Graduate Education in Classics: A Continuing Conversation...
"Wir Philologen?" The Boundaries and Structures of "Classics" as a
Archaeology and Philology in the Contemporary Classics Department
Stephen L. Dyson,
Any discussion must begin with the acknowledgment of the historical and
present scholarly and pedagogical equality of archaeology and philology
within the field of Classics. Both branches arose in the Renaissance. The
archaeologists have their Raphael, while the philologists have their
Poggio and Erasmus. While the archaeologists themselves have often
implicitly or even explicitly accepted a subordinate status to philology,
this mentality has to be rejected by all parties, if we are going to have
a healthy Classics undergraduate and graduate curriculum in the late
A central question is the relative role of archaeology and ancient
languages in the graduate curriculum. In terms of both research and
teaching, I argue that, while it is a good idea that all classicists know
some archaeology and some ancient languages, that the current expectation
is tilted too heavily towards language and especially Greek.
There are some research fields where a classical archaeologist is going to
need a good knowledge of a relevant ancient language or languages.
However, in many areas (including most of the cutting edge areas of the
discipline of archaeology) this is not the case. While it is nice to know
everything, the reality is that in modern archaeology much has to be left
to experts. This applies to both the animal bones and the Greek ostraka.
One of the reasons that classical archaeology has lagged behind the rest
of the archaeological discipline is that we have let too much of our
intellectual agenda and graduate education curriculum be determined by
forces extraneous to the research needs of modern archaeology. The reading
of material culture texts is as complicated as the reading of written
texts, but it largely requires a very different range of skills. Those
differences are going to increase rather than decrease during the coming
years. Graduate study time is going to be increasingly limited, especially
in most contemporary universities, where financial pressures are going to
make less feasible the long, leisurely graduate programs of the past. Some
things are going to have to go. In the area of research training, this is
going to mean less language and more archaeology for archaeologists.
It is generally stated that the archaeologists are going to need to be
able to teach the languages, if they are going to be able to meet the
needs of a Classics Department. Therefore, they must have mastery of both
Greek and Latin at an advanced level. I would argue that these statements
do not represent present and future curricular reality, especially in the
area of Greek. There is an odd contradiction between the statement that
archaeologists must really know Greek and the current laments on the part
of philologists that Greek is going the way of Sanskrit in the Classics
curriculum. The reality of student interests and background and decanal
enrollment pressures is that Greek beyond the elementary level is going to
become more and more a marginal part of the curriculum, especially in the
undergraduate oriented colleges and universities, where most of our
students will get positions. In an increasing number of situations the
philologists, let alone the archaeologists, will not teach Greek in
regular courses. The situation will be somewhat better for Latin, but it
is also probable that Latin beyond the intermediate level will become more
and more a world of tutorials and overloads.
In contrast archaeology courses generally draw very healthy enrollments.
They become a means of keeping deans off the back of the department. When
the classical archaeologists are allowed to develop coherent curricula,
they usually attract significant numbers of majors. Even in the more
general education area of classical civilization, Western Civilization,
and World Civilization, archaeologists with their understanding of
monuments can do very effective and popular courses aimed at an
increasingly visually oriented generation. If Classics Departments hope to
survive in the current academic climate and culture, the philologists, who
politically still tend to dominate departments, are going to have to
forget the old slogans and stereotypes and welcome the archaeologists and
their ability to attract students and enhance curricula. That reception
has to increasingly come on the archaeologists' own terms.
Classics, Archaeology, Philology, and the General Public
Both philologists and archaeologists are constantly extracting new meaning
and information from the existing texts. However, only archaeology is
expanding its corpus of texts to a significant degree. Archaeology is also
the major link between the public and our profession. While, in our
conservative age, some may think Latin and Greek are good things, it is
generally the discoveries of the archaeologists which make the news media.
Archaeology magazine has a circulation of 200,000, more I
all of the classical philological journals in the world combined! Classics
is going to have to harness this interest created in large parts by the
archaeologists, if the discipline is going to survive in anything like its
The Future of the Classics Graduate Curriculum
Our current graduate education is based on a German model designed for an
era when classics was at the center of the curriculum. We need to produce
an American educational model for a discipline that is still attractive,
but basically marginal. I would argue that most classics graduate programs
are going to have to produce classroom generalists, who can teach courses
which combine ancient literature in translation, ancient
archaeology. We need to provide the students with the knowledge needed for
such courses and teach them how to develop them and present them. These
courses can operate on various levels of sophistication, but few will have
a significant language component. This type of pedagogical training till
require increased cooperation among the branches of our discipline.
Research training is going to have to operate with a higher level of
ruthless efficiency without the deference to sentiment or outmoded
tradition. For philological researchers, that means limited archaeology.
For archaeologists that will mean less language.
I would be happy to discuss any of these points with
colleagues over the Internet.