Member of the Division of Humanities
Joseph Cummins (also Philosophy)
Because of their continuity and comparability, the classical and modern worlds offer valuable perspectives on each other. Their continuity has long been recognized; many modern languages, institutions, values, and the forms and symbols in which we frame ideas are derived from the beginnings of Western civilization in Greece and Rome. But since our modern world differs in important ways from its origins, the study of classics also supplies a perspective for comparison that enforces rational, conscious examination of the unconscious assumptions by which we speak, think, and act. Grinnell courses in classics deliberately and explicitly invite students to apply their classical experience to the facts and modes of understanding they have learned in history, social sciences, philosophy, literature, and the arts as taught from more modern points of view in other departments of the College.
All classics offerings are designed and taught with a view to the needs of students from various disciplines and with various pre-professional interests. Some of these needs are addressed directly in courses in classical thought or New Testament Greek, but, in general, preparation for such professions as law is best served by the rigorous and humane qualities that the study of classics gives to a liberal education.
The department offers beginning, intermediate, and advanced courses in both Greek and Latin and a special course, LAT 225 , which quickly brings entering students with differing backgrounds to an appropriate reading ability by working on their individual needs. The 300-level courses in Latin and Greek introduce students to the pleasure derived from careful and intelligent reading of a relatively small selection of the best literature. Reading competence also is fostered in a voluntary activity that has become a tradition fondly remembered by graduates: the weekly evening of sight-reading in faculty homes. The department also offers an extensive array of courses in ancient history, art, philosophy and political theory, as well as courses in classical mythology and linguistics.
All majors take at least one 300-level reading course in Latin or Greek since the department is convinced that intensive study of literary texts in their original languages is the cornerstone of classical study. Many majors are encouraged to take a semester in one of the approved programs in Athens or Rome in order to study classical culture in in its material context as well. In addition, students have some choice in planning their course of study: those who prefer more extensive study of the languages may choose the Classical Languages and Literature track, while those who prefer to study civilization more broadly may choose from a range of courses in the Classical Studies track.