Duke University | Classical Studies:


There are a variety of paths to undergraduate research in the Department of Classical Studies. The Capstone Seminar, which is required of all majors but open to any junior or senior, is offered every spring and provides an excellent opportunity to engage in collaborative or solo research projects. Students can pursue research topics in one- or two-semester long independent studies. Finally, many of our majors elect to pursue the two-semester option, writing a Senior Thesis with a view to Graduation with Distinction (for more on this, see the link to information on Graduation with Distinction in the lefthand menu). Writing a thesis in Classics is a good way (1) to develop a deep intellectual relationship with a faculty mentor, (2) to engage with the wonderfully alien world of Greek and Roman antiquity in greater depth and breadth than you might have done in a traditional class, (3) to learn firsthand the methods of humanistic and scientific enquiry that propel the field, and (4) to challenge yourself to think and write about an aspect of antiquity so as to advance an idea that you can claim as your own!

Students who have written senior theses in Classical Studies have gone on to careers in diplomacy, finance, law, medicine, secondary teaching, as well as graduate programs in archaeology, classical studies, history, or medieval Latin. You do not need to be headed to grad school to write a thesis. Recent topics have included credit crises in ancient Rome, Greek and Roman religious tolerance, rhetorical strategies in the Greek medical author Soranus, Roman military training, tourism in the Roman Empire, vengeance in the Athenian legal system, Vergilian allusion in the fourth-century Christian poet Juvencus, and a wide range of other topics.

Every year, the David Taggart Clark Prize in Classical Studies is awarded to the senior major in classical civilization or classical languages who is judged to have written the best honors thesis of the year.  The prize consists of an important book or books in the field of classics.  Support for this award derives from income earned on the generous bequest (1956) of Professor David Taggart Clark, classicist and economist.

Please see the for further information.

Mesha Sloss, Classical Studies Major, on her undergraduate research experience

In summer 2011, as a Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellow, I began research on my Classical Studies Senior Honors Thesis. My topic of choice was the incorporation of foreign gods into the Greek Pantheon and what such incorporation reveals about ancient Greek self-identity. My project focused on Egyptian influences on Greek art from the Middle Bronze Age and Early Archaic Period. Most of the artistic influences I found in the art I studied came from a religious context. This really got me wondering if perhaps more than just art, e.g. ideological influences, had crossed over between the cultures. This thought stuck with me as I began drafting proposals for a Senior Honors Thesis.

Naturally art would be one critical sphere to consider when studying if and how foreign gods or some semblance of them found their way into the Greek pantheon. Humanities Writ Large funded a six-day trip for me this past summer to visit the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Brooklyn Museum in New York. At these museums I cataloged the depictions of the ancient gods I am examining closely in my thesis, Aphrodite, Dionysos, and Cybele, and studied them to gauge how, if at all, depictions of these deities changed over time. This included their pictorial evolution both within Greek art and comparatively between Greek culture and other ancient cultures. Thanks to the Humanities Writ Large funding, I was able to examine this art first-hand, which is a crucial component not only of detailed examination but also of being able to think critically about the art. If a picture is worth a thousand words then the real thing is indescribable!

I would like to thank the Classical
Studies department and Humanities Writ Large for this amazing opportunity and for helping my Senior Thesis come a crucial step closer to realization.

    • Aphrodite
    • Photo Credit: Mesha Sloss
    • Mesha Sloss, Senior Thesis Researcher
    • Photo Credit: Mesha Sloss
    • Strange God 1
    • Photo Credit: Mesha Sloss
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