The Wheaton College Classics Department offers courses in the languages, literatures, cultures and histories of the Greek and Roman worlds, and the relationships between these worlds and larger worlds of the ancient Mediterranean basin and Western Asia.
Classics at Wheaton is an interdisciplinary discipline that teaches students to develop skill and sophistication in the thoughtful reading of texts central to the Western tradition, as well as texts that lie outside the traditionally defined canon. Students learn to interpret both texts and material culture in the light of their own historical contexts, and to come to terms with the uses that have been made of these ancient materials in subsequent ages, above all in the present. Through emphasis on close reading and rhetorical analysis of primary source material from antiquity, students in the Classics Department will learn the traditional Western values of skeptical self-analysis, critical reading, writing, and research, and the appreciation of cultures beyond Western borders.
Students in the Classics department may explore the complex world of Mediterranean antiquity through courses taught in three different languages (English, Greek, or Latin) at four different levels: Elementary (100-level), Intermediate (200), Advanced (300), and Capstone/Independent Research (300+). Specific learning outcomes depend on each student’s personal choice of how deeply she wishes to engage primary written materials in the original language. Classics courses taught in translation entail no knowledge of ancient languages, while courses in the Greek and Latin programs assume ongoing philological study. In each program students will learn to examine the social context of literary and cultural production, and the multicultural nature of human language and culture — even in the distant past.
100-level courses function as introductions to what it means to read across temporal and cultural boundaries.
- In Greek and Latin language courses at the 100-level students will focus on the fundamentals of human language: syntax and vocabulary. Here students will encounter the conceptual and linguistic structures of different ethnic peoples who lived around the Mediterranean during antiquity, and by the end of the two-semester sequence they will learn the skills necessary to read the target language.
- In Classics courses taught in translation at the 100-level students will encounter themselves and the past by reading multiple works of literature in translation and learning to think critically about them. At this level students will hone their critical reading skills while completing writing assignments that require the accurate and succinct formulation of thought. Writing assignments may include any of the following: informal response papers (responses to assigned reading, to class discussion, to a particular quotation), formulations of discussion questions, creative writing, descriptions of historical, social or cultural phenomena, identifications of problems and/or disagreements, and basic expressions of interpretive or synthetic thinking skills through writing in essay exams.
200-level courses take students to the next level in their experience of antiquity, either through reading literature in the original language, or through developing more analytical reading and writing skills when studying materials in English translation. Students at the intermediate level will see in more detail how the modern world intersects with the ancient through the interpretive tools of interdisciplinary study.
- In Greek and Latin language courses at the 200-level students build on their knowledge of the fundamentals of language, and use this familiarity with linguistic structures to analyze culture at a deeper level. Students will engage in philological description and analysis, and will become acquainted with the wide variety of modern disciplines and secondary resources available to those who pursue the study of ancient languages. They will be introduced to some of the methodologies employed by modern scholars of antiquity, and they will start to synthesize modern methods with traditional philological analysis. They may encounter literary theory, social science theory, or cultural theory as they hone their philological, analytical, and interpretive skills with the target language.
- In Classics courses taught in English translation at the 200-level students will continue to read critically while engaging with secondary scholarship and learning the more sophisticated skill of creating relevant meaning by combining study of ancient sources with contemporary modes of interpretation. While students will continue to complete the informal writing assignments from the 100-level courses, the thesis-driven, persuasive essay based on the close reading (in translation) of a primary text is the main vehicle used to extend analytical writing skills at the 200-level. As in the intermediate language courses, students may encounter literary theory, social science theory, or cultural theory as they hone their interpretive and analytical skills.
In all the 300 and 300+ level courses (including the Capstone) students fully engage with the modern discipline of Classics with the goal of producing original research and communicating their findings to their chosen community. Students combine all the close reading, philological and interdisciplinary skills learned from the lower level courses to analyze and interpret at an advanced level. Here the thesis-driven essay from the intermediate courses develops into the full-fledged research project that is written in stages and presented to peers. Students learn the full process of scholarly research by formulating preliminary ideas, compiling and annotating bibliographies of ancient texts and modern scholarship, analyzing primary and secondary texts, regularly sharing their works-in-progress, and writing multiple drafts for their peers and their professor. Students at this level learn the importance of rhetoric, style, footnotes (both the disputational and the conversational), and documentation. In the Capstone research project senior majors will explore more in depth any of the many sub-disciplines of Classics (e.g. philology, papyrology, metrics and prosody, archaeology and art history, epigraphy) while in the independent honors thesis qualified students will complete a lengthy and well-documented research paper that thoroughly reviews scholarship and the history of the question at hand.
At every level, and in every language, students will engage their critical reading skills, and build on these as they develop critical thinking, speaking, and analytical writing skills. But first and foremost, students in Classics will realize that engagement with ancient texts, whether in translation or the original, is a continual, heuristic process in which writing, reflection, and rewriting lead then to a new discovery of the “modern” self in its context with the “ancient” past.