Department of Classics, 1939-present


In 1939, the Department of Greek and the Department of Latin united to form the Department of Classics. In addition to courses involving comprehension of antique languages, a Classical Studies track (for which no knowledge of Greek or Latin was required) brought in courses on Greek and Roman life that had previously been taught by the Department of History. In later decades, some effort was made to include subject matter reflecting contemporary social concerns (for example, Women in Antiquity). However, the most dramatic development in Classics curriculum was the rise in popularity of Archeology, which in 1984 became an interdisciplinary major.

History of Department of Classics

In 1939, the Department of Greek and the Department of Latin united to form the Department of Classics. Its mission was to "discover the intrinsic worth of the culture of classic antiquity and to appreciate its pervasive relation to our own way of life." Undergraduates could pursue majors in Greek or Latin, and graduate students could undertake a Master of Arts in Classics.

The department offered rosters of courses in Greek and Latin that covered aspects of ancient Greek and Roman history, literature, and philosophy as well as language comprehension. There was also a Classical Studies track for which no knowledge of Greek or Latin was required. Its roster included courses in Greek and/or Roman literature, art, drama, pedagogy, and mythology. Prior to the creation of the Department of Classics, these topics had been taught under the headings of Classical Archaeology (1899-1911), Classical History and Archaeology (1911-1920), Classical Civilization (1920-1928), and as offerings of the Department of History (starting in 1932). The Greek and Latin professors continued to teach Greek and Roman history for the Department of History until 1952.

The curriculum of the Department of Classics remained fairly constant in the ensuing decades. Classics was one of six disciplines included in the doctoral program of Humanistic Studies, which was offered from 1959-1972. From 1961-1967, the department offered a study-abroad program based near Naples, Italy, in which students could do field work in classical archaeology and take courses in the history and literature of Greece and Rome.

By the 1970s, the description of Classics in the course catalogue had expanded to argue that "Classics is more than the study of the Greek and Latin languages; it can liberate the student from the parochialisms of both time and place." Classical Studies was touted as a liberal arts major, and a course on Women in Antiquity was added, perhaps reflecting an effort to be relevant to contemporary social concerns. In the 1990s, the catalogue description stressed that "the field of Classics is constantly changing in light of new discoveries, new methodologies, new interpretations and new relationships with other areas of study."

The most dramatic development within the Classics curriculum is the emergence of archaeology as a popular field of study. Courses about archaeology had been offered as far back as the 1890s. An undergraduate major in Classics and Archaeology was made available during the 1970s, and a Master of Arts in Classical Archaeology was established in 1981. However, the field came into its own when Archaeology gained the stature of interdisciplinary major (under the aegis of the Department of Classics) in 1984. The major incorporates courses from the arts, humanities, natural sciences and social sciences. The program is affiliated with summer field schools in Italy and France, and with Boston-area institutions including M.I.T.

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Relationships
Part of: Associated with:
  • Perseus (1985-present)
  • Department of History (1939-1952)
Preceded by: