Esteemed Classics Majors and Minors,

As some of you may know, the Classics department has been working to revise its comps process. We wanted to keep elements of the former process that we liked (the collegial “group” aspect, the shared theme, and the public symposium presentation leading to a final written product) while offering a dedicated upper-level Classics seminar open to more than just majors that nevertheless still offered a defined and regulated comps process. This course will also accomplish many of the goals of the Junior Skills Seminar, though in this case through a 6-credit course. The seminar will also allow the department more consistent opportunities for assessing its student learning outcomes and integrating  minors more fully into the intellectual community of the department.

After much discussion and consideration, we have decided to offer a 300-level thematic Classics seminar every fall. It is required for all senior majors to take during their senior fall, but it is also open to other students in Classics. The course is also required for minors at some point in their four years, typically in their junior or senior year. For senior majors, this is an essential part of the comps process. The theme of the seminar is sufficiently broad to allow students to pursue their own particular interests in their research projects, but in a unified context that allows students to develop a common, specialized base of knowledge and theory. During the first half of the term, students will develop research skills by completing assignments concerning primary and secondary sources, both textual and material. In the second half of the term students will develop an original research project of their choice. They will present this work in the annual Classics Symposium, which will take place on the Saturday between weeks 9 and 10 of the fall term. For seniors, this presentation will then be developed into a larger comps paper in the winter term, published in the Carleton Classical Review.

The goals of this course are threefold. First, students will gain new knowledge through readings, research, and discussion of a key aspect of Mediterranean history, archaeology, and literature. We will develop critical depth of knowledge on this thematic topic, applicable to a variety of places and times across the ancient world. Second, students will hone a particular set of academic skills, which will have relevance well beyond life at Carleton. Students will develop research skills to formulate and address research questions and construct cogent arguments concerning the ancient world. They will focus especially on combining different types of evidence to do so. This involves the analysis and interpretation of both primary sources (written and material) in their cultural contexts and secondary sources, which students will evaluate and use to situate their own work in the context of the discipline. Third, students will work especially on oral and visual presentation skills in preparing a final research presentation for the annual Classics Symposium at the end of the term.

The seminar will rotate among the four faculty members. Because the course will rotate among different faculty, with different topics, students will be able to take the course more than once if they desire, but there is no expectation that they do so.

The Fall 2021 seminar was:

CLAS 385 – Islands in Time: Insular Life, Culture, and History in the Mediterranean World

Prerequisites: At least two previous Classics courses or permission of the instructor

Course Description

The Mediterranean is a world of islands, par excellence. This is particularly true of the classical world, when island polities, sanctuaries, and destinations played crucial roles in several aspects of social life and cultural production. This seminar examines what’s special about islands and why and how they came to be places of such significance in the ancient Mediterranean. We will begin with some consideration of our sources and theories of insularity, then move into thematic and conceptual discussions of island biogeography and efflorescence; islands in myth and as political and religious spaces; and islands as strategic territories and connective nodes. Topics in the second part of the class will to a large extent be driven by student interests.

For Fall 2022 the seminar is:

CLAS 386 – Classical Myth: Theory, Function, Afterlife

Prerequisites: At least two previous Classics courses or permission of the instructor

Course Description

Stories of gods, heroes and monsters were a pervasive part of life in ancient Greece and Rome, integrated into landscape, the built environment and cultural practice from ritual worship to informal storytelling, and they have retained their power to fascinate through subsequent eras. This seminar will investigate the roles myth played in the ancient world, drawing on literary, historical and archaeological evidence, as well as the most prominent theoretical frameworks for interpreting myths, and some examples of modern adaptations. Topics in the second half of the course will be driven by student interests as they develop their own research and present it at the department Symposium.

Please direct any questions to Chico (