“Thinking is dangerous,” the German-Jewish philosopher Hannah Arendt once said.
Stateless and fleeing from the Nazi regime first to Paris and finally to New York, Arendt recognized the critical potential of language, literature, and philosophy. She understood Greek and Latin, and she wrote in French, German, and English, quickly becoming one of the most influential public intellectuals on both sides of the Atlantic. Language is always more than just talking or blogging; with language we intervene in the world and we shape the world we live in.
Where and how does language interface with culture and geography, with literature and visual media, with history and philosophy?
And how are the aesthetic, social, and political possibilities of the present informed by the ideas and events of a seemingly distant past—from the Greek polis and the Roman imperium to colonialism in the Caribbean and Africa and to the artistic and political transformations that define modern France and Germany?
These are the questions our students and faculty encounter when they read Plato and Aristotle, Virgil and Montaigne, Hegel, Schiller, Baudelaire, Nietzsche, Frantz Fanon, Simone de Beauvoir and, of course, Hannah Arendt, among many other authors. Questions such as these are foundational not only to the humanities, but they are also foundational for critical thinking and responsible citizenship in a globalized and multicultural world.
Classical and European Studies is an intellectually vibrant, student-friendly, and research-centered department that is home to four programs: Classical Studies
, European Studies
, French Studies
, and German Studies
. Additionally, our faculty play a leading role in interdisciplinary programs, such as Politics, Law & Social Thought
, Cinema and Media Studies
, and Jewish Studies
, and in the Center for the Study of Women, Gender, and Sexuality
While each of our programs has its own historical and cultural focus, research and teaching are always closely connected in all of our programs. Students are able to work closely with faculty who are at the forefront of their respective discplines. They become familiar with a broad range of authors, texts, and media, but also with an equally broad range of disciplinary perspectives in the humanities. Particular strengths of the department are in classical philology and literary history, film and media studies, gender studies, ancient and modern continental philosophy, and modern intellectual history and political thought. Our faculty publish widely, lecture across the world, they organize conferences and workshops, and they bring internationally renowned guest speakers to Rice.
Our courses cover the entire range of the European and Atlantic traditions: historically from ancient Greece to the present; geographically from Germany and France to the Caribbean and Africa and back again. Our students are not only open to the world, but we also provide them with opportunities to see the world and, above all, to see the world with different eyes: in Athens and Rome, for instance, in Aix-en-Provence and Paris, and in Leipzig and Berlin.
Whichever program our students choose, and some choose more than one, they graduate from Rice as linguistically proficient critical thinkers with a historically grounded understanding of the world they live in.
Our students are in good company: Thucydides founded what is now known as international relations theory. Cicero was both the leading politician and the major political thinker of his day. Montaigne became the mayor of the city of Bordeaux. Goethe, the poet who coined the term “world literature,” was a lawyer, civil servant, and diplomat. André Malraux became the Minister of Cultural Affairs in France. Aimé Césaire was one of Martinique’s most influential politicians. That’s what reading and thinking do to you.
Not surprisingly, many of our students continue their education at some of the top graduate and professional schools on both sides of the Atlantic. And we look forward to what they will do in the future.
— Welcome to Classical and European Studies at Rice.