For the Spring 2024 semester, Princeton Classics will be offering a new slate of undergraduate course options in Latin, Greek, and Classical Studies! These will include three original topics and three entirely new classes. Full length course descriptions are available now.
(CLA229) Women, Writing, Greece: From Sappho to Virginia Woolf and Beyond
This course will explore the long history of engagement by women writers and artists with the place, idea, and myths of Greece. Starting first by reading ancient female writers and by considering the representation of women in other ancient texts, we will then trace the multiple strategies through which “Greece” has allowed later women writers to assert their authority and authorship, question gender hierarchies and prevailing political or sociocultural paradigms, and lay a claim to the so-called classical tradition. We will be thinking both about how ancient Greek writing, primarily but not only by female writers, affects contemporary understandings of identity and gender, but also about how modern and contemporary works, from novels to plays to films, shape our view of the ancient world. All reading will be done in translation (by female translators, as much as possible); the act of translation itself will be a theme in the course.
As we make our way through this history, the course will highlight questions of access to a “classical education”—as raised, e.g., by Virginia Woolf in A Room of One’s Own and in “On Not Knowing Greek”—as well as the different perspectives and positions (in terms of gender identity, race, or even academic discipline and literary genre) from which women authors approach the “Greek classics”: how, e.g., Rita Dove’s experience of (Black) motherhood in the 1990s may inform her take on the Demeter-Persephone story; or H.D.’s experience as a bisexual female writer in the chauvinist world of Anglo-American poetry at the turn of the twentieth century may inform her take on the Helen myth; or how Maggie Nelson uses the myth of the Argonauts to think through queer relationships and transgender identity. One important guiding figure throughout the course will be ancient lyric poet Sappho, and the way in which her example informs—even allows or authorizes—later literatures, arts, identities, and sexualities; we’ll be looking, for example, at the late-nineteenth-century Sapphic poems of “Michael Field” (joint penname of the lovers Katherine Bradley and Edith Cooper) and at the lesbian artistic communities of Paris in the early twentieth century.
In order to demonstrate their continued and consistent engagement with course readings, students will be required to post a brief reading response every week; these reading responses will provide a good, low-stakes way to practice writing, preparing the students for the final paper. (The final paper may also take the form of a creative project, in the medium of the student’s choice, that is accompanied by a brief explanation). There will also be an in-class midterm.
(CLA235) Identity and Globalization in the Ancient Mediterranean
Students in the course will look at several historical time periods (primarily in the ancient Mediterranean) of intensive contact to gain a better understanding of the dynamics of ancient globalization: the Ur III Period in southern Mesopotamia; the late Bronze Age and the Bronze Age Collapse; the Iron Age; and the rise and fall of Rome. Students will read modern theorists’ debates on globalization. What they have learned from the scholarship, they will apply to primary sources from the relevant periods. Through in-class discussion, presentations, and papers, students will develop the critical apparatus to better understand the dynamics of globalization, both in the modern and ancient world; especially by seeing periods when globalization stopped, students will have a better context for understanding contemporary debates and concerns on globalization and mobility.
(LAT403) History of the Latin Language and Its Earliest Literature
This course introduces the historical and comparative grammar of Latin and offers an in-depth reading of the earliest-recorded Latin texts, literary and inscriptional. We will explore the linguistic prehistory of Latin, focusing on its position within the Italic languages. No prior knowledge of historical linguistics is assumed. This course will also involve readings in and the study of at least the following Italic languages: Oscan, Umbrian, Picene (and possibly others by request). We will then examine linguistic change and variation within Latin from the earliest documents down through Saturnian poetry and the earliest literary prose. The course will close with the use of archaisms in Imperial Latin authors. You will become familiar with historical grammar, will learn how to assess etymologies, and will gain an appreciation for a wide range of literary language from carmina to ritual texts in Umbrian and beyond. Readings will loosely follow the structure of The Blackwell History of the Latin Language (by Clackson and Horrocks) but we will draw on a broader range of secondary literature, including a book hot off the press, viz. Early Latin (ed. J. Adams et al.). Assignments will mainly be reading the texts and secondary literature (ca. 50 pages per week), as well as short oral reports on Italic inscriptions and a final report on a Latin etymology.
(CLA327) Topics in Ancient History – Augustus: Politics, Religion, Culture
The Augustan age is generally considered to be a high point in Roman art, literature, and culture, as well as a time of exceptional political innovation that shaped the Roman empire for the next several centuries. This seminar will focus on the time-period from the assassination of Julius Caesar on the Ides of March 44 BC to the death of his adopted heir Augustus in AD 14, a period of about 60 years. Three perspectives will shape our discussion: politics, religion, and culture. Meanwhile, the close connections between these facets of Roman life will emerge. Questions to be considered include the following:
How did Augustus put an end to the cycles of civil war and establish a new political order, a combination of traditional political practice with one-man rule? How did he win over enough support to succeed during his long lifetime? How much opposition was there to his leadership? What role did religious practice and imagery play in creating and endorsing a new political culture? How was art and literature central, both to Augustus’ own efforts and to those of others, to express the spirit of a new age? Was Augustus a skillful synthesizer or a true revolutionary? Was he able to establish a system of government that outlived him?
(CLG214) Greek Prose Authors: Virtue and Knowledge in Plato's Protagoras
Is being a good person something that can be taught? This question sits at the heart of Plato’s dialogue Protagoras. From it arises a multitude of related questions, such as, What does it mean to be a good person in the first place? Can I be good without knowing what is good or bad? Can I know what is right but still do what is wrong? We will read the dialogue in the original Greek and discuss the questions it forcefully raises and the challenges that emerge from trying to answer them. In addition to improving fluency in reading Attic prose, we will learn about the ideas, thoughts, and methods of some of the most important intellectual figures of classical Athens. These include in the first place Protagoras and Socrates, but we will also encounter other sophists such as Prodicus and Hippias. We will touch on matters such as democracy, the purpose of education, and the effectiveness of punishment, among others. At the same time, reading the Protagoras will give us the opportunity to enjoy and analyze some of Plato’s brilliant literary techniques that he develops in his dialogues. Moreover, Socrates’ discussion of a poem by Simonides will invite us to investigate the value and purpose of literary interpretation, and Protagoras’ myth will raise questions about Plato’s own mythmaking.
Students will read 6–8 pages of Greek prose per week, next to selected passages in translation and relevant scholarly articles. Assignments include brief translation quizzes, a midterm-exam, a short presentation on a topic of your choice. The final project will be a commentary on a passage from the dialogue.
(CLG310) Topics in Greek Literature: The Hesiodic Catalogue of Women
This course focuses on the Catalogue of Women, a fragmentary epic that was attributed to Hesiod in antiquity. Some have read it as a crucial statement of Hellenic identity, others as an early form of pulp fiction. We ask what it means to focus on women in a genre that is traditionally concerned with the ‘glorious deeds of men’ (κλέα ἀνδρῶν) and what light this can shed on ancient ideas about gender, sex, and transformation. Students will need to read selections from other Greek and Roman literature in translation; and consider the reception of the Catalogue in the Hellenistic world as well as in Augustan Rome.
As we work through the text, we consider how it ‘orders’ its women, as Robin Osborne once put it, and why some of them become ‘disorderly’ to the point of subverting the conventions of marriage (Atalante, Mestra) and even murdering their husbands (Deianeira). We also look at the astonishing geographical and intertextual range of the Catalogue. Why does it take us on a spin around the edges of the world? What do we get to see along the way? And how does the Catalogue end up in Hades (Hom. Od. 11), where Odysseus encounters its protagonists and hears their familiar stories told in entirely new ways?