The Classics Department at Kenyon College takes as its mission the instruction of Kenyon students in the cultures of the ancient Greco-Roman world. The study of classics concerns itself with the one fixed point of reference in the liberal arts: the origins. The very notion of liberal arts is a creation of ancient Greece and Rome. Courses in classics are intended to acquaint the student with the languages, literatures, and civilizations of those cultural wellsprings. Because classics comprehends all aspects of Mediterranean antiquity, it is in fact an interdisciplinary field.
Our mission involves our Majors and Minors, and the college at large; moreover, it involves the teaching of courses in classical civilization (including literature, history, archaeology, and culture) and in the ancient Greek and Latin languages. Students who take a course or two in classical civilization learn not only the content of the course but also a number of skills, including the use of information technology, effective library searching, expository and creative writing, public speaking, the ability to shape and defend an argument, and the ability to consider an issue from the vantage points of several disciplines (classics again being interdisciplinary). Our Majors and Minors, in addition, understand the core of Greek and Latin literatures through reading major works in both, and have a conceptual framework of ancient Mediterranean history. Like the study of the languages, courses in classical civilization enhance understanding of such diverse subjects as art history, drama, history, philosophy, political science, religion, and the modern literatures of Europe and America. Scholars need knowledge of Mediterranean antiquity to work effectively in these areas.
The study of Greek and Latin brings discipline, order, and a therapeutic sense of the mastery of a taxing and essential subject to their students. Knowledge of the languages, moreover, allows students to read the ancient literatures without the distorting filter of translation: “Poetry is that which cannot be translated,” Robert Frost said. Indeed, almost any study of the Western intellect and imagination looks repeatedly toward Greece and Rome and does so to greatest advantage through the lucid windows of the original languages.