Exploring the Cornell Classics Program

July 3, 2023
By AdmissionSight
A student writing in a room in front of her laptop.

Exploring the Cornell Classics Program

Cornell University is a premier institution when it comes to the teaching and exploration of classical literature. With a rich history in the discipline, the university has attracted some of the brightest minds in the field, both as faculty members and students. In this article, we delve into the world of classics at Cornell University, covering topics ranging from its history to its curriculum, top professors, alumni, and more.

Cornell University: A Haven for Classic Literature Enthusiasts

Cornell University has always been a hotbed for those passionate about classical literature. The university offers a wide range of courses in classics, including language courses in Greek and Latin, literature and culture courses, and courses on classical history. Students interested in classical studies can major or minor in classics and can also pursue graduate studies in the field.


two students studying in the library

Moreover, Cornell University has a rich collection of classical literature in its libraries, including rare manuscripts and first editions of ancient texts. The university also hosts various events and lectures on classical literature, inviting renowned scholars and experts in the field to share their knowledge and insights with the students and faculty.

Furthermore, Cornell University has established partnerships with prestigious institutions and organizations around the world, providing students with opportunities to study abroad and immerse themselves in the classical cultures of Greece, Rome, and other ancient civilizations. These programs offer students a unique chance to experience firsthand the places and artifacts they have studied in class and to deepen their understanding and appreciation of classical literature and history.

The History of Classics at Cornell University

Cornell University boasts a rich history in the study of classics. The classics program was introduced at the university in the late 1800s and since then has grown into one of the strongest programs in the country. Some of the most well-known figures in classical literature have been part of Cornell’s history, including E. B. White, whose beloved children’s book “Charlotte’s Web” was inspired by the spiders he studied as a classics graduate student at Cornell.

Over the years, Cornell’s classics program has expanded to include a wide range of courses and research opportunities. Students can study ancient Greek and Latin languages, literature, history, philosophy, and archaeology. The program also offers study abroad opportunities in Greece and Italy, allowing students to experience firsthand the ancient sites and cultures they are studying.

In addition to its academic offerings, Cornell’s classics program is also known for its outreach and community engagement. The program hosts public lectures, workshops, and events that bring together scholars, students, and members of the local community to explore the relevance of classical studies in today’s world. Through these efforts, Cornell’s classics program continues to inspire and educate new generations of scholars and enthusiasts.

Top Professors in Classics at Cornell University

At Cornell University, students have the opportunity to study under some of the most distinguished professors in the field of classics. The faculty members of the classics department are renowned scholars, each with a unique focus on the discipline. Some notable professors include Helene Foley, a renowned scholar of Greek drama and feminist criticism, and Barry Strauss, an expert in ancient military history.

A Tour of the Classics Department at Cornell University

The classics department at Cornell is located in Goldwin Smith Hall, a stunning historic building that is home to various departments in the humanities. The department is fully equipped with classrooms, offices, and a library dedicated to classics. The library houses an extensive collection of books, journals, and manuscripts related to the field, making it a valuable resource for both students and scholars.

In addition to the library, the classics department at Cornell also offers various extracurricular activities for students interested in the field. These include study abroad programs in Greece and Rome, as well as opportunities to participate in archaeological digs and research projects. The department also hosts guest lectures and events throughout the year featuring prominent scholars and experts in the field. Overall, the classics department at Cornell provides a comprehensive and immersive experience for students interested in studying the ancient world.

The Impact of Cornell’s Classics Program on Higher Education

The classics program at Cornell University has had a significant impact on the field of classical studies. The university has produced numerous scholars who have gone on to make key contributions to the discipline, and its graduates have been accepted into top graduate programs around the world. Cornell’s classics program has also influenced the way in which classical studies are taught at other universities and has pushed for a deeper understanding of classical literature and culture.

a female student writing a college essay

One of the unique aspects of Cornell’s classics program is its emphasis on interdisciplinary studies. Students are encouraged to explore connections between classical literature and other fields, such as philosophy, history, and art. This approach has led to innovative research and scholarship, and has helped to broaden the scope of classical studies beyond traditional boundaries. As a result, Cornell’s classics program has become a model for other universities seeking to integrate interdisciplinary approaches into their own programs.

How to Get Involved in the Classics Community at Cornell University

For students interested in studying classics at Cornell, there are numerous opportunities to get involved in the classics community. The Department of Classics hosts various events, including lectures, workshops, and conferences. Students can also join student organizations such as the Classics Club, which offers a platform for students to share their passion for classical literature with others.

In addition to these opportunities, students can also participate in study abroad programs that focus on classics. Cornell offers programs in Greece and Italy, where students can immerse themselves in the culture and history of the ancient world. These programs provide a unique opportunity to study classics in the context of the places where they originated.

The Role of Classics in Modern Society: Insights from Cornell Scholars

The study of classical literature and culture has been a topic of debate in modern society, with some arguing that it is no longer relevant. However, scholars from Cornell University believe that the study of classics is essential to understanding our world today. Classics can provide insight into current issues such as politics, gender, and race, and can allow us to better grasp the complexities of our modern society.

One of the key benefits of studying classics is the ability to gain a deeper understanding of the origins of Western civilization. By examining the works of ancient Greek and Roman writers, we can trace the development of ideas and values that continue to shape our society today. For example, the concept of democracy, which is central to modern political systems, has its roots in ancient Athens.

Furthermore, the study of classics can also help us to appreciate the beauty and complexity of ancient art and architecture. From the intricate mosaics of Pompeii to the towering columns of the Parthenon, classical art has had a profound influence on the aesthetics of Western culture. By studying these works, we can gain a greater appreciation for the artistic achievements of our ancestors and the enduring legacy of their creativity.

Famous Alumni Who Studied Classics at Cornell University

Many famous individuals have received degrees in classics from Cornell University. This includes Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who famously quoted Cicero in a Supreme Court decision, and Kurt Vonnegut, whose novel “Slaughterhouse-Five” was inspired by his experiences as a prisoner of war during World War II. These individuals demonstrate the wide-ranging impact of the classics program at Cornell.

Another notable alumnus of Cornell University’s classics program is Carl Sagan, a renowned astronomer and science communicator. Sagan was fascinated by the ancient Greek and Roman civilizations and their contributions to science and philosophy. He often referenced their works in his own research and writing, including his book “Cosmos.” Sagan’s interdisciplinary approach to science and his appreciation for the classics exemplify the unique opportunities offered by Cornell’s classics program.

Comparative Analysis of the Classics Program at Cornell and Other Ivy League Schools

Cornell’s classics program can hold its own against those of other Ivy League universities. The program has consistently ranked highly in national rankings and is known for its rigorous and challenging curriculum. Cornell’s classics program differs from other Ivy League programs in its emphasis on in-depth language study, which gives students an unparalleled understanding of classical literature and culture.

View of people smiling at the camera.

In addition to its emphasis on language study, Cornell’s classics program also offers unique opportunities for students to engage with ancient texts and artifacts. The program has a partnership with the Cornell University Library, which houses a vast collection of rare books and manuscripts from the ancient world. Students have the opportunity to work closely with these materials, gaining hands-on experience with primary sources and developing valuable research skills. Additionally, the program offers study abroad opportunities in Greece and Italy, allowing students to immerse themselves in the culture and history of the ancient world.

The Future of Classics Education: Perspectives from Cornell Faculty

The field of classics is constantly evolving, and Cornell’s faculty members are keenly aware of this. They are attuned to the changing needs and perspectives of students and scholars alike, and are dedicated to ensuring that the classics program at Cornell remains at the forefront of the discipline. This includes incorporating new technologies and teaching methods into the curriculum, as well as staying up-to-date on the latest developments in the field.

One of the ways in which Cornell’s classics faculty is adapting to the changing landscape of the discipline is by placing a greater emphasis on interdisciplinary approaches. Classics is no longer seen as a standalone field but rather as one that intersects with a variety of other disciplines, from archaeology to philosophy to literature. By encouraging students to explore these connections, Cornell’s classics program is preparing them for a world in which interdisciplinary thinking is increasingly valued.

Student Life for Classics Majors at Cornell University

Students pursuing a major or minor in classics at Cornell are sure to have a stimulating and rewarding experience. The department offers a tight-knit community of scholars and students, and the university as a whole is known for its diverse and vibrant student life. Students have a wide range of extracurricular activities to choose from, including sports teams, music ensembles, and theater groups, and they can also take advantage of the university’s numerous resources and facilities.

The Importance of Learning Ancient Languages in the Classics Curriculum

A key component of Cornell’s classics curriculum is its focus on language study. Students in the program are required to study Latin and Greek for at least two years, allowing them to read the great works of classical literature in their original languages. This is crucial to gaining a deep understanding of the works, as many nuances and subtleties are lost in translation. Learning these ancient languages also helps students develop critical thinking and analysis skills that are invaluable in any field of study.

Furthermore, studying ancient languages provides a window into the culture and society of the time period. By understanding the language, students can better comprehend the historical context and societal norms that influenced the literature. This knowledge can be applied to other areas of study, such as history and anthropology, and can provide a more well-rounded education. Additionally, learning a language that is no longer spoken can be a unique and rewarding experience, as it allows students to connect with a distant past and gain a sense of accomplishment in mastering a difficult skill.

Debating the Relevance of Classic Literature in Today’s World: A Discussion with Cornell Professors

The relevance of classical literature in modern society is a topic of ongoing debate, and Cornell’s professors are no strangers to this discussion. Some argue that classical literature is outdated and no longer relevant, while others maintain that it can provide valuable insights into our world today. However, one thing is certain: the study of classics will continue to be an important discipline, and Cornell’s classics program will remain at the forefront of this vital field.

a student writing on her notebook and looking at the camera

One of the arguments in favor of studying classical literature is that it provides a window into the past and helps us understand the origins of our modern culture. For example, many of the themes and motifs found in ancient Greek and Roman literature are still present in contemporary works of literature, film, and television. By studying the classics, we can gain a deeper appreciation for the cultural heritage that has shaped our world today.

Career Opportunities for Graduates with a Degree in Classics from Cornell University

Graduates with a degree in classics from Cornell University have numerous career opportunities available to them. With strong critical thinking and analytical skills, graduates are well-suited for careers in law, education, journalism, and many other fields. The skills learned through the classics curriculum are applicable in many different contexts and give graduates an edge in the job market.

In conclusion, the classics program at Cornell University is a rigorous and challenging program that attracts scholars and students from around the world. From its rich history to its top-notch faculty and wide-ranging curriculum, Cornell’s classics program is an essential part of the field of classical studies. Whether pursuing graduate studies or a career in a different field, graduates of the program are sure to carry their passion for classical literature and culture with them for a lifetime.

Furthermore, graduates with a degree in classics from Cornell University also have the opportunity to pursue careers in fields such as museum curation, archaeology, and cultural heritage management. The knowledge and understanding of ancient civilizations gained through the classics program can be applied to these fields, allowing graduates to work with artifacts and historical sites and to preserve and promote cultural heritage for future generations.


College Admissions

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Sign up now to receive insights on
how to navigate the college admissions process.