In Defense of Classical Studies

“What did you major in?”

“Classical Studies.”

“…Oh.  Interesting.  What does that mean?”

I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve had that conversation since graduation (one year and one day ago).  To be honest, I had it several times while I was still in school, too.  I was also asked, “What are you going to be after graduation?” (my answer was “a graduate”) or “what kind of job can you get with that degree?”

To be fair, I didn’t get a job in my degree – I wasn’t even looking for one.  To be even more fair, I can’t blame ANYONE for not knowing what Classical Studies is.  Hell, I had only heard of it in passing until college, and I only discovered my love for it because I took Greek Myth my first quarter there.  Now that I do know, and took every Classics course WWU offered in my time there, I can only educate and encourage others to take some classes and do their own research.

However, and here’s the biggie, who says a Classical Studies degree won’t be useful?

I’ve been working for just over three months as an accounting assistant for a company that manufactures and distributes ocular lenses to doctors, hospitals, and other distributors.  A few weeks back, my boss, the Controller, called me into her office with two other employees to talk about one of our customers.  My boss pointed at her computer while looking at me and asked, “What does this say?”  I thought I had posted something wrong with AP or screwed up a credit card authorization.  I was terrified for about three seconds, until I realized she was on our customer’s website, which was mostly in Greek.  She asked me to translate the address and a few other things from the site, then she thanked me and we all had a good chuckle over my degree finally “being of use”.

I told Cullen, my parents, and grandparents this story and I had another laugh about it – but the real funny part to me is that I DO use my degree all the time.  For those of you that have read some of my other posts, you’ll know that I’m in the process of writing a book, something that I might not have endeavored to do unless I had studied Classics.

During my senior year of high school, I found out that JK Rowling, author of the Harry Potter series, had majored in French and the Classics.  I knew that meant she had studied Greek and Latin, but I didn’t know much else.  During my college career, I took three years of Ancient Greek, one year of Latin, countless Greek/Roman literature, history, art history, and philosophy courses – and I can’t forget my month in Athens last summer studying Modern and Ancient Greek and Greek history.  I read and translated Homer, Plato, Euripedes and others – and all that time, I had it in my head that when the day came that I wanted to write a book, I knew I would use the Classics as inspiration.

Having worked on my book for about 10 months, I can now say that the Classics not only served as inspiration, but as a foundation for my writing.  I would not have the story lines, characters, locations, geography or ANYTHING else for my book without my education first.  I also probably wouldn’t despise cheesy Hollywood Greek/Roman movies either, but that was a trade I was willing to make.

What I’m trying to say is that if you’re of college age, please take a course or two in Classics, and if you’re older (or younger!) than 18-22, go back to your copies of Virgil and Ovid, Plato and Cicero – or even plan a trip to Greece or Italy.  Find out new things about the ancient world.  Never stop learning.  I’m sure you’ll have fun.

To read more about my writing process and my book, click here or here!


About jmmack

Full-time swim coach and pool program manager in the Seattle area. Swimmer, writer, cross-stitcher, HP fan, wife, sister, auntie of two nephews, human to a feisty Jack-Russell mix.
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2 Responses to In Defense of Classical Studies

  1. Anonymous says:

    “Never stop learning.” That makes me smile. You could have also titled this, “Follow your heart kid and you’ll never go wrong”. xoxo Mom

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