Thursday, 31 October 2013

On the Accessibility of Classics

Alright, so I'm now a first year university student (sweeeeeeet as mate) majoring in Geography. But as I'm at a Scottish uni (Glasgow) I take two other subjects as well, one of them being classics.

Why choose classics? You may ask. It's a reasonable question. I don't live up to any of the stereotypes- the stuffy public school guy who's been to all of the sites spoken about on his summer hols. Naaah, I'm from inner city London (FPK all up in this!) and I had no real idea what classics even was until I picked as a dare for one of my a-levels. 

Yes, as a DARE. It was probably one of the best decisions I've ever made. As well as gaining 20 quid, I made some of my best friends at sixth form in my classics class. We all loved classics, and none of us had ever studied it before. 

Why did we love classics? Because of the stories, the characters, the myths. They were all so crazy and yet relatable. It was like seeing all the familiar plot lines in their first stage, it allowed me to glean so much more from popular culture, and most of all, it allowed for A LOT of banter. "Stop being such an Ismene!" Was a regular saying passed around our group while studying Sophocles' Antigone, and we nicknamed one of our non-classcist friends apoxymenos while studying Greek sculpture. Classics was probably my most enjoyable subject, and I assumed this would continue into university.

It didn't. 

Suddenly my lectures and tutorials seemed to be full of the kind stereotypical classics students. The people answering questions in tutorials use so much unnecessary terminology I'm unsure whether they even know what they're talking about. I feel like my not-posh-london accent is possibly causing people to look down on me. It's not as though we're covering any new ground in terms of the texts we're studying- the Odyssey, which I studied in my first year at sixth form, Theogony and Works and Days- at college we read the Theogony, and Greek Lyric poetry- which we were aware of in sixth form, although didn't directly suffer. 

The problem is the tone. The lecturers still seem to aim at the haughty public school student, although university is now accessible for a far wider range of people (in spite of this government's best efforts), and I cannot imagine any lecturer even trying to make these texts more approachable. I'm not asking for simplified versions, I'm just asking for some effort to be made for the teaching to move from the 70's into today.

Once you know how amazing a subject like classics can be, it's painful to see it reduced to it's old stereotype.