Dr Christian Keime
Fellow, Director of Studies
Classics flourishes at Girton, and has been an important subject since the foundation of the College. A tradition of excellence among Girton Classics students was begun by Agnata Frances Ramsay, who was the only candidate in 1887 to be placed in the first division of the First Class of the Classics Tripos examination, an achievement honoured with a cartoon in Punch. Girton Classicists are also strong in inter-year support and advice, and get fully involved both in the wider College community and in the community of the Classics Faculty itself.
Thanks to generous donors, funds are available to support the study of Classics at Girton in the form of grants for travel to Classical lands, bursaries for those eligible, a book grant for all Classics students and help with pre-course tuition if your offer demands it. There is a particularly well stocked Classical section in our library, and we have a small antiquities museum, the Lawrence Room, containing an eclectic collection of small finds from all over the Classical world and (in the case of some of the Roman material) from beneath the College itself. The star of the museum is Hermione Grammatikē, a Roman portrait mummy, excavated by William Flinders Petrie at the cemetery in Hawara in the Fayum early in 1911.
You can study Classics at Girton even if you have no language qualifications in Latin or Ancient Greek. It means taking a four-year course, which is unique in the UK, in that it enables students without prior experience in Classical languages to take both Latin and Greek from scratch to a high level. Girton welcomes applicants for the three-year course, for which A-Level Latin is required, both for its Intensive Greek stream and for its non-Intensive stream (for which A-Level Greek is required). Whatever your interests and whatever experience you have in studying the culture, literature and languages of the Greece and Roman world, we strongly encourage you to explore Classics as early and as widely as possible.
Each of the Girton Fellows in Classics teaches both for the College and for the Faculty of Classics, resulting in particularly careful integration of College supervisions with Faculty lectures and classes. In an eight-week term, four essays will be set on topics in Greek and Latin literature and four on students’ two chosen options (students select any two of Philosophy, Ancient History, Art and Archaeology, and Linguistics and Philology at the end of their first term). Essays form the starting-point for further exploration of the topic and the relevant materials in the supervision. For the first two years, students also have one language-learning assignment in Latin and Greek every week. Much of the supervision in literature and language is covered in College (though the supervisions themselves sometimes take place on the Sidgwick site). Other subjects are supervised by experts from other colleges, and this naturally increases at Part II, as students chose from a range of papers on specialist topics. The majority of students opt to do a dissertation for Part II. Recent topics include: transformations of the Niobe myth, the historiography of the general Epaminondas, Pompeian graffiti, and the names given to pet dogs and hunting hounds in ancient Greece.
Classics PhD and MPhil students are very well served at Girton and there are usually at least three postgraduates in Classics at any one time. They are particularly valued members of the College Classics community, invited to all subject social events and encouraged to pass on their wisdom to undergraduates. The College library is unusually good in Classics resources and the Lawrence Room offers a unique source of inspiration. Recent PhD topics pursued by Classicists at Girton have included Greek vase inscriptions and Aristotle’s political philosophy.
Research and postgraduate students are admitted to the University by the Board of Graduate Studies. You must therefore apply centrally and not to the College, but you must be admitted to a College to be able to study at the University. To ensure that this is Girton, you need to indicate this on your application form.
Classics students go on to follow a fascinatingly diverse range of career paths. Some do go on to research and teaching in schools and universities, or to work in archives, libraries and museums. However most go into other careers – in law, accountancy, the civil service, the media, industry and business. Recent interviews with major employers have confirmed that they have a high opinion of Classicists as potential employees.
One of our History students once described Girton as ‘a safe place to be intellectually daring.’ That is precisely the environment that the History Fellows are committed to providing: a supportive, intellectually stimulating environment where we go the extra mile to ensure that everyone can fulfil their academic potential. The endowment of a History Fellowship at Girton has been transformative.