Why Classics?

Classical studies (or, “Classics”) principally entails the exploration and study of the Greek and Latin languages, their literatures, and Greek and Roman cultures in the ancient Mediterranean. Study in Classics provides a well-rounded education in the liberal arts and is an excellent preparation for almost any career, course of graduate study, or for personal enrichment.

The words, artifacts, and ideas of the ancient Greeks and Romans have exerted a profound influence on centuries of literary, artistic, and intellectual culture. At the same time, the extent of this influence is inextricably linked with European colonization. It is therefore imperative that we acknowledge the many ways in which notions of “the Classical” have been used, wittingly or not, to serve objectionable aims and/or to uphold problematic beliefs about Western exceptionalism. (Most disconcertingly, arguments for “white” European superiority have long relied, both overtly and covertly, on fictitious narratives of the Classical world. [Link to CBW page here?]) Accordingly, our department sees itself less as a guardian of Classical heritage than as an interrogator of and interlocutor with our subject and our field. Deep learning about the Greek and Roman world — including its languages — better equips us to appreciate its many facets to disentangle their appropriation.

People of diverse backgrounds and from all walks of life have drawn great meaning from Graeco-Roman classics and the classical tradition — including the faculty, students, and alumni of our department, even as we are careful not to ignore the substantial harm that appeals to Greek or Roman exceptionalism or superiority (appeals encoded by the very word “classics”) have caused over decades and centuries.  As with the study of any culture, the study of ancient Greek and Roman cultures offers opportunities to experience moments of profound beauty and of profound injustice, and to learn from and across difference.  As with the study of any ancient culture, Classics promotes thinking with a long view.  Greek and Roman texts and art grapple with some of life’s enduring questions, at the same time as they manifest patterns of exploitation and mistreatment both comparable to other societies and specific to their own cultures and periods.  

When you study Classics at Wake Forest, not only will you enjoy small class sizes and personal attention, but you will benefit from a department with a long tradition of teaching and advising excellence.  Faculty in the Department of Classics have won numerous prestigious awards for teaching and advising, including the university’s Excellence in Advising Award, the Reid-Doyle Prize for Excellence in Teaching, the Jon Reinhardt Award for Distinguished Teaching, the Innovative Teaching Award, the Society for Classical Studies Pedagogy Award, the SCS Award for Excellence in Teaching at the College Level, and the Classical Association of the Middle, West, and South Award for Excellence in Collegiate Teaching.

Career opportunities for majors (and minors) in the department are many and varied; plenty of our students have another major in another department or school. Apart from teaching at the secondary level and other non-teaching academic positions, our graduates work in journalism, business, museums, the legal profession, libraries, publishing, travel and tourism, and government. The major is an excellent preparation for those who intend to pursue professional school (e.g., business, law, medicine, divinity); and also those who wish to continue within the academy, whether in Classics or in comparative literature, linguistics, history, theology, etc. 

The Classics Department works closely with the Career and Professional Development Center as you consider life after the major.  The following is a spreadsheet of First Destinations for recent graduates.