Classics Department Writing Program
The Classics Department submits the following as the primary goals of its departmental writing program:
|to increase student's understanding of the mechanics of Latin and Greek grammar and style;|
|to encourage students to develop skills in formal translation from Greek and Latin texts into English prose;|
|to introduce students to the craft of both scholarly and popular writing in classics and related disciplines.|
We foresee implementation of these goals beginning in the courses commonly taken by first-year students and culminating in projects undertaken by senior students in 300-level language courses. They will be supplemented by work undertaken in "classics in translation" courses, such as CLAS 211, CLAS 231 and the like. We do not envision any of our courses wholly lacking a writing component; quite the contrary, at least some of the writing ideas outlined below will have a place in every course we teach. While few of our courses will provide the same kind of writing experience as envisioned by the old "w-courses," any student completing a major (or even a minor) in Classical Languages or a related program offered by the department will be assured of completing writing in several different genres and getting significant faculty comment, as well as the opportunity to do revision as needed.
Classics courses commonly taken during a student's first year at Calvin include Greek/Latin 101-102, Latin 201-202, and Latin 205-206. Writing exercises in these courses will include (but not necessarily be limited to) the following:
- Close analysis of the Greek or Latin texts in comparison to English
translations, with careful attention to the structure of English syntax
in the beginning (101) language courses, in which students do not
begin to read connected prose passages for several weeks.
- Formal translation exercises, in which students are asked to render a brief passage of Greek or Latin into "publishable" English prose, and then to justify their translations against other versions. These translations may be submitted in written form, possibly as often as once a week (assuming the class has reached the level where the students are reading significant chunks of connected prose). It will be possible for students to submit several drafts or versions of these assignments; instructor feed-back is a sine qua non for the success of such an assignment as this.
- Increased emphasis on the similarities and differences between the grammar and syntax of the ancient and English languages. This sort of emphasis springs naturally from the translation exercise, and will be directly applicable to student writing in other, non-classics courses.
In language courses at and beyond the early intermediate level (e.g., Greek 205, Latin 206 and higher), writing exercises may include but not necessarily be limited to) the following:
- Continued formal translation exercises, as noted above. An added component at this level could be criticism of existing translations of (e.g.) the New Testament in Greek 205-206.
- An increased emphasis on stylistics, which played a very large role in ancient writing of all types (including the New Testament). Topics for discussion and writing (in conjunction with the above assignments) may include notions of the tria genera dicendi, rhetorical analysis, periodic vs. pointed style, the differences between Golden Latin and Silver Latin, and the like. All of these issues are intimately connected with the written word, and are suitable subjects for the contemporary student's contemplation and exercise.
- While we do not envision anything like a senior thesis for students at the highest level of language study, it is possible that we could begin to require more formal written assignments in our 300-level courses than we do in our 200-level courses; however, it is the opinion of most in the department that North American students ordinarily come so late to the serious study of languages that their time in these higher-level courses is better spent in perfecting their reading and translation techniques.
In the majority of our classics-in-translation courses we plan to continue the already enriched writing requirements, as listed below:
- CLAS 211, Classical Literature: requires at least 20 pages of writing, in the form of occasional informal tasks, three formal papers (of 4-5 typed pages in length, with options for rewrites), and essay questions on tests totaling 6-8 pages; together, these would constitute 60% of the course grade. Usually one 75-minute class session (or the equivalent over several class sessions) is devoted to a discussion of effective writing in the area of classical literary criticism. Individual conferences are scheduled with each student for face-to-face evaluation. Qualified students may choose to complete an honors project which will involve additional writing and individual conferences with the instructor.
- CLAS 221, Greco-Roman Art and Architecture: requirements are the same as for CLAS 211.
- CLAS 231, Classical Mythology: At least three essays will be required,
some of which are "interpretative" essays requiring no footnotes
but some of which may be more along the lines of a formal research
paper. Revision and rewriting is commonly expected for all students
who score below a B-; other students often submit rewritten work as
well in hopes of raising their grades. Instructor feedback and comment
usually takes the form of a standard grade report sheet, with additional
written notes in the margins of the paper and on the bottom of the
standardized form. Often students are asked to come in for a face-to-face
discussion of their writing if they fall below the B- level. The typical
student in CLAS 231 in the SP 96 term rewrote two of the three papers,
making for a typical total course writing load of at least 25 pages.
Note: Classics faculty often teach HIST 301; we presume that writing proposals involving this course will be forwarded by the History Department.
Each member of the Classics Department has used writing assignments extensively in the past and plans to continue to use them in the future. In addition, each member of the department is engaged as a professional scholar in the field, writing for other professional scholars as well as for more popular audiences. Finally, Ken Bratt and Mark Williams have both participated in WAC seminars offered on campus.
The Classics Department will assess its writing program three years after its formal approval and adoption. If this proposal is implemented for the 1997-98 school year, this assessment will take place in 2000.