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New major aims to address perceived gap in humanities offerings

By Tracey Dibbs     4/3/18 10:42pm

A new European studies major will be available to declare in the fall 2018 semester after two years of planning following a faculty initiative, according to head of the classical and European studies department Scott McGill.

“The major deals with the complex emergence and global impact of Europe as a historical reality and an idea,” McGill said. “We want to address how Europe has been, and is, defined, beyond the basic fact of geography.”

McGill said the major aims to analyze what it means to be European or of European descent.

“Who gets to claim that identity? Who defines themselves against that identity? How has that identity impacted other global identities?” McGill said. “These questions seem especially urgent in the current political climate.”

Faculty members in the classical studies department, French studies department and German studies department created the major to address what they considered a hole in the curriculum, according to McGill.

McGill said the new major will give coherence to the department of classical and European studies, which was created three years ago and comprises the programs of classical studies, French studies and German studies.

“We wanted to have a curriculum forum for collaboration,” McGill said. “The major will also serve as a platform from which to expand the department in different disciplinary areas, [such as] Italian studies, Slavic studies and post-colonial studies.”

Matthew Frizzell, who said he plans to double major in classical studies and German studies, said he is interested in taking classes in the major.

“I was initially worried that [the creation of the major] was stage one of phasing out [or] merging the already very small majors in the classical and European studies department,” Frizzell, a Hanszen College freshman, said. “But I’ve been assured that this isn’t the case, so that’s good.”

McGill said there are currently roughly 40 majors across the three programs of the classical and European studies department.

The new major will also allow students to analyze major works of literature, art and architecture in the European tradition, according to McGill.

“In the humanities, we once had HUMA 101 and 102 that were, essentially, great books courses especially in that tradition for freshmen,” McGill said. “[Those courses] have not been taught in recent years. Two of our core courses, EURO 101 and 102, will fill that void.”

McGill said the major, which will require 30 credit hours, will have three newly created core courses: EURO 101, 102 and 401, a capstone course. The remaining required classes are currently existing electives, four of which must be outside of the European and classical studies department to ensure an interdisciplinary scope, according to McGill.

McGill said though there is no language requirement for the course, students are strongly encouraged to take courses in at least one European language and to study abroad.

Frizzell said he is looking forward to this new option in the humanities.

“I hope the new classes for the major will help me to bridge the gap between my main areas of interest, Latin and Greek literature and modern German literature, through a broad overview of European civilization across time,” Frizzell said.

McGill said the creation of a new European Studies major will reflect and generate more student interest in the major.

“We know that students at Rice have many options for majors,” McGill said. “But we also know that they have many interests, and we think that there is more than enough room in the curriculum for the [European studies] major.”

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