Classics Department

Nigel Nicholson

Walter Mintz Professor of Classics
Greek and Latin literature, critical theory.
nigel.nicholson@reed.edu

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Courses Taught

First-Year Language Classes:
Greek (Greek 110) or Latin (Latin 110)

These are one-year courses intended to give students a solid knowledge of the grammar and syntax of Latin or Greek, as well as a functional vocabulary. The goal is to put you in a position where you can read Latin or Greek works in their original language with the assistance of a dictionary and a student commentary, something we do in the final weeks of the Spring semester (usually Catullus in Latin, Plato, Xenophon or Lysias in Greek, as well as some other odds and ends).

When I teach these classes, work of some sort is due every day (either written work or learning or both), and testing is regular and rigorous. As in any language class, attendance is crucial. The textbooks we have been using recently are Athenaze in Greek (an intentionally camp text) and Wheelock in Latin (also camp, but probably not intentionally so). No prerequisites, MTWThF 11:00-11:50.

Second-Year Language Classes:
Greek 210 and Latin 210

The basic goal of these classes is to solidify your grasp of grammar and syntax, build your vocabulary, and also begin to engage in the literary studies that will be central in the 300-level classes. I tend to stress grammar more in the fall, and literature more in the spring. I am also a big fan of unprepared translation, so we spend some time working on that …

Traditionally, we do Cicero’s hilarious Pro Caelio in the fall of Latin 210, with a book or more of the Aeneid in the spring; in the spring in Greek 210 we read Homer, while the fall is more fluid, perhaps Plato, Lysias, Xenophon, but certainly a prose author.

Prerequisites, 110, a placement exam of the appropriate level or the consent of the instructor.

Humanities 110

I rotate in and out of Hum 110, and lecture on a variety of topics whether I am in the class or not. I lecture on a variety of topics, including, the Tale of Sinuhe and Egyptian notions of hierarchy; archaic temples and statuary; Aristophanes and the function of comedy in society; the book of Daniel and the formation of identity in a disapora.

Literature Classes:
Greek 311/312 (Greek Literature) and
Latin 311/312 (Latin Literature)

These classes focus on the study of Greek literature; a basic ability to read the texts is presumed, though some material is also read in translation. Considerable amounts of criticism are also read, and the class is focused on interpretation. My particular interests are in political readings, that is in examining how the texts in question support particular interests, but we approach the texts from many angles. I mostly ask students to write a number of medium-length papers, but have also done a research paper instead.

Past topics in Greek have included: Pindar and Bacchylides; Deinomenid Syracuse; Sophocles’ Ajax and Philoctetes; the Greek novel, in particular, [Longus'] Daphnis and Chloe and Chariton's About Callirhoe; the Hellenistic poetry of Callimachus and Theocritus; and Greek lyric poetry before Pindar.

Past topics in Latin include: Latin love elegy, and Martial’s epigrams.

My goals in my literature classes are to extend students' abilities to interpret complex works of art. This means deepening their abilities to read the text closely and trace its relations to other literary texts, but also expanding their horizons so that they can relate the texts to both the grander political narratives of their day and the more trivial realities of Greek or Roman life, such as the physical spaces in which Romans lived their everyday lives, and the daily practices and actions which constituted those lives.

I am on leave 2011-12, but majors can expect plenty more literature classes when I return!

Clas/Lit 353:
Classical Literature and Literary Theory

A study of some of the main currents in literary theory in the last fifty years, and the application of these theories to works of literature. The focus is on the following literary practices: New Criticism, Narratology, Semiotics, Reader-Response Theory, Marxist Literary Theory, New Historicism and Postcolonial Theory. All non-English texts will be translated.

My aims are (a) to introduce students to literary theory, (b) to enable students to understand and evaluate articles that use or develop literary theories, and perhaps even enjoy and appreciate the language of theory, (c) to enable students to confront a text with a variety of questions, and (d) to broaden students’ experience of classical literature.

My belief is that a genuine understanding of the various theories can only be achieved through using them, so I require a series of readings, in which the students use a given theory to read a text of their choice.

Literary theory is a huge field, and of necessity I had to leave out significant pieces, but I have been guided in my choices by what I deem most central to the field of Classics as it now stands and as it is now developing, and by what is available elsewhere. Thus, feminism and queer theory receive little coverage, but can be encountered in our sexuality and gender classes, while another obvious absence, Psychoanalysis, is less central to Classics as a field at the moment. I would also direct students to other classes in Lit that focus on this if that is where their interest lies.

I will also distribute a packet of classical texts that we can test theories out on in class. Most of the poems will be relatively obscure, and I hope they will broaden students’ experience of Classical literature beyond the more central texts treated in Hum 110

Students should not feel intimidated. In my opinion, there is no mastery of theory; rather, there are always things one struggles to be sure of. I will surely make some mistakes, and there will be many situations where disagreement is the only option. For me this class is especially exciting because of this open-ended quality.

Prerequisite: Sophomore standing, or consent.