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; 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 preprofessional 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.
Majors take a minimum of 20 credits in reading courses, since the department is convinced that all objectives of classical study—from linguistic competence to familiarity with classical culture—are best approached through intensive study of literary texts in their original languages. Majors who plan a career in classical scholarship satisfy the need for more extensive reading or more sharply focused professional preparation in independent study. Those who incline toward the archaeological specialty, and those with more literary or historical interests, are encouraged to take a semester in one of the approved programs in Athens or Rome. Since careers in these areas will require reading proficiency in French and German, interested students are advised to master at least one of these languages during the undergraduate years.