Department of Classics

Northwestern Students in Pompeii
Northwestern Students in Pompeii

Undergraduate Studies

Classics majors and minors study the language, literature, history, and culture of Greek and Roman antiquity. Our department offers a wide range of topics with special strengths in literature, theater, mythology, Greek history and politics, ancient philosophy, Roman social history and the history of medicine. Students may also study the reception of classical antiquity in medieval through contemporary culture (which includes philosophy, religion, political theory, art history, film studies, English, and comparative literature). We refer to courses about antiquity and reception studies that are outside the Department of Classics as Classical Traditions courses. The Department of Classics maintains an updated list of such courses that may count toward the major and minor.

The major in Classics offers students three different pathways of study. In general, all students must achieve competence in one ancient language (Greek or Latin) and thus work with primary sources (literary and other sources of evidence) in the original language. Some may choose to complete advanced work in both languages. The major requirements allow for some flexibility (concentration in Greek only, Latin only, or both). All classics majors develop a familiarity with the broad sweep of ancient history and literature and key analytical skills necessary to examine the record of Greek and Roman culture. Classics majors often choose to complete a study abroad program either during the term or over the summer. The major is designed to encourage students to undertake independent research. All majors complete a special "Research Seminar for Majors" in the junior year. Eligible students may also elect to undertake senior thesis work and earn honors in classics. There is an active undergraduate classics group, including a chapter of Eta Sigma Phi. The department also sponsors a number of special events for undergraduates.

The minor also offers students three pathways of study. Each option allows students to survey aspects of classical culture and classical traditions or to take a more focused cluster of courses. We offer a minor in Latin, in Greek, or in Classical Studies. Classical Studies has no required ancient language component. It allows students to survey aspects of classical culture and classical traditions or to cluster their course selections to create a more focused course of study (e.g., ancient philosophy, classics and theater, politics in the ancient world, classical literature in translation, classical antiquity in contemporary culture).

Classics is a demanding and distinctive course of study that stresses the development of some exceedingly important intellectual sensibilities—close reading, analytical clarity, thorough research, evaluation of evidence, logical analysis, effective writing, appreciation of nuance and subtleties, historical variability, cultural differences. Our students are well prepared to succeed after college. Recent majors have gone on to graduate school and employment in fields as varied as medicine, law, art history, business, secondary education and, sometimes, even Classics.