The Languages and Their Literatures

The Languages and Their Literatures
The Philological Focused major requires intensive work in the ancient languages (Greek, Latin, and Sanskrit) as well as elective courses on ancient civilization, history, art history, philosophy, religion, rhetoric, and ancient literature in English translation.

Greek

Ancient Greek is the language known to us from the writings of Homer, Sappho, Plato, and Sophocles, along with many other authors; in a dialect called koine it also forms the language of the New Testament. It differs widely enough from the Greek spoken today that the two are considered separate languages. Since it is no longer a living tongue, ancient Greek is taught in a different way than most of the other languages offered at Bard: Students acquire fluency in reading only, not in speaking or conversing. Their goal is to read great literary, historical and philosophical works in the original, rather than to communicate their own thoughts and ideas in a foreign language. As a secondary objective they will attain a thorough understanding of grammatical structures found in all Western languages, as well as a familiarity with the linguistic roots that make up much of modern English, in particular the vocabulary of science, medicine and literary analysis.

Beginning Ancient Greek is offered every year at Bard, either in an indivisible two-semester sequence or in a double-credit Intensive version in one semester. Because of the special needs of language learning, classes meet four days a week, rather than the two or three typical of other Bard courses. No prior knowledge of the language or alphabet is required. The course is designed to advance students through levels of grammatical complexity, such that they attain an ability to read standard Greek authors by the end of the first year. Students interested primarily in Biblical Greek, with its comparatively simple grammar, may be able to continue reading on their own from that point; those focused on the Classical period will want to go on to at least a third semester of course work in order to solidify and strengthen the skills acquired in the first year.

Second-year Greek courses focus on prose authors and poets whose works have the broadest relevance to modern culture, yet whose styles are relatively easy to master. These include the poets Homer, Hesiod, Sappho, and Euripides, and the prose writers Plato, Herodotus and Xenophon. Usually the second year is divided such that students who complete both courses are trained in reading poetry as well as prose.

In the third year of language study, students are equipped to read virtually any author in the canon of Greek literature, including Aeschylus, Sophocles, Aristophanes, Aristotle and Thucydides. At this level the faculty typically arrange tutorials with students, allowing them to select the authors and texts most relevant to their interests.
 

Latin

Latin, the language of Virgil, Cicero, and St. Augustine, was the lingua franca of the Western world for over a thousand years. First scratched onto stone and bronze objects in the seventh century BCE, Latin developed into a flourishing literary language that in the Classical period encompassed (among many other forms) epic and lyric poetry, history, drama, biography, and philosophy, and was the language that governed the Roman Empire. Latin is the common root of English and many other modern European languages, which developed out of a shared linguistic heritage and whose connections the study of Latin can help us understand. 

Since it is no longer a living tongue, Latin is taught in a different way than most other languages offered at Bard: students acquire fluency in reading only, not in speaking or listening. Their goal is to read great literary and historical works in the original language, rather than communicate their own thoughts and ideas in a foreign language. As a secondary objective they will attain a thorough understanding of grammatical structures found in all Western languages, as well as a familiarity with the linguistic roots that make up much of modern English and its linguistic neighbors German, French, Spanish, and Italian. 

Beginning Latin is offered every year at Bard, either in an indivisible two-semester sequence or in a double-credit intensive version in one semester. Because of the special needs of language learning, classes meet four days a week, rather than the two or three typical of other Bard courses. No prior knowledge of the language is required. The course is designed to advance students through levels of grammatical complexity, such that they attain an ability to read standard Latin authors by the end of the first year. Second-year Latin courses focus on introducing students to poets and prose authors whose works have the broadest relevance to modern culture, yet whose styles are relatively easy to master. These include the first-century BC poet Catullus, who brought the first-person voice into Roman poetry in his signature mix of invective and erotics, and Cicero, the master of Roman oratory. In the third year of language study, students are equipped to read virtually any author in the canon of Latin literature; courses at this level are often thematically oriented and in the past have included Ovid: Love and Metamorphosis; Roman Medea, and The Origins of Rome. Courses at the 300 and 400 level also give students the tools to do close reading and scholarly research about Latin texts, and include a mixture of translation, in-class discussion, and interpretive writing. 
 

Sanskrit

Sanskrit is the language of ancient India, the language in which such works as the Bhagavad Gita, the great Hindu epics Mahabharata and Ramayana, and the Upanisads were written. In this course students will learn the grammar and syntax of Classical Sanskrit and acquire a working vocabulary. In the second semester students will read substantial portions of original texts in Sanskrit. Taught by Richard Davis of the Religion program.  Beginning Sanskrit is offered in alternate years.