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Unique discipline

Who We Are, What We Do: Department of Classics

Student Life

By Janet Harron

As the oldest academic discipline with traditions stretching back into antiquity itself, classics is the study of 2,000 years of history in ancient Greek and Roman civilizations—from the Minoans and the Mycenaeans in the Bronze Age to St. Augustine in Late Antiquity.

For undergraduate student Morgan Locke, the study of classics is the perfect fit.

‘Broad understanding’

Now entering the fourth year of her bachelor of arts, the St. John’s native took her time finding the right academic program. After completing the Foundation Year Program at King’s College in Halifax, N.S., she majored in English at Memorial. That didn’t last long. She even tried kinesiology for a while, followed by history.

“The research is personally gratifying and universally relevant.” –Morgan Locke

In the winter term of 2014-15, Ms. Locke took two classics courses out of interest: History of the Roman Empire and Science and Technology in the Ancient World. She was hooked.

“Studying classics presents such a broad understanding of the ancient world that I am able to pursue everything I am passionate about—literature, history, and physical fitness,” she said. “Not only that but an understanding of antiquity provides an incredibly educated background against which we can understand our present day world. The research is personally gratifying and universally relevant.”

Fortunate happenstance

Professor Luke Roman came to classics in a similarly roundabout way.

“When I was in the first year of high school, I wanted to study Spanish, but the Spanish class was full,” he recalled. “So, instead, I had to take Latin. The Latin teacher was borderline insane, possibly alcoholic, and utterly brilliant. From that moment onward, I knew I would be a classicist.”

Dr. Roman’s research interests include poetry written in Latin from antiquity to the Renaissance, the history of the book, the representation of cities in literature and the relation between poetry and place.

Teacher and student appear together in Who We Are, What We Do: Classics—the latest in a series of teaser videos produced by the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences and created by multihyphenate writer/videographer/rapper/producer Timo Sargent.

Upcoming offerings

The classics department is offering Classics 3500 in fall 2016 on Sport and Athletics in Ancient Society, tracing the evolution of athletics and other forms of recreation in Greece and Rome, with emphasis on their religious, cultural, and social significance. Topics will include Roman gladiatorial combat and Greek athletics contests, including the Olympic games.

The relationship the ancient Romans had with their physical bodies is an area of research Ms. Locke has an interest in and something she hopes to pursue in future graduate studies.

“I am incredibly grateful for the classics department at Memorial,” she said. “It is a tightly knit group of individuals with varying research areas and interests, who are always more than willing to talk over a paper topic or point you in the right direction.”

Classics stars

Classics graduates from Memorial continue to make a name for themselves in a variety of ways.

Jane Hawco, an honours student in classics who graduated in 2014, was recently awarded the Margaret Williams Trust Award for students of library science. Rebecca Wilson, a master of arts student in classics who graduated in 2015 and went on to complete an MA at Acadia University, was recently admitted to University College London for Greek and Latin.

One of the department’s current crop of MA students, Olayiwola Ologbonde from the University of Ibadan in Nigeria, was recently highlighted as the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences graduate student of the month. Sophie St. Croix, winner of the 2009 gold medal in classics as well as several other awards and scholarships, is an associate lawyer at Roebothan McKay Marshall in St. John’s.

“Others students have gone on to graduate study and careers in nursing, library science, information science, teaching in private schools, English as a second language teaching for refugees, translation, and retail management,” said Dr. Roman.

Expansive discipline

Unique among academic disciplines, classics covers literature, poetry, philosophy, daily life, technology, medicine and art. Memorial’s Department of Classics edits the journal Mouseion and plans to host the annual meeting of the Classical Association of Canada in May 2017.

For more information, please see the classics degree map, visit the department’s website, like the department’s Facebook page or follow them on Twitter.

Who We Are, What We Do is a summer series from the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences featuring faculty and students discussing their discipline. The next installment of Who We Are, What We Do: Economics, with Dr. Nahid Masoudi and recent graduate Devin Drover, launches June 20.


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