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Classics is the interdisciplinary study of ancient Greece and Rome, which stand among the world’s most exciting, important, and influential civilizations. The program in classics spans the many different aspects of the Greek and Roman world - its languages and literatures, its art and archaeology, its history, its religious and philosophical traditions, and its social and legal forms - from the Bronze Age to the period of the late Roman Empire and early Christianity.
The cultural riches of classical civilization are as rewarding as anything the liberal arts has to offer, but the value of classics has another dimension as well. Insofar as classics examines the artistic, intellectual, and social traditions that have shaped the Western world over the course of a hundred generations of human history, it provides an informed and critical perspective on many of the ideas, values, and institutions that continue to shape the world in which we live today.
Founded in 2000, Grand Valley’s Department of Classics offers a strong undergraduate major and works closely with students to encourage success in all walks of life. The department is large enough to offer a complete preparation for students seeking a wide range of postgraduate and career opportunities, yet it remains small enough to allow our faculty and staff to get to know all of our students individually and to work with them closely.
This student-centered approach is something we encourage: it fosters collaboration and mutual respect and promotes cooperation, discussion, and intellectual interaction. These are the hidden, and often neglected, elements of a first-rate education.
Courses and programs in classics are designed to meet the needs of a variety of students. For students who pursue a major or minor in the field, classics provides a broad and solid liberal arts education that will be useful in many careers and vital to the development of their full human capacity.
For students in other disciplines, classics offers a valuable opportunity to investigate at firsthand the works and traditions that have provided much of the intellectual background of their own chosen fields. Many find that working with the classical languages improves their grasp of English and their skills as readers and writers.
Today’s challenges demonstrate the need for leaders and managers who take words and ideas seriously, who are capable of looking outside of their own cultural and historical assumptions and approaching problems from every angle, and whose choices are informed by long-term perspectives and a concern for the judgment of posterity. The study of classics has long been recognized as among the most demanding academic programs and an excellent preparation for a wide range of professions and careers.
Classical Civilization (CLA)
All of the courses offered by classics share an emphasis on encountering the classical world through primary sources, both textual and material. Complementing this emphasis is the study of the living tradition that has shaped - and continues to shape - the way in which we construct our world today.
Encountering this material in translation offers many people their initial opportunity to discover their love for the literature and the mythology, the history and the art, of ancient Greece and Rome. Studying classical civilization can be the springboard to a lifelong experience with literature, philosophy, and culture.
Often these encounters provide inspiration for learning the languages that allow one to meet the ancient cultures of Greece and Rome on their own terms, to examine the wellsprings of the Western tradition, and to challenge conscious and subconscious assumptions about life, values, and knowledge.
Studies in the classical tradition examine connections between the world of classical Greece and Rome and the cultures of other places and other times. Examples of this process can be seen all around us and range from the paintings of Botticelli and Raphael in the Italian renaissance, through the dramas of Shakespeare and the West African playwrights Efua Sutherland and Wole Soyinka, to the ideas behind the American Constitution.
In the bargain, students profit from a practical education that offers valuable pre-professional training and marketable job skills. Classics students acquire and refine analytical and communications skills that make them better able to approach any problem creatively and successfully; they distinguish themselves as scholars, work on archaeological excavations, participate in cultural events, demonstrate leadership and committed citizenship, and travel and study abroad; the study habits and work ethic they develop are those needed for success in demanding graduate and professional programs and in real-world careers.
The department offers elementary, intermediate, and advanced instruction in classical civilization (courses marked CLA through the 400 level). Many satisfy general education Foundations or Issues requirements. Certain courses identified as Distributed Classical Civilization (DCC) courses satisfy requirements for the major and minor programs in classics.
Ancient Greek (GRK) and Latin (LAT)
Access to the languages in which the seminal works of the ancient world were composed provides students with a special perspective on ancient culture and gives them a unique insight into the foundations of poetry, drama, history, philosophy, religion, law, and the sciences. Training in the classical languages represents the kind of serious mental rigor and discipline that is an excellent training for a variety of careers.
Greek is the language of Homer and Sappho, of Aeschylus and Aristophanes, of Herodotus and Thucydides, of Plato and Aristotle, and (in its koinê or “common” form) of the Christian New Testament.
The department offers elementary, intermediate, and advanced instruction (courses marked GRK through the 400-level) in ancient Greek. Note, however, that the department does not offer instruction in modern Greek.
Ancient Greek is especially important for students of literature and philosophy and for those who are preparing for seminary or who wish to examine the origins and context of early Christianity.
Latin was the language of ancient Rome. Even after the Roman Empire collapsed, Latin continued as the language of literature, science, philosophy, medicine, law, and religion for over a thousand years: John Milton, Isaac Newton, Baruch Spinoza, and Thomas Aquinas all wrote in the same language as Cicero, Virgil, Caesar, and Plautus.
The department offers elementary, intermediate, and advanced instruction (courses marked LAT through the 400-level) in Latin, including Latin composition.
Latin will benefit students of literature and history, pre-law and pre-medicine students, students of modern Romance languages, and those who are interested in the culture of medieval and renaissance Europe.
B.A. Cognate in Language Study
In addition to general education requirements, the B.A. (Bachelor of Arts) degree requires a third-semester proficiency in a foreign language. Completion or placement out of GRK 201 or LAT 201 fulfills this requirement.
General Education Requirements
GRK 202 and LAT 202 fulfill the World Perspectives requirement of the General Education Program. Many classical civilization (CLA) courses satisfy general education requirements.
Placement in Language Courses
Students who have studied Latin in high school should take a placement examination, administered by the Department of Classics, prior to enrolling in Latin courses. Transfer students with prior college study in Latin or ancient Greek should seek advice from the department about the appropriate level at which to enroll.
Students interested in classics are encouraged to seek study abroad experience in a program emphasizing the civilization of the classical world, such as those offered by the Intercollegiate Center for Classical Studies in Rome and the College Year in Athens. Summer internships at archaeological excavations of classical sites are also available. For more information about opportunities to study classics abroad, students should contact the Department of Classics and the Padnos International Center.
Faculty in classics hold joint appointments in the Frederik Meijer Honors College and regularly staff the honors classes, as well as courses crosslisted in classics and honors.
The department also cooperates with the Departments of Anthropology and History in offering the interdepartmental archaeology minor (ARC).
Through the department, Grand Valley State University holds institutional memberships in The American Philological Association, The Classical Association of the Middle West and South, The American Academy in Rome, The American School of Classical Studies at Athens, and The Intercollegiate Center for Classical Studies in Rome.
The following programs are available:
Bachelor of Arts in Classics