad historical context of both ancient cultures.
  • Communication
    • Graduating Classics Studies majors will be able to compose mechanically acceptable English prose and to use a formal academic writing style.
  • Critical Thinking
    • Graduating Classical Studies majors will be able to draw upon a breadth of knowledge of the classical world in formulating responses to individual texts.
    • Graduating Classical Studies majors will be able to address the relations between Greek culture and Roman culture.

The Classical Studies major: A minimum of 36 credits as follows:

  1. Latin 205 (or equivalent) or Greek 205 (or equivalent);
  2. seven credits of Classics 355 (Latin), 365 (Greek);
  3. Classics 490;
  4. sixteen credits to be drawn from coursework in Classics. No more than four of these credits may be drawn from Classics 355 (Latin), 365 (Greek);
  5. eight credits of coursework in Greek and/or Roman history from History 225, 226, or 227, or other courses approved by the department of Classics.

The senior assessment in classical studies consists of a three-hour written comprehensive examination and a one-hour oral examination, both of which address materials encountered in coursework and materials from a departmental reading list for the comprehensive examination.

The Classics minor: A minimum of 20 credits: Either Latin 205 (or equivalent) or Greek 205 (or equivalent), at least four credits of Classics 355 (Latin) or 365 (Greek), plus a minimum of 12 additional credits. Eight of those additional credits may be drawn from a full year of a second ancient language. Thus the student who completes Greek 205 may count Latin 105, 106 toward the minor, and the student who completes Latin 205 may count Greek 105, 106. All or part of the 12 additional credits may be drawn from the following courses: Art History and Visual Culture Studies 226; Classics 130, 140, 200, 201, 217, 221, 224, 226, 227, 239, 311, 312, 319, 371, 377, 355 (Latin), 365 (Greek); Environmental Studies 217, 226, 319; Greek 391, 392; History 225, 226, 227; Latin 391, 392.

Note: Students who major in classical studies may not receive credit for the completion of a classics minor.

130 Ancient Mythology
4; not offered 2014-15

Through analysis of primary literary sources students will study the structures and functions of myth in ancient Greek and Roman cultures. Some comparative material from Mesopotamia will be considered. We also will examine modern theories of myth, especially as they apply to specific categories of ancient myths. Open to all students.

140 Gender in Greece and Rome
4; not offered 2014-15

This course examines constructions of and assumptions about gender and sexuality in ancient Greek and Roman societies. The course uses literary, documentary, archaeological, and visual sources to investigate the societal expectations for women’s and men’s behavior in both the public and the private spheres. The course examines evidence for the day-to-day realities of ancient Greeks’ and Romans’ lives. Students will consider what our sources can tell us about how those realities corresponded to or differed from the ideals of gender roles presented in literary texts. The course is interdisciplinary and open to all students. Offered in alternate years.

200 Special Topics in Classical Studies
4

Any current offerings follow.

200A ST: Mothers, Witches, and Nymphs: Concepts of Women and Nature in the Ancient World
x, 4 Shea

In this course we will explore the status of women in the ancient world as intermediaries to nature. We will examine a range of representations of the feminine in literature and art, as well as in ritual and social practice, studying the female role in negotiating society’s interactions with nature. On the positive end of the spectrum, we will consider representations of this function as supportive to culture and society. On the negative end, we will consider the demonization of that same function, such as in the depiction of woman as the witch, privy to the dangerous and uncontrollable forces of nature, her status as intermediary thus used to disenfranchise and exclude her. Works that we will read and discuss may include the Homeric Hymns to Demeter and to Aphrodite, plays by Aeschylus and Euripides, and the novel, The Golden Ass, by Apuleius. May be elected as Environmental Studies 302A. Distribution area: humanities or cultural pluralism.

200B ST: The Animal and Animality in Greek and Roman Culture
x, 4 Shea

From Argus, Odysseus’ faithful dog, to dog-faced Helen, animals and animality pervade Greek and Roman literature, art, myth, ritual and daily life. This course will survey the significance of the animal in the ancient cultures of Greece and Rome. Exploring representations of animals in art and in a variety of literary genres, we will examine ancient conceptions of animals as the pet, the domesticated, the wild, the beast, the exotic, and the monstrous. We will look at the literary treatment of humans as animals, through metaphor and through myths of metamorphosis, and consider how these treatments illuminate ancient understandings of animality and what it means to be human. Through philosophic texts we will examine the human and non-human animal relationship and the ethics of human use of animals. We will consider the symbolic value of animals as objects of ritual, cult, and myth by looking at a range of cultural practices, from animal sacrifice in Homer to the conspicuous consumption of exotics in the blood-sport of the Roman arena. May be elected as Environmental Studies 302B. Distribution area: humanities.

201 Readings in the Western Philosophical Tradition: Ancient
4, 4 Fall: Jenkins; Spring: Ireland

This course is a survey of some of the central figures and texts in the ancient western philosophical tradition. Readings may include texts from Plato and Aristotle, from the Presocratic philosophers, the later Hellenistic schools (which include the Stoics, Epicureans, and Skeptics), and other Greek intellectuals (playwrights, historians, orators). May be elected as Philosophy 201.

217 Classical Foundations of the Nature Writing Tradition
4; not offered 2014-15

The Western nature writing tradition is deeply rooted in models from classical antiquity. In order to appreciate more fully the tradition we will explore the relationship between ancient literature and the natural environment. In our literary analysis of ancient works, we will examine approaches to natural description in several literary genres, which may include the poetic genres of epic, lyric, pastoral, and elegiac, as well as the prose genres of ethnographic history, natural history and travel-writing. Authors may include Homer, Herodotus, Theocritus, Vergil, Ovid, and Pliny. We will consider how these ancient approaches influenced the development of natural description in the modern period and may read works by later authors such as Shakespeare, Milton, and Thoreau. May be elected as Environmental Studies 217.

221 Introduction to Ancient and Medieval Political Theory
4; not offered 2014-15

This course introduces students to the history of European political theory through an investigation of classical Greek and premodern Christian writings. Texts to be explored may include Aeschylus’s Oresteia, Thucydides’s Peloponnesian War, Plato’s Republic, Aristotle’s Politics, St. Augustine’s City of God, and St. Thomas Aquinas’s Summa Theologica. May be elected as Politics 121.

224 Greek and Roman Art
x, 4 Boychenko

An exploration of the arts of ancient Greece and Rome, including sculpture, painting, and architecture. Each iteration of the course will focus primarily on one particular theme or type of art (for instance, public monuments, portraiture, narrative art). This course pays special attention to the cultural contexts from which the art arises. May be elected as Art History 224. Open to all students. Offered in alternate years.

226 Concepts of Nature in Greek and Roman Thought
4, x Shea

The Greek term “physis” and the Latin word “natura” refer to what has come to be, as well as to the process of coming into being. This course will consider a broad range of texts which develop important concepts of Nature. Philosophic texts may include the pre-Socratics, Aristotle, the Stoics, and Lucretius. Literary texts may include Theocritus, Virgil, and the early-modern European pastoral tradition. In addition, we will encounter other texts in various genres that contribute some of the ideas which inform the complex and changing concepts of Nature. This course may be used by environmental studies-humanities students toward their critical thinking requirements in the major. All other environmental studies students may use this course to fulfill humanities requirements for their combined majors. May be elected as Environmental Studies 226.

227 Greek and Roman Epic
4; not offered 2014-15

Epic was one of the most important poetic genres of the ancient Greco-Roman world. This course introduces students to the origin and development of ancient epic through a close reading in English translation of works by Homer, Virgil, and other ancient epic poets. We also will consider modern critical responses to ancient epic and modern theories about epic’s origins.

239 Greek and Roman Intellectual History
4; not offered 2014-15

Literature, philosophy, art, politics, history, and rhetoric were richly intertwined systems of thought in the ancient world. This course will consider materials that illuminate the ways in which ancient peoples thought. Greek culture was not Roman culture, so this course will give careful attention to the intercultural relations between Greece and Rome, and to the ways in which ideas were exchanged and transmuted between the two cultures.

311 Plato
4, x Jenkins

In this course we will engage in an in-depth examination of one or more of Plato’s dialogues. This examination may center on a particular dialogue, a particular question or set of questions, or a particular theme as it develops throughout the Platonic corpus. Students are encouraged to contact the professor for more information about the particular topic of the current iteration of the course. May be elected as Philosophy 311.

312 Aristotle
4; not offered 2014-15

In this course we will engage in an in-depth examination of one or more of Aristotle’s texts. This examination may center on a particular dialogue, a particular question or set of questions, or a particular theme as it develops throughout the Aristotelian corpus. Students are encouraged to contact the professor for more information about the particular topic of the current iteration of the course. May be elected as Philosophy 312.

319 Landscape and Cityscape in Ancient Rome
4; not offered 2014-15

Despite Rome being one of the greatest cities in the ancient world, its identity was fundamentally rooted in its natural landscape. In this course we will explore how the realms of urban, rural, and wild were articulated in Roman culture, conceptually and materially. We will investigate both how the Romans conceived of the relationship between the built environment of urban space and the natural environment that supported and surrounded it and how they dealt with the real ecological problems of urban life. Central to our study will be an examination of the ways in which the rural and the wild were simultaneously the “other” and a fundamental aspect of Roman self-identity and memory. Ancient authors that we will read in this course may include Cicero, Vergil, Livy, Horace, Ovid, and Vitruvius. May be elected as Art History 226 or Environmental Studies 319.

355 Advanced Seminar in Classical Latin
2-3, 2-3 Fall: Burgess; Spring: Boychenko

A reading of selected authors in classical Latin. Students will consult with the instructor to determine the appropriate number of credits for their enrollment. May be repeated for credit when authors change. Prerequisite: Latin 205 or equivalent with consent of the instructor.

365 Advanced Seminar in Classical Greek
2-3, 2-3 Fall: Burgess; Spring: Boychenko

A reading of selected authors in classical Greek. Students will consult with the instructor to determine the appropriate number of credits for their enrollment. May be repeated for credit when authors change. Prerequisite: Greek 205 or equivalent with consent of the instructor.

371 The Roots of Rhetoric: Rhetoric in Western Culture
x, 4 deTar

Debates over questions of truth versus belief and how to balance emotion, logic, and credibility have found themselves as the center of rhetoric and politics for decades. The very question, “What is rhetoric?,” prompts consternation and confusion, dialogue and dissent. Who were the ancient rhetoricians and how did they define the way they used words and argument? What relationships, both positive and negative, did rhetoric forge with philosophy, poetry, historiography, politics and the law? Was rhetoric a skill that could be taught to everyone? This course will begin by investigating the origins of rhetoric in Ancient Greece and follow its transformation in fifth- and fourth-century Athens through close study of the texts of Gorgias, Plato, Aristotle, among others. We will then turn our attention to the art of rhetoric in Ancient Rome from the end of the Republic to Christian late Antiquity through close readings of works by Cicero, among others. Throughout the semester, we will focus on how authors delineated the effects of rhetorical speech as well as on how this special speech transformed perceptions, interpretations, and actions, crafting the earliest notions of rhetorical studies. Course to include a final paper as well as class discussion and participation. This course is open to all students but completion of Rhetoric Studies 230 is advised. May be elected as Rhetoric Studies 330.

377 Ancient Theatre
x, 4 Burgess

The origin and development of ancient theatre, especially of Greek tragedy, through a close reading of ancient plays in English translation. In addition to ancient plays, we will read modern critical responses to those plays. May be elected as Theatre 377. Open to all students. Offered in alternate years.

490 Senior Seminar
1, x Burgess

A one-hour seminar required of all Classics and Classical Studies majors in their senior year. The course meets once a week and covers techniques of classical scholarship and closely related disciplines. Prerequisite: consent of instructor. Corequisite: Classics 355 (Latin) or 365 (Greek).

497 Senior Thesis
2, 2 Staff

The student will prepare a thesis using primary materials in either Greek, Latin, or both languages. A senior thesis is required of all classics majors. Prerequisite: consent of instructor.

498 Honors Thesis
2, 2 Staff

The student will prepare a thesis using primary materials in either Greek, Latin, or both languages. A senior thesis is required of all classics majors. This honors thesis is open to senior honors candidates in classics or classical studies. Prerequisite: admission to honors candidacy.

Greek

105, 106 Elementary Ancient Greek
4, 4 Shea

An introduction to the language of classical Athens, Attic Greek. The class is devoted to giving the students the ability to read ancient texts as soon as possible. Along with a systematic presentation of Ancient Greek grammar, this course offers opportunities to read selections from Greek literature in their original language. Offered in alternate years. Prerequisite for 106: Greek 105 or consent of instructor.

205 Intermediate Ancient Greek
4; not offered 2014-15

Substantial readings from ancient authors in the original ancient Greek in conjunction with a review of important aspects of Greek grammar. Prerequisite: Greek 106 or consent of instructor. Offered in alternate years.

Advanced Greek

See Classics 365 Advanced Seminar in Classical Greek.

391, 392 Independent Study
1-4, 1-4 Staff

An introduction to the tools of classical scholarship through a reading of an ancient Greek text chosen by the student and instructor in consultation. Prerequisite: consent of instructor.

Latin

105, 106 Elementary Latin
4, 4 Burgess

An introduction to the language of ancient Rome. The class is devoted to giving the students the ability to read ancient texts as soon as possible. Along with a systematic presentation of Latin grammar, this course offers opportunities to read selections from Roman literature in their original language. Offered in alternate years. Prerequisite for 106: Latin 105 or consent of instructor.

205 Intermediate Latin
4, x Boychenko

Substantial readings from ancient authors in the original Latin in conjunction with a review of important aspects of Latin grammar. Prerequisite: Latin 106 or consent of instructor.

Advanced Latin

See Classics 355 Advanced Seminar in Classical Latin.

391, 392 Independent Study
1-4, 1-4 Staff

An introduction to the tools of classical scholarship through a reading of a Latin text chosen by the student and instructor in consultation. Prerequisite: consent of instructor.