My friend James recently did a short interview for a website about being a Latin Lecturer; here are some of his answers:
What is it about your field that is fascinating to you?
Reading ancient Roman literature is so thrilling to me because it is a way of communicating with people from the past. It is exciting to hear those ancient voices, and important too, since they wrestled with many of the same political and philosophical problems that we still do today.
What is it about the classics that means people still take the subject?
If people are interested in ancient history, archaeology, the history of literature, or Christian theology, then a grounding in Latin and Greek is important. But I also teach a popular course in Boston called 'The World of Rome' for students who have no prior experience in studying the ancient world, on day-to-day life in ancient Rome. Most of my students will go on to major in science or engineering or economics, yet they also love being immersed for a time in a world so different from their own. How did Romans protect themselves from malaria? What kind of insurance did Romans have? What were Roman views on educating women? These are some of the questions my students had this semester, and they all raise fascinating issues.
Do you encounter many people who think classics is not a worthwhile pursuit? How do you respond to them?
Classics is important not simply because it helps you to understand the origins of our language and culture. It also challenges you to understand the ideas and values of people distant from yourself, whom you will never get a chance to meet face-to-face. That kind of empathy and imagination is truly valuable in the 21st century world.