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Classical Languages & Literatures

Acropolis of Lindos on the island of Rhodes

Classics is the study of ancient Greek and Roman civilization, which laid the foundation of the western tradition in literature, philosophy, history, art, science and mathematics. Classics is thus not confined to one field or method, but has always been inherently interdisciplinary. Classics students spend most of their time reading Greek and Latin texts in the original languages, but they can also take courses in English translation in a variety of disciplines in order to get a broader, interdisciplinary perspective. Classics makes a dynamic and rewarding stand-alone major, but it can be (and often is) paired with a second major.

Above: Photo of Lindos, Rhodes.

News & Events

"Classical Studies, Race and the 'Alt-Right': Contesting the Modern Meanings Made From Ancient Bodies"

Thursday, November 30, 2017, Seelye Hall 201, 5 p.m.

Lecture by Denise McCoskey, Professor of Classics and Affiliate, Black World Studies, Miami University of Ohio. This lecture is free and open to the public.

Requirements

The Department of Classical Languages and Literatures regards its principal mission as instruction of students in the languages and literatures of Ancient Greece and Rome. We believe that the study of Greek and Latin provides students with a rigorous intellectual training that is transferable to other areas of learning and life. We practice the deep study of language on texts—literary, historical and philosophical—that we admire for the directness and vigor with which they confront central issues of the human condition: love and death, freedom and tyranny, justice and injustice. A sustained confrontation with classical texts not only heightens a student’s sensitivity to literature and involves her in a valuable cultural odyssey, but also prepares her for a life of thoughtful and engaged citizenship in the world of the 21st century.

Students majoring in classics or classical studies should be able to:

  • Translate with accuracy and understanding Latin and/or Greek texts from a variety of historical periods and genres.

  • Appreciate literary texts (epic, tragedy, elegy, oratory, history or philosophy) in relation to their historical frameworks, both diachronic (texts in dialogue with one another across a literary tradition) and synchronic (texts responding to specific historical conditions).

  • Have a working knowledge of the basic tools and resources, both print and electronic, for conducting research about ancient Greek and Roman culture.

  • Write clear, cogent interpretive arguments that demonstrate an ability to evaluate and engage critically with both primary sources and secondary literature.

  • Communicate ideas clearly and effectively in oral argument.

  • Develop an historical awareness of the enduring influence of the classics in the arts and culture of subsequent periods up to the present day.

The Department of Classical Languages and Literatures currently offers four majors: classics, classical studies, Greek and Latin.

Classics

Advisers: Members of the department

Basis: Greek 100y and Latin 100y

Requirements: Nine semester courses in the languages of which six must be at or above the intermediate level and including not fewer than two in each language. One classics-in-translation course may be substituted for one language course at the discretion of the student and with the approval of the adviser.


Classical Studies

Advisers: Members of the department

Basis: Greek 100y and Latin 100y

Requirements: Nine semester courses. Four must be chosen from GRK and/or LAT, and at least two of these must be at or above the intermediate level. At least two courses must be chosen from classics-in-translation (CLS), and at least two must be chosen from archeology (ARC), art history (ARH), comparative literature (CLT), government (GOV), ancient history (HST), philosophy (PHI) and/or religion (REL), in accordance with the interests of the student and in consultation with the adviser. With the approval of the adviser, courses in other departments and programs may count toward the major.


Greek

Advisers: Members of the department

Basis: Greek 100y

Requirements: Nine semester courses in the language, of which six must be at or above the intermediate level. One classics-in-translation course may be substituted for one language course at the discretion of the student and with the approval of the adviser.


Latin

Advisers: Members of the department

Basis: Latin 100y

Requirements: Nine semester courses in the language, of which six must be at or above the intermediate level. One classics-in-translation course may be substituted for one language course at the discretion of the student and with the approval of the adviser.

Classics

Requirements: Six four-credit courses, of which at least four must be courses in the Greek or Latin languages, including no fewer than two in each language. At least two of these six must be at or above the intermediate level.

Greek

Requirements: Six four-credit courses, of which at least four must be courses in the Greek language and at least two must be at or above the intermediate level. The remaining courses may be chosen from Greek history, art, ancient philosophy, ancient political theory, ancient religion or classics in translation. At least one course must be chosen from this category.

Latin

Requirements: Six four-credit courses, of which at least four must be courses in the Latin language and at least two must be at or above the intermediate level. The remaining courses may be chosen from Roman history, art, ancient philosophy, ancient political theory, ancient religion or classics in translation. At least one course must be chosen from this category.

Honors Director: Nancy Shumate

Requirements: A 3.7 average for courses within the major through the junior year. Honors candidates will complete a yearlong, 8-credit thesis and will take an examination in the general area of the thesis.

Evaluation: In determining the final honors evaluation the department weights the thesis at 60%, grades at 30%, and the examination at 10%.

 


Courses

Fall 2018

GRK 100Y Elementary Greek 
A yearlong introduction to ancient Greek through the language of Homer's Iliad and Odyssey, the two 8th-century epics that represent the culmination of a long and rich tradition of oral poetry. The ancients regarded these poems as unparalleled masterpieces; the great tragedian Aeschylus called his own plays "crumbs from Homer's table," and both epics have endured over the millennia and are still alive and relevant. Identity, love, seduction, loyalty, the tension between individualism and community, between home and adventure -- these are some of the very human issues the Odyssey explores. Students will learn all the fundamentals of Greek vocabulary and grammar, and experience the joy of reading Homer's Odyssey in the original. Credits: 5 
Barry A. Spence 

GRK 212 Introduction to Greek Prose and Poetry 
Grammar review, and practice and improvement of reading skills through the study of Plato, Lysias, Euripides and others. Prerequisite: 100y. {F} {L} Credits: 4 
Nancy J. Shumate 

GRK 310 Advanced Readings in Greek Literature I & II 
Authors vary from year to year, but they are generally chosen from a list that includes Plato, Homer, Aristophanes, lyric poets, tragedians, historians and orators depending on the interests and needs of the students. May be repeated for credit, provided the topic is not the same. Prerequisite: 213 or permission of the instructor. 
Greek Literature and Religion: Demeter and Dionysus 
A study of these important divinities and their place in Greek religion through readings of the Homeric Hymn to Demeter and Euripides’ Bacchae, the two principal literary sources for study of these gods. The Hymn is our major source for knowledge of Demeter and the Eleusinian Mysteries, the oldest mystery cult in the Greek world. Euripides’ play is a deep and far-ranging meditation on the nature of Dionysus, the most complex and most fascinating of all Greek gods. Our approach will be both literary and historical. {F} {L} Credits: 4 
Scott Bradbury 

GRK 400 Special Studies 
For majors and honors students who have had four advanced courses in Greek. Admission by permission of the department. Credits: 1-4 
Members of the department


Spring 2018

GRK 100Y Elementary Greek 
A yearlong introduction to ancient Greek through the language of Homer's Iliad and Odyssey, the two 8th-century epics that represent the culmination of a long and rich tradition of oral poetry. The ancients regarded these poems as unparalleled masterpieces; the great tragedian Aeschylus called his own plays "crumbs from Homer's table," and both epics have endured over the millennia and are still alive and relevant. Identity, love, seduction, loyalty, the tension between individualism and community, between home and adventure -- these are some of the very human issues the Odyssey explores. Students will learn all the fundamentals of Greek vocabulary and grammar, and experience the joy of reading Homer's Odyssey in the original. Credits: 5 
Barry A. Spence 

GRK 213 Introduction to Homeric Epic 
An introduction to Homeric Greek via selections from the Iliad and the Odyssey. May be repeated for credit, provided the topic is not the same. Prerequisite: 212 or permission of the instructor. 
Homer's Iliad 
Attention to features of oral style and epic diction, the structure of the poem, and the anger and evolution of Achilles, the quintessential Homeric hero. {F} {L} Credits: 4 
Rebecca Worsham 

GRK 400 Special Studies 
For majors and honors students who have had four advanced courses in Greek. Admission by permission of the department. Credits: 1-4 
Members of the department 
 

Fall 2017

LAT 100Y Elementary Latin 
Fundamentals of grammar, with selected readings from Latin authors in the second semester. This is a full-year course. Enrollment limited to 30. Yearlong courses cannot be divided at midyear with credit for the first semester. Credits: 5 
Rebecca Worsham 

LAT 212 Introduction to Latin Prose and Poetry 
Practice and improvement of reading skills through the study of a selection of texts in prose and verse. Systematic review of fundamentals of grammar. Prerequisite: LAT 100y, or the equivalent. {F} {L} Credits: 4 
Scott A. Bradbury 

LAT 330 Advanced Readings in Latin Literature I & II 
Topics course.
Authors vary from year to year, but they are generally chosen from a list that includes epic and lyric poets, historians, orators, comedians and novelists, depending on the interests and needs of the students. May be repeated for credit, provided the topic is not the same. Prerequisite: two courses at the 200-level or permission of the instructor. 
Roman Letters 
Selected readings from Roman epistolary literature, including works by Cicero and Pliny. Attention to the development of epistolary theory and style; mechanics of exchange; private vs. public correspondence; and verse adaptations of the letter form. {F} {L} Credits: 4 
Rebecca Worsham 

LAT 400 Special Studies 
For majors and honors students who have had four advanced courses in Latin. Admission by permission of the department. Credits: 1-4 
Members of the department 


Spring 2018

LAT 100Y Elementary Latin 
Fundamentals of grammar, with selected readings from Latin authors in the second semester. This is a full-year course. Enrollment limited to 30. Yearlong courses cannot be divided at midyear with credit for the first semester. Credits: 5 
Rebecca Worsham 

LAT 213 Introduction to Virgil’s Aeneid 
Selections from the Aeneid, with attention to literary, historical and cultural aspects. Prerequisite: 212 or permission of the instructor. {F} {L} Credits: 4 
Nancy J. Shumate

LAT 330 Advanced Readings in Latin Literature I & II 
Topics course.
Authors vary from year to year, but they are generally chosen from a list that includes epic and lyric poets, historians, orators, comedians and novelists, depending on the interests and needs of the students. May be repeated for credit, provided the topic is not the same. Prerequisite: two courses at the 200-level or permission of the instructor.
Roman Satire 
A survey of the genre in English translation, with a close reading of four key poems of the imperial satirist Juvenal: 1 (on social decline); 3 (on city life); 10 (on human futility), and 15 (on the strangeness of Egyptians).  Topics will include ancient vs. later satire; satire as social commentary and as ironic performance art. {F} {L} Credits: 4 
Nancy Shumate

LAT 400 Special Studies 
For majors and honors students who have had four advanced courses in Latin. Admission by permission of the department. Credits: 1-4 
Members of the department 

Although our principal focus is on work in the original languages, we are committed to bringing the classics to as many students as possible through courses in translation, both in our department and in the Program in Comparative Literature. We think that the classics in translation should provide as wide an audience as possible with a foundation in the Western literary tradition and, more broadly speaking, in Western intellectual history. But there is much in the classical world that is decidedly non-Western, for the ancient Mediterranean teemed with an astonishing diversity of cultures. There is no pressing contemporary issue for which the ancient world does not offer an interesting case study in cultural alternatives, and we believe that a classics department should explore issues of contemporary concern through courses in translation.

CLS 150 Roots: Greek and Latin Elements in English 
What does “hypocrisy” have to do with the ancient Greek theater? And what does “delirium” have to do with Roman agriculture? Sixty percent of all English words are derived from Greek and Latin roots, yet the history and effective use of these words is problematical for many speakers of English. This course combines hands-on study of Greek and Latin elements in English with lectures and selected primary readings that open a window onto ancient thinking about language, government, the emotions, law, medicine and education. The course is graded S/U only. One evening meeting per week. {L} Credits: 2 
Members of the department 
Normally offered in alternate years 

CLS 190 The Trojan War 
The Trojan War is the first conflict to be memorialized in Greco-Roman literature—“the war to start all wars.” For Homer and the poets who came after him it raised such questions as: What justifies going to war? What is the cost of combat and the price of glory? How does war affect men, women and children, winners and losers? We look at the “real” Troy of the archaeological record, then focus on imaginary Troy as represented by Homer, Aeschylus, Euripides, Virgil, Ovid and Seneca. WI {A} {L} Credits: 4 
Members of the department 
Normally offered in alternate years 

CLS 217 Greek Art and Archaeology 
Same as ARH 217. This course is a contextual examination of the art and architecture of Ancient Greece, from the end of the Bronze Age through the domination of Greece by Rome (ca. 1100-168 BCE) and handles an array of settlements, cemeteries, and ritual sites. It tracks the development of the Greek city-state and the increasing power of the Greeks in the Mediterranean, culminating in the major diaspora of Greek culture accompanying the campaigns of Alexander the Great and his followers. The course takes a broadly chronological approach, and the question of a unified Greek culture is stressed. Continuing archaeological work is considered. (E) {A} {H} Credits: 4 
Members of the department 
Normally offered in alternate years 

CLS 227 Classical Mythology 
The principal myths as they appear in Greek and Roman literature, seen against the background of ancient culture and religion. Focus on creation myths, the structure and function of the Olympian pantheon, the Troy cycle and artistic paradigms of the hero. Some attention to modern retellings and artistic representations of ancient myths. {A} {L} Credits: 4 
Scott A. Bradbury 
Offered Spring 2018

CLS 233 Gender and Sexuality in Greco-Roman Culture 
The construction of gender, sexuality, and erotic experience is one of the major sites of difference between Greco-Roman culture and our own. What constituted a proper man and a proper woman in these ancient societies? Which sexual practices and objects of desire were socially sanctioned and which considered deviant? What ancient modes of thinking about these issues have persisted into the modern world? Attention to the status of women; the role of social class; the ways in which genre and convention shaped representation; the relationship between representation and reality. {H} {L} Credits: 4 
Members of the department 
Normally offered in alternate years 

CLS 237 Artifacts of Daily Life in the Ancient Mediterranean 
This course uses the artifacts of the Van Buren Antiquities Collection as a starting point for investigating the daily life of the Greek and Roman worlds. In particular, students will select and research an object or objects for which to develop an "object biography," through which the people who produced, used, and re-used these objects might be accessed. Additional attention is given to the place of objects in archaeological practice and narratives. (E) {H} {S} Credits: 4 
Members of the department 
Normally offered in alternate years 

CLS 260 Transformations of a Text: Shape-Shifting and the Role of Translation 
Whose work are you reading when you encounter a text in translation? How is the author’s voice modulated through the translator’s? What constitutes a “faithful” or a “good” translation? How do the translator’s language and culture, the expectations of the target audience, and the marketplace determine what gets translated and how? We consider different translations of the same text, including rogue translations, adaptations and translations into other forms (opera, musicals, film). Students produce their own translations or adaptations. No prerequisites, but students who have not taken CLT 150 are urged to enroll in that (2-credit, S/U) course concurrently. Credits: 4 
Members of the department 
Normally offered in alternate years 

CLS 400 Special Studies 
For majors/minors and advanced students who have had three classics or other courses on the ancient world and two intermediate courses in Greek or Latin. Admission by permission of the department. Credits: 1-4 
Members of the department 
Normally offered both fall and spring semesters

 

 

Adviser: Thalia Pandiri

Programs in Greece

College Year in Athens
Smith's approved program for students who want to study classics in Greece.

The American School of Classical Studies at Athens, Summer Session
This site contains a list of fellowships and school programs/sessions; look through it to find a program that will work for you.

Programs in Italy

The American Academy in Rome, Classical Summer School
The description states that high school teachers and graduate students may apply, but advanced undergraduates are also eligible.

The Intercollegiate Center for Classical Studies in Rome (ICCS)
Smith's approved program for students who want to study classics in Italy.

Smith students also study abroad in Florence, Paris and the United Kingdom.

John Everett Brady Prize

The John Everett Brady Prize is open to all classes and is awarded for excellence in the translation of Latin at sight; a second prize is awarded for the best performance in the beginning Latin course.

Julia Harwood Caverno Prize

The Julia Harwood Caverno Prize is awarded for the best performance in the beginning Greek course.

Alice Hubbard Derby Prize

The Alice Hubbard Derby Prize is awarded to a member of the junior or senior class for excellence in the translation of Greek at sight; a second prize is awarded to a member of the junior or senior class for excellence in the study of Greek literature in the year in which the award is made.

George E. Dimock Memorial Prize

The George E. Dimock Memorial Prize is awarded for the best essay on a classical subject submitted by a Smith College undergraduate.

The Rhorer Fund

The Department of Classical Languages and Literatures has limited funds available from the Catherine Campbell Rhorer Fund, to be awarded:

  1. For travel and enrichment purposes to classics or classical studies majors who have been accepted to study classics abroad during their junior year.
  2. In support of summer course work taken at another college or university, after approval by the classics department, by classics or classical studies majors sufficiently advanced in the field, or by graduating seniors.

Normally, successful applicants will have a record of A- or better in Greek and/or Latin courses taken at Smith. Financial need will be taken into consideration in determining awards. Application may be made at any point during the academic year. To compete for an award from the Rhorer Fund, a student should submit a letter of application to the chair of the department consisting of (a) one or two paragraphs describing her projected plan of study and/or travel and explaining how it would enhance her education in classics and (b) a budget.

The Caverno Room

This classics study and seminar room was named for Julia Harwood Caverno, who taught in the department from 1893 to 1931. It contains a core collection of books, the antiquities collection, a computer workstation and a seminar table. This unique resource was created to enhance the study of classical literature. The room is often used for Latin and Greek courses and is a popular study spot for classics students.

The Van Buren Antiquities Collection

This archeological study collection of artifacts from Ancient Greece and Italy can be visited in The Caverno Room or viewed online. The core of the collection was originally the personal study collection of Alber William Van Buren (1878–1968), whose career as professor of archaeology and curator of the Archaeological Study Collection at the American Academy in Rome spanned more than five decades. He introduced generations of American students to the monuments of Rome, Latium and Etruria. His collection was eventually sold to a member of the Smith College Latin department in 1925.

 

Contact

Classical Languages & Literatures
Dewey House 106
Smith College
Northampton, MA 01063
Phone: 413-585-3679
Fax: 413-585-3710
Email: cbell@smith.edu

Administrative Assistant: Chrissie Bell

Individual appointments can be arranged directly with the faculty.