Sarah Teets, doctoral student in Classics at University of Virginia
My degree in Classics filled me with a passion for the study of the ancient Mediterranean. It wasn’t long after I graduated from CSULB in 2007 that it became clear to me that I wanted to pursue further study, so I began the MA program in Classics at the University of Colorado at Boulder in the fall of 2009. Grad school is tough, but I found the time I spent teaching beginning Latin courses, writing my thesis on Josephus, and reading, reading, reading to be so rewarding that I decided to take my studies further. In 2012, my husband and relocated to Charlottesville, Virginia, where I began the PhD program in Classics at the University of Virginia.
- What is your present occupation?
I am currently working toward my PhD in Classics at the University of Virginia. I’m in my second year in the graduate program at UVa and expect to sit my comprehensive exams next year before beginning work on my dissertation. This year I have the pleasure of being a teaching assistant for the first year Ancient Greek courses. I love teaching Greek! My students are wonderful, and it makes me a little nostalgic for my old beginning Greek classes at CSULB. I have to admit that I borrow heavily from Professor Domingo-Foraste’s mnemonic devices (after all, πάντα ρεῖ is more than just a restaurant in San Francisco).
- What are your career/educational goals?
My main goal at the moment, of course, is completing my PhD. I hope then to teach Classics at the post-secondary level. I recently made my first contribution to Classical scholarship with the publication of an article adapted from my MA thesis in the journal Histos; I hope to continue to do research as well.
- How has the study of Comparative Literature/Classics informed your life, career, and the major decisions you’ve made?
It’s pretty obvious to anyone who knows me that the study of Classics has been central to my career choices (which of course are among the major life decisions I’ve made to date). But in addition to my choices of graduate programs and moving around the country, I find that the body of knowledge I’ve gained in my studies, both graduate and undergraduate, is part of who I am and informs my decisions in smaller matters as well. Whether it’s a greater appreciation of living in the moment (as Horace put it, carpe diem), or experimentation with new hobbies (if the Greeks and Romans could make mead, why can’t I?), it’s not too difficult to see a connection to my studies in much of what I do in various facets of my life. Perhaps most important to me is the richness added to my experiences by the perspective that comes with studying distant cultures and languages. If Cicero was right when he wrote, as the inscription above Norlin Library at CU Boulder reads, “He who knows only his own generation remains always a child,” then the study of the Graeco-Roman past has brought me some maturity.
- What advice would you give for current Comparative Literature/Classics students?
To current students of Classics I would offer by way of advice only this: know that you are in good company. The study of Graeco-Roman antiquity has been formative for centuries upon centuries of artists, innovators, and important thinkers. Furthermore, the fact that the field of Classics is inherently so interdisciplinary (we are all of us students not only of language and poetry, but also of history, art, archaeology, religion, linguistics, sociology, philosophy, gender, political theory, rhetoric, etc.) is part of what makes it invaluable in the ultimate (ideal) aim of the university: the education of the whole person. How one educates a person wholly, or to be whole, is an ages-old debate (it was one of Plato’s chief concerns, to say the least). As an example of the historical importance of Classics, and in lieu of further advice to current students of Classics and Comparative Literature, I offer a quotation that inspired me while I at CSULB pursuing a double major in German and Classics. This is my translation of a passage from the sixth letter Schiller’s On the Aesthetic Education of Man: in a Series of Letters. Schiller is comparing his view of the people of his own society (Germany at the end of the 18th Century) to Classical Athens as part of his own exploration of how to educate the whole person. Of course, we need not take the dichotomy Schiller here constructs between ancient Athenians and 18th century Germans as historically valid. Note instead how Schiller directs his reader to examine his own society in light of what Schiller thinks can be gained from studying the ancient Greeks:
“Back then, at every lovely awakening of the intellectual faculties, the senses and the mind had no strictly divorced properties, for no conflict had yet provoked them to separate from one another in hostility and to mark out their boundaries. Poetry had not yet courted wit and speculation had not disgraced itself with sophistry. In a pinch, the two could trade tasks, as each in its own way honored the truth. As high as reason climbed, so its substance ever lovingly followed after it, and as subtly and sharply as it made distinctions, it never mutilated. It indeed dissected human nature and scattered it about, magnified, within the marvelous pantheon, but not so as to tear it to pieces, but rather so as to combine the parts in various ways, since the whole of humanity was lacking in no individual god. How very different it is among us moderns! In our times, too, the image of the human race has been magnified and scattered among individuals, but in fragments, not in changing combinations; the result is that one must ask around from individual to individual in order to observe the totality of the human race. Among us moderns, one might be tempted to say that the faculties of nature manifest themselves in experience as divided, just as psychology separates them in the abstract, and we see not only individual subjects, but entire classes of people develop only one part of their talents, while the rest, like stunted plants, are barely hinted at with a dull trace. . .”