Classics

Chair, Fall 2015: Elizabeth Vandiver
Chair, Spring 2016Dana Burgess (on Sabbatical, Fall 2015)
David Lupher
Kathleen J. Shea (on Sabbatical, Spring 2016) 

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. Greek 205 (or equivalent) and Latin 205 (or equivalent);
  2. eight credits of the following: Latin 355; Greek 365; Latin 375; Greek 375. A minimum of two of these credits must be taken in each language.
  3. Classics 490;
  4. Classics 139;
  5. eight credits to be drawn from other coursework in Classics;
  6. four credits of coursework in Greek and/or Roman history from either History 225, 226, 227, or 330, or other courses approved by the department of Classics;
  7. all classics majors must also complete either Classics 497 or Classics 498.

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 Latin major: A minimum of 36 credits including:

  1. Latin 205 (or equivalent); Latin 355; Latin 375;
  2. Classics 490;
  3. Classics 139;
  4. twelve credits to be drawn from any course in Classics; four of these credits may be drawn from any course  in Greek.
  5. eight credits of coursework in Greek and/or Roman history from either History 225, 226, 227, or 330, or other courses approved by the department of Classics.

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

  1. Greek 205 (or equivalent); Greek 365; Greek 375;
  2. Classics 490;
  3. Classics 139;
  4. twelve credits to be drawn from any course in Classics; four of these credits may be drawn from any course  in Latin.
  5. eight credits of coursework in Greek and/or Roman history from either History 225, 226, 227, or 330, 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 Classical Studies minor: A minimum of 20 credits, including Classics 139; plus 16 additional credits, which may be drawn from any course in Latin or Greek or from any of the following courses: Art History and Visual Culture Studies 224, 226; Classics 130, 140, 200, 201, 217, 221, 224, 226, 227, 311, 312, 319, 371, 377; Environmental Studies 217, 226, 319, 368; History 225, 226, 227, 330.

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

130 Ancient Mythology
4; not offered 2015-16

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.

139 Greek and Roman Intellectual History
x, 4 Burgess

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.

140 Gender in Greece and Rome
4, x Vandiver

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.

200 ST: Refracting War: Poetic Representations of Battle and War-Trauma in Homer, the First World War, and the Irish Troubles
x, 4 Vandiver

This course examines depictions of war, trauma, and survival in three very different contexts: Homeric epic, the “trench poets” of the First World War, and the works of modern Irish poets (especially Seamus Heaney and Michael Longley).  The course will focus in particular on 20th- and 21st-century works that directly respond to or reflect on classical texts. The class will begin by reading the Iliad and selections from other classical texts; in the second two-thirds of the semester, class work will concentrate on close readings of modern poems.  There will be frequent short papers and each student will work on a major research project, to be presented to the class near the end of the semester. Distribution area: humanities.

201 Readings in the Western Philosophical Tradition: Ancient
x, 4 Jenkins

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, x Shea

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, x Walker

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
4; not offered 2015-16

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; not offered 2015-16

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. May be elected as Environmental Studies 226.

227 Greek and Roman Epic
4; not offered 2015-16

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.

311 Variable Topics in Plato
4; not offered 2015-16

Students 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. Any current offerings follow.

312 Variable Topics in Aristotle
4; not offered 2015-16

Students 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. Any current offerings follow.

312 VT: Aristotle on Persons and Personhood
4, x Jenkins

This course is directed at answering one question: What, for Aristotle, does it mean to be a person?  Aristotle's answer to this question is complex and draws from across his corpus, weaving together many of his most central metaphysical, epistemological, psychological, biological, ethical, and political commitments.  In this course we will trace out his answer to this question, trying to better understand Aristotle's conception of personhood and, in so doing, better develop our own understanding of the concept.  Texts we will read include selections from the Metaphysics, Physics, De Anima, Posterior Analytics, Rhetoric, Nicomachean Ethics, and Politics. May be elected as Philosophy 312. Distribution: humanities.

319 Landscape and Cityscape in Ancient Rome
4; not offered 2015-16

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.

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

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
4; not offered 2015-16

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 Vandiver

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: Greek 375 or Latin 375. Corequisite: Greek 365 or Latin 355.

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; not offered 2015-16

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, x Vandiver

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.

365 Seminar in Classical Greek
2, x Vandiver 

A reading of selected authors in classical Greek. May be repeated for credit when authors change. Prerequisites: Greek 205 or equivalent with consent of instructor. 

375 Advanced Classical Greek
x, 4 Vandiver

A reading of selected authors in classical Greek.  May be repeated for credit when authors change. Prerequisites: Greek 205 or equivalent with consent of instructor.

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 Lupher

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 Shea

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.

355 Seminar in Classical Latin
2, x Vandiver

A reading of selected authors in classical Latin.  May be repeated for credit when authors change.  Latin 205 or equivalent with consent of the instructor.

375 Advanced Classical Latin
x, 4 Burgess

A reading of selected authors in classical Latin.  May be repeated for credit when authors change. Latin 205 or equivalent with consent of the instructor.

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.