Bryn Mawr Classical Review 04.06.16

Commentary: Graduate Education in Classics

The 1990s and Beyond: A Continuing Conversation

On 20 November 1993 a group of scholars and teachers convened on invitation from the Department of Classical Studies of the University of Pennsylvania to sketch an agenda for reform of graduate education. Over the next weeks, we will be forming small task forces around specific issues with a view to presenting results at a national conference in 1994 or 1995 and to fostering discussion and a climate friendly to constructive change.


7:30 - 9:00 a.m., 30 December 1993

Holmes Room, Sheraton Washington Hotel

Our aim is to draw together a broad community of interested parties to continue this process. If you cannot attend this meeting to signal your interest, please get in touch with:

Ralph Rosen, Chair, Department of Classical Studies, 720 Williams Hall, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia PA 19104-6305 tel. (215) 898-7425 Internet:

On Saturday, 20 November 1993, a day-long meeting was held under the auspices of the Department of Classical Studies of the University of Pennsylvania to discuss prospects for reform in graduate education in the classics. A diverse group of participants was invited from across the country. The goal was not quick fixes or a monolithic solution to problems, but a community committed to thinking and talking openly and urgently about some of the deepest issues affecting our profession. We seek not to develop a single package of reforms but to nurture a climate friendly to various kinds of change, including far-reaching reconceptions of our entire endeavor, as well as improvements to our current practices. Graduate education is, as it were, the seedbed in which our disciplines nurture their futures, hence a broad-minded approach to reform of graduate education can and should be the focus for discussions that will inevitably transform our undergraduate programs as well.

There was general consensus on three main points:

1. That the our graduate programs have not kept pace with changes in the disciplines they inculcate, with changes in relations between the classical disciplines and the rest of the humanities, and with changes in the ways in which classicists can or may be employed in the academic world of the 1990s and beyond.
2. That there is room for specific repair work on parts of the traditional program that can and should be undertaken soon.
3. But there are also strategic issues about the nature of the discipline itself that need to be addressed not merely as theoretical concerns but with a sense of their impact on the way we do our departmental business.

At and after the APA meetings of 1993. the members of this group will be actively seeking new participants. To be of use, this undertaking must be national in scope, genuinely open to all concerned classicists willing to work together in an atmosphere of mutual respect and collaboration. In the first weeks of 1994, will create small "task forces" to work together over the next six months to prepare working papers on specific topics, which will then be delivered to one or more conferences open to the interested public. Topics for the task forces include:

The boundaries of the field: "classics"? "philology"? "Ancient Mediterranean Studies"? How do we manage traffic back and forth over those boundaries? Are there core studies that must be required of all who come this way? If we were to write a new "Introduction to Classical Studies", what organon would it seek to present?

The boundaries of the profession: what kinds of jobs are our products suited to perform? what kinds of jobs (e.g., community colleges) are our products failing to get that they might? what kinds of secondary school teaching might classicists reasonably expect to be trained for? what kinds of training in teaching itself might they get?

The place of language teaching and work depending on language teaching vis-à-vis work based on readings done in English translation: what ranges of competences are sufficient for which tasks that we are called on to perform? What is the place of the study of translation itself as a topic for study, in a field which depends so heavily for its non-professional audience on translations?

How can advanced language instruction be improved? Is there anything to be learned from the experts in second language acquisition in other fields? How can advanced undergraduates and beginning graduates be most expeditiously and effectively brought up to speed in the languages without letting remedial language work preoccupy their professional training?

Design of the graduate course: what should a "seminar" do? what other formats do we, or should we, use? what things could we do that we do not do now?

Design of the curriculum: how many years? how many courses? what kinds of examinations? should there be a reading list of ancient texts? should there be a reading list of secondary literature? should there be multiple tracks to a classical degree (some emphasizing textual study, e.g., others emphasizing material culture, others emphasizing art history, others emphasizing social history, others emphasizing literary criticism and theory) in a single department?

The dissertation: What does it actually do? What becomes of the dissertations actually written? How does that reality match expectations? How does the tendency for first-time job-seekers to be identified exclusively with their dissertations constrain the choice of topics and/or limit students' opportunities?

Socialization and culture: how should we think of the relationship between faculty and students? training? apprenticeship? collaboration? what kinds of advising/mentoring are appropriate?

Relation of graduate and undergraduate programs: what kinds of instruction may profitably be offered to grads and undergrads together? what relations should exist between "Classical Civ." majors and the courses they take and the graduate programs in the same institutions?

Participants in the 20 November colloquium will continue to lead discussions and to invite others to join; they were: Carrie Cowherd (Howard U.), Joseph Farrell (U. of Pennsylvania), Ellen Finkelpearl (Scripps College [Claremont]), Helene Foley (Columbia U.), Michael Halleran (U. of Washington), Judith Hallett (U. of Maryland), Ralph Hexter (U. of Colorado), Dan Hooley (U. of Missouri), Jim May (St. Olaf), Jeremy McInerney (U. of Pennsylvania), Sheila Murnaghan (U. of Pennsylvania), Jim O'Donnell (U. of Pennsylvania), Jack Peradotto (SUNY-Buffalo), Ralph Rosen (U. of Pennsylvania), Matthew Santirocco (U. of Pennsylvania), Charles Segal (Harvard U.), Guilia Sissa (Johns Hopkins U.), Wesley Smith (U. of Pennsylvania), Joy Connolly (U. of Pennsylvania), Nigel Nicholson (U. of Pennsylvania).