Many of the most exciting questions in the contemporary study of the ancient world cannot be adequately approached by the standard techniques of philology, philosophy, history or archaeology on their own. They require approaching ancient culture simultaneously with the whole range of disciplinary tools. ‘X’ or ‘Interdisciplinary Classics’ was founded in Cambridge to explore these questions at all levels of teaching and research, and offers what has rapidly become one of the most popular groups of courses in the Faculty. It capitalizes on Cambridge's unique range of intellectual resources to provide a different sort of classical study from that offered by other departments in Britain.
Each year ‘X’ offers two part II courses, each of which takes a central issue in Classics, examining it from several different angles and through diverse genres of evidence (literary, visual, philosophical, linguistic, ancient and modern). Discussion is paramount: lectures are supplemented by two-hour classes in which areas of expertise are shared and ideas tested. Courses change regularly as the most pressing questions in contemporary Classics change. On offer at the moment are ‘Idols? Imagining Gods and Heroes in the Greek and Roman Worlds’ and ‘Prostitutes and Saints’. Previous papers include ‘Myth’, ‘Cultural Identity’, ‘Personal Politics’, ‘Time’, ‘Rhetoric’, ‘The Body in Antiquity’, ‘Death’, and ‘Sexual Ethics’. Many students also elect to do their third-year dissertation in an interdisciplinary area.
‘X’ teaching, and the collaborations and debates that this has fostered, have helped produce some of the finest recent research and contributed greatly to Cambridge's outstanding reputation for the application of modern approaches to the study of the ancient world. Many successful Ph.D. thesis-projects have been directly inspired by it, and many others have reflected its influence. The Faculty is exceptional in having a large number of its members working on interdisciplinary topics (many of them with a ‘reception’ angle) at any one time.