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Frequently Asked Questions for Undergraduates

What is Classics?

The Department of Classics explores all aspects of the ancient Greek and Roman worlds, including their languages and literatures, art and archaeology, history, philosophy, drama, religion, politics, economics, and law. Our broad interdisciplinary approach to cultures that have played a major role in shaping Western values and thought provides a unique undergraduate education. Classics students may go on to various types of graduate education, or to careers in law, education, medicine, business, the media, and the fine arts.

It’s not necessary for you to have prior experience of Latin or Greek or ancient history in order to begin studies toward a major in Classics. All our programs, including the Latin and Greek major (the track requiring the most extensive study of the languages), have been designed to be accessible to everyone, including students who are embarking on the study of classical antiquity for the first time here at NYU.

The NYU Classics faculty includes working archaeologists, historians, and philologists. Read more about our research interests on our departmental faculty pages. In our broad range of offerings on classical literature and culture, students read ancient Greek and Roman texts in English translation. For students wishing to read ancient authors in the original Greek and Latin, we teach all levels of language from introductory to advanced.

 

What will I do with a Classics major or minor?

All our undergraduate tracks in Classics provide a “classic” foundation in liberal arts education. Above all, study of this subject matter will train you to think and write critically. As an interdisciplinary study, it will familiarize you with methods and perspectives drawn from linguistics, history, anthropology, literary theory, cultural studies, philosophy, politics, psychology, and sociology. As with any other liberal arts degree, our students go on to a broad range of pursuits: to jobs in the media, banking, business, and journalism; to professional studies in law, medicine, finance, and education; and, of course, to graduate school in Classics, history, religion, linguistics, and philosophy.

Classics is a field where the familiar jostles with the foreign, making it especially worthy of study in our swiftly evolving, globalized, multicultural world. Athens and Rome once provided intellectual and political inspiration for the eighteenth and nineteenth century founders of nation-states in Europe and the Americas: study of their languages and cultures is especially timely right now again, when the theory and practice of democracy is a central issue at home and abroad.

 

What is a DUGS?

The DUGS is the Director of Undergraduate Study. S/he is responsible for advising students about how best to fulfill the requirements of the major, and about summer study, Honors study, graduate work, and so on.  Normally the DUGS sets aside office hours to see students (scheduling additional hours in the 2-3 weeks before registration).  The DUGS cannot advise students on CAS requirements like MAP; s/he cannot register students in closed (filled) courses, change exam times or room assignments, or handle other purely administrative issues.  For technical problems with registration or queries about closed courses, students should consult the departmental administrator (contact information on the "Contact Us" page) or the College advising office. 
 In the Department of Classics, the DUGS is always a full-time member of the faculty, so it's good protocol to address him/her as "Professor", especially when you're e-mailing or calling for the first time.  Keep in mind that summer is a busy time for research scholars, so general queries may not be answered immediately.  Click on the "Declaring a Major" link for more information about advising.

 

I've taken four years of Latin in high school; can I register for Advanced Latin without taking the placement exam?

Yes.  E-mail the DUGS explaining the situation; include your name and student number (beginning with N, on the back of your NYU ID).  The DUGS cannot register you directly, but s/he will review your request and (if it is approved) pass it on to the departmental administrator, who will enter you into the system.   In summertime, this may take a few weeks, but this is no cause for alarm, since there is generally room in all levels of our language courses for all students who wish to take them. 

 

Can I use classical languages to fulfill NYU's foreign language requirement? 

Yes, you can fulfill NYU's foreign language requirement with Latin or ancient Greek.  You may do so in two ways: 1) by passing the language placement exam, offered each year in late August or September, or 2) by finishing the second (spring) semester of Intermediate (second year) Latin or ancient Greek.  The Latin placement exam is a version of the SAT II Latin exam (the old Latin "Achievement" test).  Generally, students who have recently completed 3-4 years of high school Latin or 1-2 years of college Latin should give the placement exam a try.  The Department does not administer the exam; further questions should be directed to the CAS Office of Academic Affairs in the Silver Center, Room 908 (212 998-8110), http://cas.nyu.edu/page/placementexams.

Students wishing to take a placement exam in ancient Greek should contact the College office.  Note that the College foreign language requirement is not the same as the Department's language requirements for its major tracks.

 

How do I prepare for the language placement exam? 

The exam tests knowledge of grammar and syntax presented in typical first year college language courses, and you are expected to be able to translate complex sentences with straightforward vocabulary speedily and correctly.  The Director of Undergraduate Studies recommends that students prepare over the summer by reviewing a college-level elementary Latin textbook such as Wheelock's Latin, the Cambridge Latin course, or Keller and Russell's Learn to Read Latin.  Most of these texts include helpful paragraphs for translation drawn from intermediate authors like Caesar, Catullus, and Ovid.  Focus on improving your reading and properly identifying points of grammar and syntax.  You will be asked to identify and/or complete various verb forms; noun forms; pronouns and adjectives in agreement with nouns; sequence of tenses; relative clauses; ablative absolutes; temporal, causal, concessive, and conditional sentences; supines, gerunds, gerundives and participles; independent subjunctives; and so on.  Resources on the web include the Latin Library (http://www.thelatinlibrary.com/), the Tufts Perseus project, and a number of commentaries in the public domain available on Google books.

 

I took the placement exam and I was told to take Elementary Latin II (the spring term of the first year course).  But I took Latin for years in high school, and I don't think my test performance reflects my skills.  What do I do?

You are encouraged to follow the recommendations generated by the exam, but if you're unhappy with the results, you may consult the Classics DUGS.  Generally, we advise incoming freshmen with 3-4 years of high school Latin to register for Intermediate Latin, see how the first two weeks of the course go, and move on from there.  If the Intermediate course is too challenging, the student may pick up the second half of the Elementary Latin year in spring; if it's too easy, it's possible to move up into Advanced Latin courses. 

 

What do the language courses cover?  What do the titles mean?  

Elementary Latin I or Elementary Greek I is the first half of the first year college introductory course sequence, offered each fall; Elementary Latin II or Elementary Greek II is the second half of the introductory sequence, offered each spring.  Intermediate Latin I (prose, usually Cicero, Caesar, or Petronius) is the first half of the second year course, offered each fall; the sequence continues with Intermediate Latin II (poetry, usually Vergil), offered each spring.  Intermediate Greek I (Plato) is the second year course, offered each fall; Intermediate Greek II (Homer) each spring.  To fulfill NYU's foreign language requirement, College students must complete the Intermediate II course, that is, the spring term of the second or Intermediate year of the language sequence.  After completing the Intermediate sequence (or its equivalent), students take the third year or Advanced course, which they may take more than once (see below). 

 

I've taken Intermediate and Advanced Latin / ancient Greek.  Are there more language courses left to take?

Yes!  The Advanced Latin and Advanced Ancient Greek courses are run on a multi-year cycle, so that students may take six to eight terms of advanced language study without reading the same text twice.  In some cases, the course number may be the same, but the two courses (or more) will each count separately toward the major.   Don't worry if Albert warns you that the duplicate course number forbids you from counting the course toward your major; this is a programming fluke and will be fixed by a memo from the DUGS in time for graduation. 

 

Does the Department teach Latin and Greek in summertime?

No.  Partly due to the popularity of the intensive summer program in ancient Greek and Latin offered each year by the City University of New York Latin/Greek Institute, the Department at NYU does not offer summer language courses.  Tutoring is occasionally available on request (contact our departmental administrator).  It is possible to apply to the Associate Dean of Students for up to 8 points of credit from the CUNY Summer Institute to be transferred toward fulfilling the NYU degree; to discuss applying this credit toward a Classics major, make an appointment with the Director of Undergraduate Studies. 

 

Do the Department's summer courses count toward my major in the Classics Department? 

Yes, assuming they meet the requirements of your chosen track. 

 

Are there opportunities for independent study with faculty?

Yes.  The Honors program includes a semester of independent thesis research, carried out under the supervision of the faculty thesis adviser; this normally involves once- or twice-weekly meetings in the spring semester of the senior year.  Students should meet informally with their adviser in the senior fall term at least once or twice a month, in order to gather bibliography, plan the research program, develop an outline, and begin writing.   The Department does not generally permit duplication of regular course material in non-Honors independent studies.  However, students interested in topics not regularly taught in our curriculum may request pursuing independent study with the appropriate faculty member.  Consult with the DUGS or the professor in question.

 

Can I get a job as a faculty research assistant?

Possibly.  Usually 1-2 faculty members per year seek temporary paid research assistance from undergraduates, either over the summer or during the regular term.  Consult the departmental administrator or the DUGS for more information.

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