Department of Classics

Information and Advice for Graduate Students in Classics

Ancient philosophical literature is itself the main attraction for most specialists in the field. But in addition to its intrinsic interest, the field is also an especially fruitful basis for research and teaching in other areas of classical studies. To mention only the most obvious, familiarity with Plato and Aristotle offers distinctive insights into Greek epic, tragedy, oratory, and politics; knowledge of Epicurean and Stoic thought is essential to the study of Lucretius and Seneca, and important for Cicero, Horace, and many other authors; and the Hellenistic world is a fertile but relatively uncharted site for analyzing the interactions of philosophy with other cultural forces.

Studying ancient philosophy also has pragmatic benefits. The UT Classics graduate program is designed to help you develop both general and specialized knowledge in classical studies because both are essential for teaching and research alike. Most Classics Departments in this country expect faculty to teach introductory courses on general topics and undergraduate courses in both languages; hence the need for a broad background. Most also look for special expertise, which is usually a major factor in decisions on hiring. Specialized work in an interdisciplinary field like ancient philosophy has a special advantage: it qualifies you not only for specialist positions but also for generalist positions in Departments interested in building or strengthening ties with other programs or departments. In this era of interdisciplinary study, that can be a real boon.

That said, it's worth emphasizing that specialists need a solid basis in classical studies generally. Hence, your primary goal in selecting courses should be to develop a broad knowledge of the materials and methods of classical philology. Your first goal is of course to strengthen your command of Greek and Latin. But you should do so with some broader goals in view:

  • Literature: a core of courses in major authors, periods, genres, and topics covering both Greek and Latin works. Also look for courses with different methods or approaches.
  • History: familiarity with the main contours of both Greek and Roman history.
  • Related fields and methodologies: acquaintance with basic material in other major fields (especially ancient art and religion) and with the tools and methods of important ancillary disciplines (notably textual criticism, epigraphy, and papyrology; the last is especially useful for work in some areas of ancient philosophy).

Integrating a solid general training in Classics with specialized study of ancient philosophy is relatively easy at UT. At least one and often two or more seminars on topics in ancient philosophy are offered each semester; many are cross-listed in both Departments. In selecting courses, keep the following desiderata in mind:

  • Plato and Aristotle: at least one seminar (over and above reading courses) on each.
  • Philosophy: some coursework in the history of philosophy (especially 17-18th century European philosophy and 20th-century Anglo-American analytic philosophy) and in major fields (ethics, epistemology, metaphysics) or major problems (such as essentialism, personal identity, virtue ethics). Familiarity with basic logic is also important, and for some subjects essential.
  • Faculty: seminars with many different faculty, including several on the Joint Program Committee.

If ancient philosophy is unfamiliar or you need an overview of the field, you can audit or enroll in the undergraduate survey offered every semester by the Philosophy Department (PH 329K, cross-listed CC 348); if you do this, make sure the course is taught by one of the specialists here (as it usually is). More generally, if you have little or no background in other areas of philosophy, you will find it helpful to acquaint yourself with central issues and ideas; courses that are especially useful include 329L (early modern philosophy: Descartes to Kant), 321K (theory of knowledge), 323K (metaphysics), 325K (ethics), and 313 or 313K (introductory logic).

M.A. Program
Requirements for the Joint Program are the same as for everyone in Classics. Its goals are essentially three: to solidify your command of languages (mainly Greek and Latin, but also German and French or Italian), to develop a broad general knowledge of classical literature and culture, and to learn methods of research. But this common framework affords many options, and it is generally useful to include some work in ancient philosophy -- both coursework and research.

1. Coursework
18 hours in a Major (6 or more Greek courses) and 6 hours in a Minor (2 or more Latin courses). The Major may be either Greek or Latin, and the Minor either the other language or Philosophy. Usually the best plan for students in ancient philosophy is a Major in Greek and a Minor in Latin, which enables you to solidify both languages right away. To meet the distribution requirement, register for ancient philosophy seminars as Greek courses (not as Philosophy).

2. Exams
No exams are formally required for an M.A. But admission to the Ph.D. program is generally contingent on passing a translation exam in either Greek or Latin, and a translation exam in a modern language (preferably German, or Italian or French).

3. Research
The Report (398R: one semester): an exercise in directed research and scholarly writing, normally begun and completed in the fourth semester; it is usually based on previous seminar work, and often (but not necessarily) on a philosophical topic. Select a Director and a Reader (typically one is a member of the Joint Program) to suit your topic; after both approve your work, a copy is shelved in the Classics Library.

N.b. A prerequisite for promotion to Acting Instructor (hence teaching first-year Latin) is LAT 398T, which is offered every Spring. Students typically take this in their fourth semester (second Spring) and advance to the rank of AI in their third year. Hence, your fourth semester is likely to be largely occupied by two prerequisites: Report and LAT 398T (3 hours each).

Ph.D. Program
Requirements for the Joint Program are mostly the same as for the standard program in Classics. There are three differences: # 4-6 below. (Note: The Programs in Ancient History and Classical Archaeology have similar differences.)

1. Foreign languages (same as Classics): German and Italian or French; Italian is usually preferable.

2. Translation exams (same as Classics): Both Greek and Latin, based on the Classics reading lists.

3. Literature exams (same as Classics): Both Greek and Latin, based on the Classics reading lists.

4. History exam: Only one; Greek is usually preferable (taken with the Survey).

5. Ancient Philosophy exam (replaces the second History exam)
Comprehensive, based on a special reading list . The exam has two parts comparable to material on the Literature exams: one involves commenting on two excerpts from works on the reading list; the other is two essays on more general questions about material on the reading list.

6. Coursework (comparable to Special Field)
Two graduate or advanced undergraduate courses in philosophy (PHL 321 or above) outside the area of ancient philosophy. These should cover either history of philosophy (preferably "early modern" European or Anglo-American analytic) or major fields (such as ethics, epistemology, metaphysics). Coursework completed at other institutions may be counted toward this requirement.

7. Dissertation and Oral Defense
As the culmination of your training, the basis for future research, and the focus of attention in your search for a position in Classics, this project should be carefully designed in close consultation with at least two members of the Joint Program. In addition to formulating a topic, you'll select a director (or two co-directors) to supervise your work, and form a Dissertation Committee, comprising a total of five members (the director and four others, or two co-directors and three others); typically two or three members are from the Joint Program Committee.