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Your work over these three terms will be preparatory for the Part 1A examination.

There are two main aims of the Part IA, or first year of the Part I course: to extend and improve your knowledge of the ancient languages, and to get you started on your main areas of enquiry.  An integrated programme of Faculty lectures and classes will introduce you to the study of Greek and Latin Literature, Philosophy, History, Art and Archaeology, and Linguistics.  You will get a general overview of the Ancient World, find out which aspects especially appeal to you, and discover which kinds of work are most rewarding for you.  What follows explains something of the way in which your work on the languages will develop and also feed into your study of other aspects of the Ancient World over the two years of Part I.


The ancient languages

There are many possible answers to the question ‘Why learn Latin and Greek?’, but in the context of Classics at Cambridge, learning to read a range of different types of Greek and Latin is central to a programme which aims to explore and interrogate classical culture as a whole.  The connections between, on the one hand, the way a language works and the ways in which native speakers and writers express themselves and, on the other, the intellectual and cultural patterns which inform a particular society are complex and far from easy to reduce to a simple list, but direct access to these connections is both a necessary and exciting part of the study of any aspect of Classical Antiquity.

One of the overarching aims of Parts IA and IB of the Classical Tripos is to foster a ‘feel’ for how Greek and Latin work, what they are ‘like’, so that translation and reading are not merely a process of mapping dictionary entries on to a text, but rather an experience of thought and expression within another culture.  Language learning provides a common core which gives coherence and shape to everyone’s experience of Classics.

Because preparedness and ability in language lie at the core of your work, language is the dominant focus of the Part IA examination.  There are ‘Language and texts’ papers in Greek and Latin, testing confidence in handling Greek and Latin texts by presenting passages which have not been prepared (so-called ‘unseens’), from which you have to translate one verse and one prose passage, as well as passages from the Target Texts (see the list under the section headed ‘Schedule of texts’), from which you have to choose one on which to offer a critical discussion.  You also have the option of doing composition from English into Greek and/or Latin in Papers 7 and 8.  Some undergraduates will have had experience of this prior to Cambridge, but others start it here; all who take this option say that it helps greatly with their command of the languages.

These papers are designed to support various broader aims.  The skills you develop at Cambridge should give you the confidence to read Greek and Latin independently, outside any set syllabus.  Within the Part I course linguistic confidence will enable you to get the most, not only out of the Literature and Philology options, but also out of the study of Ancient Philosophy and History; to limit your experience of Greek and Latin texts ‘in the original’ to the particular groups you choose in Part IB would be to limit your ability to pursue philosophical, historical and cultural problems: plenty of literary texts (to say nothing of inscriptions and papyri) have no accessible English translation.  Part IA and IB are importantly about learning how to learn about the ancient world and acquiring some of the main skills which will enable you to put that knowledge to best effect.


Teaching and learning

The teaching for language papers falls broadly into five kinds:

  1. the Part IA Intensive Greek classes in reading and grammar;
  2. the various support classes in both Greek and Latin, which are available for Part IA and IB, and which are open to all;
  3. the Part IA Caucus text lectures, several of which are concerned with questions of meaning and style;
  4. College ‘language’ supervisions;
  5. Faculty and College Prose and Verse Composition teaching.

As far as College teaching is concerned, there are various approaches possible, and every undergraduate will experience a variety of kinds of teaching during Part I.  Such flexibility allows tailoring to the needs of individuals and small groups within Colleges; and there is scope for the special provision of particular forms of instruction where appropriate.

For example, the supervisor may simply present you with a piece of Greek or Latin and then take part in an active collaboration to ascertain the sense. This exercise is designed not only so that the supervisor can see undergraduates’ processes of comprehension at work and help to refine them, but more importantly so that you can see together how the language works, how words have ‘meaning’, and how writers either close down or open up potential meanings.  Alternatively, the supervisor may ask you to produce a written translation of certain passages before the supervision, or to read a longer text from which s/he will choose a particular passage for the supervision.

Whichever structure is used, it is axiomatic that ‘translation’ and interpretation are twin aspects of the same activity of sense-making.  To ask ‘What is at stake in translating a word as X rather than Y?’ always takes us straight to the heart of ancient culture, and the more you know about the cultural context of ancient literature, the more rewarding you will find the exercise of translation.


Structure of the Part IA Examination

The Part IA Examination consists of eight papers. Each candidate must take four papers from 1–6:

  • Paper 1 (Greek language and texts) OR Paper 2A (Alternative Greek language and texts - Option A, for candidates who had little or no Greek at entrance) OR Paper 2B (Alternative Greek language and texts - Option B, for candidates who had GCSE in Greek or equivalent at entrance) . In exceptional circumstances, on proposal of the relevant Director of Studies, the Language Teaching Committee may decide to recommend to the Education Committee that a candidate be allowed to take different option of Paper 2 than the one which they would normally be entitled to.
  • Paper 3 (Latin language and texts) OR Paper 4A (Alternative Latin language and texts - Option A, for candidates who had only a limited knowledge of Latin at entrance) OR Paper 4B (Alternative Latin language and texts - Option B, for candidates who had GCSE in Latin or equivalent at entrance). In exceptional circumstances, on proposal of the relevant Director of Studies, the Language Teaching Committee may decide to recommend to the Education Committee that a candidate be allowed to take different option of Paper 2 than the one which they would normally be entitled to.
  • Paper 5 (Classical Texts)
  • Paper 6 (Classical Essays)

In addition, candidates may take either or both of:

  • Paper 7 (Greek Prose and Verse Composition)
  • Paper 8 (Latin Prose and Verse Composition)

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