Graduate Education in Classics: A Continuing Conversation....

"Wir Philologen?" The Boundaries and Structures of "Classics" as a Professional Discipline

Response to Steve Ciraolo
Owen Cramer, Colorado College


I like the sound of this discussion and beg only to add some observations from long experience teaching and thinking about classics in an undergraduate context. The teaching I do now is consistent with what I learned as a child and as an undergraduate student more than with what I was trained to do as a graduate student (in the Arion I period at Texas). I have put together a program for myself, not involving much publishing in classical philology but encouraging me to keep some kind of synopsis of Greek and Roman literature, history, art and arch(a)eology, and philosophy going, along with literary theory from Wellek and Warren to Cixous. The practical thing is that I maintain close ties with people teaching in the history, philosophy, political science and mathematics departments as well as the comparative literature program I now direct. We have a comp. lit. major that classics students can take, as well as a western civ. major called "classics, history and politics" and an English-classics joint major. We teach only the beginning courses in the languages as full teaching commitments: beyond that it's overload, to allow for the more populous courses that keep us visible. And probably the best language learning our students have done is in the summer institutes, especially at Berkeley: the size of the class there, the team of instructors, the motivation of one's fellow students, make it more effective than a routine 5-10-student 7-week introduction offered by one professor here. We haven't found a wonderful Greek intro. text, but I remain enthusiastic about John Randall's Learning Latin precisely because it encourages sustained thinking about the culture, both locally Roman and European, embodied in Randall's collected sentences.

If there's a message here it is that the jobs we prepare students for do have change built into them, that the arrangements one makes locally can change one (and one's professional persona) for the better.