Overview of Classics at Carleton

Classics is the study of the ancient Greco-Roman world in all its various manifestations. The evidence from the classical past derives primarily from texts and artifacts that have survived from antiquity. The work of Classics as a discipline is to understand these texts and artifacts in as full a cultural context as possible, especially given the often fragmentary or limited evidence available. Therefore, the study of Classics comprises several complementary areas of knowledge, including language, history, politics, social institutions, literature, material culture, and art; it is a multidisciplinary field.

Within these knowledge areas, classicists use many discrete skills of inquiry and analysis to recover cultural contexts. Many of these skills are common to other disciplines, but we tailor them to the needs and conventions of the evidence from classical antiquity. Successful classicists develop habits of mind that allow them to bring fresh approaches and apply evidence in new ways in order to analyze and interpret elements of the classical world. 

Carleton’s Classics Department offers a flexible major in which students study Greek and/or Latin, as well as aspects of ancient civilization as understood through archaeological, historical, and literary analysis. We seek to provide a suitable introduction to all of these skills and areas of knowledge for our majors and minors, while also allowing for specialization within them, depending on student interests. Specific learning outcomes are listed below.

We also offer three minors, in Greek, Latin, and Classics, which allow students to develop demonstrable skills in either language or more broadly in classical studies. Our aim is to provide our students with multiple opportunities to gain the knowledge and practice the skills we have identified, recognizing that learning is an iterative process that involves a variety of challenges as opportunities for growth.

Our senior integrative exercise (for majors only) requires integration of the skills and knowledge to analyze original source material and to engage in scholarship in the discipline and gain a sense of the wider world of intellectual inquiry. Through this experience, we attempt to foster the higher order thinking skills necessary for this type of research, which are also relevant well beyond the world of classical studies.

Student Learning Outcomes for Majors

a) The Latin and Greek languages

One of the main avenues for direct engagement with the worlds of ancient Greece and Rome is through the study of the sources in their original languages, so knowledge of Greek and/or Latin is an essential component of our majors’ learning. Our goals for students of classical languages are twofold: (1) to understand them on their own terms, in their cultural contexts, in a way that goes beyond simple translation; and (2) to “re-animate” texts in a way that is true to their original context while still being comprehensible to a current reader.  For our majors this is achieved through intensive work with the languages in our 200 and 300 level language courses.

By the time they graduate our students should be able to:

  1. Read with comprehension works of poetry and prose in their original language(s) from all periods of classical antiquity; 
  2. Critically analyze the original language(s) and their relation to the content of these works

b) Classical civilization, as understood through literary, historical, and archaeological analysis

While knowledge of the languages is a crucial tool for classicists, the object of our study extends beyond ancient texts to the cultures that produced them. These cultures are known to us through the piecing together of a wide variety of both material evidence and textual sources (both in translation and in the original language, as noted above). For this reason our students will develop skills in literary, historical, and archaeological analysis, in order to better understand social structures and institutions and gain understanding of the diverse and influential cultures that classical antiquity comprises. In addition, we encourage recognition of the lasting influence these cultures had on subsequent generations, and the habit of mind that allows students to think about their own culture with the enlarged perspective that the study of Classics offers. These skills are taught in our in-translation offerings at all levels.

By the time they graduate our students should be able to:

  1. Evaluate and analyze historical, literary, and archaeological evidence concerning the ancient world;
  2. Combine different types of evidence to construct arguments concerning the ancient world;
  3. Demonstrate how subsequent cultures, including their own, reference and are informed by the ancient world.

c) The Discipline of Classics

Of equal importance with the skills of reading the languages and analyzing and interpreting the sources to gain knowledge of the history and culture of the ancient world is the ability to engage in the larger conversation that constitutes scholarship in the discipline of Classics. This requires learning to recognize and interrogate the key assumptions underlying both primary and secondary source material, to ask productive questions and solve problems presented by the evidence that survives from classical antiquity, and to communicate the results of research effectively. This is achieved through an upper-level, thematic “capstone” seminar (CLAS 384, 385, 386, 387), which is required for all senior majors to take during their senior fall. It is also required for all minors; majors and minors may take such a seminar more than once.

By the time they graduate our students should be able to:

  1. Analyze and interpret primary sources (written and material) in their cultural contexts;
  2. Evaluate and make ethical use of secondary sources to situate work in the context of the discipline;
  3. Communicate orally and in writing their own arguments and interpretations about the ancient world to varied audiences.