Photo: Class of 1893 Memorial Gate, University of Pennsylvania Campus. Credit: Penn Admissions
Discentes Course Reviews
Our guide to Classical Studies and Ancient History course offerings this spring
By Sara Chopra
With advance registration for Spring 2021 already underway, the staff of Discentes is looking back on the courses that shaped our experiences as Classical Studies and Ancient History majors and minors. This spring, the departments are offering several annually-taught courses, such as ANCH 027 Ancient Rome and CLST 100 Greek and Roman Myth, as well as classes that are not taught every year, including CLST 220 Greek Art and Artifact. To give our classmates a better understanding of each course beyond its prospectus, syllabus, and PennInTouch description, we asked several members of our staff to reflect upon their past experiences with several of this year’s offerings. Read below to hear their thoughts, whether you’re a seasoned Classics major, considering a minor, or simply looking for an exciting course to fill a gap in your schedule. P.S. many of the spring’s offerings double-count!
ANCH 027 Ancient Rome – taught virtually and synchronously by Campbell Grey
Interested in all things Ancient Rome? Prof. Grey’s course is a survey of the history and culture of the ancient civilization, introducing students to the Roman world by discussing its “religious and cultural practices, political, social and economic structures” (PennInTouch). It is the spring counterpart of Ancient Greece, which is taught each fall. A required survey course for Classical Studies and Ancient History majors, ANCH 027 also “double-counts” for both the History & Tradition Sector and Cross Cultural Analysis Foundational Requirement in the College—so regardless of your major or minor, all roads lead to (Ancient) Rome!
“This class gives you a good introduction to the history of Rome. It shows you how the field asks questions, and it teaches you how to engage with scholarship—one paper was specifically about evaluating scholarly arguments. When I took this class, it was really important to pay attention to any artifacts mentioned in lecture to prepare for quizzes. We were never assessed on our textbook readings, but I found it helpful to stay on top of them to keep myself oriented in the class since it covers an extended period of time.” – Cate Simons ‘21, Translations Editor (Spring 2019, Instructor: Grey)
CLST 100 Greek and Roman Myth – taught virtually and synchronously by Peter Struck
Calling all former Percy Jackson kids: this course provides an introductory survey of Greek and Roman mythology, focusing on the “nature of myth and the function it plays for individuals, societies, and nations” (PennInTouch). Offered every spring, CLST 100 “double-counts,” fulfilling both the Arts & Letters Sector and Cross Cultural Analysis Foundational Requirement for students in the College—a perfect pick for myth enthusiasts from all majors.
“I really enjoyed this class! This was the first official Classics course I took which had me seriously considering the major. Professor Struck’s a great lecturer, and I enjoyed learning about different ways mythology could be analyzed. I would take this course if you’re into reading a bit of mythology every week and want to think about what their interpretations might say about their authors!” – Christina Recto ‘21, Research Editor (Spring 2019, Instructor: Struck)
CLST 123 Great Discoveries in Archaeology – taught virtually and synchronously by Thomas Tartaron
Take a virtual trip around the world this spring in CLST 123, a course that focuses on various archaeological sites from the ancient Mediterranean and beyond. Through virtual engagement with the Penn Museum and several archaeological case studies, this course familiarizes students with great discoveries from across a wide range of places and spaces. Beyond counting toward the Classical Studies major and minor, this class fulfills the College’s Cross Cultural Analysis requirement. If you’re interested in archaeology, art history, anthropology, or history, this is the course for you!
“Great class! It’s not solely focused on the ancient Mediterranean, so you get to survey archaeological findings and sites not only in ancient Greece and Rome, but also Machu Picchu, China, and even colonial America. The class goes into moderate depth to teach you about the fundamentals of archaeological techniques, too.” – Elizabeth Vo-Phamhi ‘22, Events Editor (Spring 2019, Instructor: Tartaron)
CLST 127 Material Past in a Digital World – taught virtually and synchronously by Jason Herrmann
Looking to dive into the world of digital humanities? An introduction to digital methods for examining the past, including 3-D modeling and database design, CLST 127 bridges the past with the present in a unique way. Beyond familiarizing students with digital tools, this course also aims to invite conversations about the ever-changing relationship between technology and antiquity. Classical Studies majors and minors can count this course toward their degrees, acquiring a digital perspective on the past along the way.
“I would recommend this class for anyone interested in the intersection between the modern and the ancient worlds. Not only do you learn about different technologies, but you get to use them yourself! When I took the class, I was able to make an archeological database, create a 3-D model of an object from the Penn Museum and tour Rome in virtual reality! It’s really an amazing course for those wishing to gain more interaction with the Penn Museum and learn about the evolving world of classical academia.” – Mati Davis ‘21, Editor-in-Chief (Spring 2019, Instructor: Emily Rose French)
“Great class if you’re interested in archaeology. We learned a lot about relational databases, 3-D modeling with photogrammetry and laser scanning, and the ways that modern technology can intersect with the study of the ancient past. A very practical course.” – Elizabeth Vo-Phamhi ‘22, Events Editor (Spring 2019, Instructor: Emily Rose French)
CLST 191 World Literature – taught virtually and synchronously by Michael Martin Shea
If you’re looking to get a global literary perspective under your belt, CLST 191 is the course for you. Cross-listed in the departments of English and comparative literature, this class provides an introduction to literature from around the world, focusing on how it “has been translated, adapted, and circulated” between cultures and across time (PennInTouch). For Classical Studies majors and minors interested in exploring the world beyond that of the ancient Mediterranean, this course is a fantastic opportunity to expand your literary horizons.
“Overall, I enjoyed this course because it was set up so that the readings “responded” to each other—it was interesting learning about what influences a book’s creation, and in turn what influences a book may have on subsequent writings and world events. Every week we’d read a semi-short book and post a reflection discussion post; for the rest of the semester we also had a paper and an open-ended creative assignment. I would definitely take this course if reading more is on your to-do list!” – Christina Recto ‘21, Research Editor (Spring 2019, Instructors: Zain Mian and Martin Premoli)
CLST 220 Greek Art and Artifact – taught virtually and asynchronously by Ann Kuttner
Whether you’re an art lover and enthusiast, or you’ve just taken ANCH 026 and can’t get enough of Greece, CLST 220 will take you on an in-depth journey into the world of Greek material culture. Surveying “art and artifacts from Sicily to the Black Sea from the 10th century BCE to the 2nd century BCE, including the age of Alexander and the Hellenistic Kingdoms,” this course equips students with a fundamental understanding of Greek art (PennInTouch). If you’re planning to further explore Greek art and artifacts in future courses, this class will provide you with foundational skills and knowledge for future study.
“While the exams are pretty challenging, this class is really worth it in terms of the skills that you’ll gain. The class provides a really thorough and comprehensive look at Ancient Greek art, and I felt like the course really gave me the skills to understand and ask questions about a piece of ancient art. If you’re interested in a deep dive into this kind of material, then I’d say that this class is for you. Definitely start studying for the exams early because there’s a lot of material on them, and they require a lot of memorization. I wouldn’t recommend this class to anyone who hasn’t taken Ancient Greece because the material from that class will help to contextualize the course’s content.” – Cate Simons ‘21, Translations Editor (Spring 2019, Instructor: Kuttner)
Between these classes and more, the Classical Studies and Ancient History departments have a variety of fascinating offerings on deck this coming spring for majors and non-majors alike. Comment below if you’d like to hear more about a certain course—and we’ll see you this January in the (virtual) classroom!
Sara Chopra (College ’22) is a student at the University of Pennsylvania studying Classical Studies, Consumer Psychology, and Ancient History.