Classics

The course

The most rewarding way to study the ancient world is to learn to make connections between what might appear to be quite different aspects of its study. Our discipline considers a whole culture (or series of cultures), and thus each text, each inscription, each philosophical idea, each pot and piece of sculpture has a rich social and intellectual context which can be explored in ever-widening circles. In the early stages of their course, therefore, Pembroke classicists are encouraged to investigate the whole range of studies available in the Faculty – literary, philosophical, historical, philological and archaeological – so that they can start to make these connections for themselves. With time it is inevitable that different tastes emerge, and students are encouraged to pursue particular interests in depth rather than follow a very tightly controlled schedule. Thus, for example, literature work may cover any period of Greek and Roman antiquity from Homer to the fifth century A.D., rather than being concentrated on a few more familiar authors; some students may prefer philosophy and history, others archaeology and philology.

On a formal level, students in the first two years have at least three supervisions (i.e. tutorial classes) a week. For one of these they will have written and handed in, in advance, an essay on a literary, philosophical, historical or archaeological topic; the supervision, usually in a group of two to four, focuses both on the essays but also on the wider issues arising from the topic, so that it will become clear why the topic is important. The other regular weekly supervisions focus on language learning. These support the classes taught by the Faculty and cover both Greek and Latin at the appropriate level.  In addition, there are, in the first year, fortnightly supervisions devoted to reading and discussing particular texts which have been prepared in advance; emphasis is placed upon developing the critical instincts and techniques which will unlock the pleasures of ancient texts. Furthermore, there are optional fortnightly supervisions in both years for students wishing to pursue Greek and/or Latin Prose Composition (this is optional).  In the first year, there is a termly ‘get- together’ of the whole group in College with the Director of Studies to discuss particular topics and issues arising from lectures and supervisions, to air matters of a general, methodological kind, and to monitor how the course is going.

The programme for students reading Part II is much more varied because of the wide range of options available, but students can generally reckon on at least one essay a week and concomitant supervision a week.

Pembroke Classics

The Classical community at Pembroke is exceptionally strong. It includes Dr Torsten Meissner (Director of Studies, University Senior Lecturer in Classical Philology and Linguistics), Dr Renaud Gagné (University Reader in Greek literature and language), Dr Moreed Arbabzadah (Academic Associate, Greek and Latin language and linguistics), and Professor Michael Reeve, emeritus Kennedy Professor of Latin. At any one time there are several graduate students studying for the M.Phil or PhD degree. The College has a large contingent of Classics students, whose performance in University examinations in recent years has been among the best in Cambridge. Furthermore, individual Pembroke classicists have regularly topped the examination list.

Admissions

Pembroke aims to take four or five undergraduates to read Classics each year, though the numbers vary to mirror the quality of the field.

Classics in the University in general has moved into a new era; it is now possible to do Classics without Latin or Greek A-level, or equivalent, and a special four-year course has been designed for this. Please contact Dr Meissner for individual advice if you have neither Latin nor Greek at A-level. Pembroke welcomes this development and we strongly believe that the necessary structures are firmly in place in Pembroke to give students all the necessary academic and pastoral support. We were among the first colleges to admit students for the new course and are keen to maintain our high and diverse profile. The minimum requirement is normally Latin or Greek GCSE although this is  flexible and potential applicants with this profile should contact Director of Studies, Dr Torsten Meissner, directly.

For the three-year course, applicants should have studied at least one of the Classical languages to A-level, or IB Higher level, or equivalent.  No other A-level, or equivalent, subjects are stipulated or deemed inappropriate.  There are no fixed quotas for the three- and four-year course respectively. Potential applicants studying for other qualifications (e.g. applicants from outside the UK) should contact Dr Meissner for advice.

The admissions process consists of interviews with two College subject representatives, and an Admissions Tutor or other non-expert academic. Applicants will also have an external interview at another college which is allocated by the Faculty. Beforehand, applicants are asked to submit two essays of their choice written for their A-level subjects.  Those studying Greek and/or Latin for A-level, or equivalent, are expected to submit at least one essay in one of these subjects; four-year course applicants should submit an essay from an area as close to Classics as possible (for example, Ancient History or literature in a modern language).  If in doubt, please contact Dr Meissner.

For those with Latin at A level, interview applicants will sit a one hour written test, involving translation of an unseen passage of Latin and answering grammatical and content questions relating to the text; those without Latin A-level but with Greek A-level will be asked to sit a written test, involving translation of an unseen passage of Greek and answering grammatical and content questions relating to the text; those without either language, that is four-year applicants, will sit a language aptitude test and will undergo a central assessment process operated by the Faculty.  Details about the at-interview written assessment can be found on the University of Cambridge website.

A few undergraduates reading Classics at Pembroke take a year off after completing school before coming up to university, and the College encourages this if applicants have firm plans for that year, although understanding that it is not always possible or desirable.

Further enquiries should be addressed to Dr Meissner at Pembroke.

For further information please see the page about Classics on the University website.