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Core Course: Classics Now!


Admission requirements

All students admitted to the MA Classics are admissible. BA Classics is an admission requirement. Research MA students are admissible, but this course is extra curricular for them, since it is not aimed at acquiring Research MA level research skills.


Why do we study Classics in the modern world? In what ways can we use ancient texts as ‘tools for thinking’ to analyze current affairs and societal problems? How can the study of classical antiquity be made more inclusive? We will study the debate on the usefulness or otherwise of Classics and look at a number of currrent issues, such as the coronavirus pandemic, racism, the #Metoo debate, the refugee crisis, the dangers of playing computer games or reading Homer, debates about the nature of art, combat trauma and the ancient Greeks, the place of technology in the cultural imagination, ‘ecocriticism’ (the role of the environment and human-nature interaction in classical literature) and several other topics, in consultation with the participants.

Course objectives

The course is designed to be useful for future teachers, but also for everyone who will use their MA Classics degree to pursue other, extra-academic, careers. It is meant to strengthen the coherence and profile of the Classics track of the MA Classics and Ancient Civilizations in Leiden. It is the core course of this track, compulsory for all students. If space permits, RMA students are allowed to take this class; however, the credits cannot count towards the fulfillment of the RMA requirements, since this is not a seminar designed to train future researchers.

At the end of this course:

  • students will have acquired insight into the (historical) debate over the usefulness or relevance of the study of Classics, and learned to formulate their own position in this debate;

  • students will be aware of the pitfalls of and theoretical backgrounds to using historical evidence in contemporary debates;

  • students will have acquired writing skills in sub-academic genres, in particular the essay (but also e.g. a blog or other social media), in their potential to spread ideas based on academic research;

  • students will have familiarized themselves with possible roles of classical texts in a number of contemporary debates;

  • in oral presentation they will present audibly, clearly and on the basis of arguments the results of the student’s research, and make effective use of hand-out, illustrations or multi-media techniques;


The timetables are available through My Timetable.

Mode of instruction


Assessment method


  • Active participation and preparation (10%);

  • collaborative presentation, possibly including organizing and chairing group discussion (20%);

  • Three writing assignments (20%, 20%, 30%), details provided in syllabus.


Final grade established on the basis of weighted average; all written assignments must have been handed in and at least two out of three must have a passing grade.


Resit possible for parts of the seminar that were below passing grades.

Inspection and feedback

Feedback will be provided on the performance of each student on each assignment/presentation/exam.

Reading list

Initial bibliography will be provided in the first session; it is expected that the students will actively search out more material relevant to the topics they have selected (‘heuristic competence’). Some literature is made permanently available in the Classics reading room (these books will not be lent out).

Everyone must read, either in English or Dutch:

  • Nussbaum, Martha, Not for Profit. Why Democracy needs the Humanities. Princeton 2010 (translated into Dutch as Niet voor de Winst. Waarom de democratie de geesteswetenschappen nodig heeft). Amsterdam: Ambo, 2011.

  • Beard, M., 2017. Women and Power.


Enrolment through My Studymap (Login | Universiteit Leiden) is mandatory.

General information about course and exam enrolment is available on the website


  • For substantive questions, contact the lecturers listed in the right information bar.

  • For questions about enrolment, admission, etc, contact the Education Administration Office: Arsenaal


  • Language of instruction/examination:
    Class instruction and discussion will be in English when non-Dutch speakers are present. However, given the objectives of the class and the importance of the Dutch context, all written assignments may be produced in Dutch or English, as the student prefers. Dutch students must produce at least one text in Dutch.