COOL CLASSES: “Intermediate Greek: Worlds of Wonder”

In this class led by Associate Professor and Chair of Classics Matthew Farmer, students put their knowledge of Greek to use exploring interpretive questions in literature and cultural history.

Class name: “Intermediate Greek: Worlds of Wonder”

Taught by: Associate Professor and Chair of Classics Matthew Farmer

Says Farmer about his class:
This is an intermediate Ancient Greek language course organized around the theme of “Worlds of Wonder,” so it does a few different things at once. First of all, since this is the students’ third or fourth semester in Greek, we’re focused on building fluency in the language, learning methods of reading, exploring the language’s different dialects, and firming up control of the grammar and vocabulary. But at the same time, since the students are now able to read extensively in genuine ancient texts, we’re putting our Greek to use to explore interpretive questions in literature and cultural history. We investigate processes of identifying formation in the ancient Mediterranean world as well as seeing Greek traditions of storytelling develop.

Farmer on why he wanted to teach this class:
I particularly enjoy teaching this course because for many students it’s the moment when they begin to see the rewards of all the effort they’ve put into learning Greek. Learning a language, any language, is hard work. With an ancient or historical language, the payoff comes when you can start to read original texts, enjoy them in their historical form, and start to shape your own ideas and conclusions about them.

Farmer on what makes this class unique to his department:
We get to spend our time this semester with two of my favorite authors: Herodotus, a 5th-century BCE author who is called by some people the “father of history” and by others the “father of lies,” and Lucian, a 2nd-century CE author famous for his satirical and comic tales. Both of these authors are in a sense outsiders, people from the margins, who use their abilities as storytellers to make their way towards the centers of power in their lifetimes. They’re also both writing what will come to be familiar types of literature but which are just in formation in the ancient world: Herodotus’ narrative is the oldest attempt to write “history” that survives from the ancient Greek tradition and Lucian writes what we might consider one of the world’s first science fiction novels.