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A question concerning Classics and Classical Studies

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Hi everyone,

I’m preparing for a PhD in Classical Studies but I will be applying to some Classics programs, too 

So here is the case (and I will appreciate any help!)


I have my 4-year BA in Philosophy and I’m in my first year of a MA in Philosophical Anthropology rn. I study in Russia and we don’t have Classics here, the Russians do ‘Classical Philology’. As I’ve always been more interested in philosophy than in languages, I went for the first. 

All these years my research papers were on “Ancient Philosophy meets XXth century theories” topics. I had no ‘official and obligatory’ courses in Greek and Latin since my first BA year, that’s why I’ve been learning them by myself (this year I’ve managed to take some “official” (which means they will appear in my report) courses in Greek and Latin this year). Now that I’m preparing for applying for PhD programs next autumn, I’m doing my research on Thucydides’ political philosophy and the role of eros in it, using my own translations as I’m going to use my master thesis as a Writing Samples. 

But I have some questions that are bothering me:

(1) Is it OK to apply for a PhD in Classics after BA in Philosophy and MA in Philosophical Anthropology? To me, it seems pretty normal but I’m not sure if I understand the importance of being “officially” trained in Classics on a BA level.

(2) How does one apply for a PhD in both UK and US? As I understand, the applicants get offers and rejections from UK universities in November/December. Then they have a short period of time during which they should either take an offer or reject it (by the way, I couldn’t find how long this period is). 

But US universities make their decisions and send offers and rejections in February. It means I will have to decide whether I should take an offer from a UK university (or reject it) without knowing if I have some variants in the US. What’s the protocol here? Do people do this (=apply in both countries) at all? 

(3) As I’ve said, there are no Classics departments in Russia. So I will take my references from (1) my supervisor (he is a scholar in contemporary and ancient philosophy, a member of the International Plato society and wrote a great book on Plato’s political philosophy and its logic, so he looks “Classical-ish” enough), (2) my advisor (a true philosopher, fearless New Yorker who is very into Continental Philosophy (in Russia, continental philosophy < analytic philosophy) but he knows his Greek and Latin), and now I have to decide who I want to take a third reference from. Should I try find some time and fly to UK this spring/summer to attend a conference/summer school so that I can meet someone who would be a scholar in Classics and ask him/her for a reference? Or it’s okay if I take a reference from another scholar in Philosophy? 

(4) last but not the least: should I write in my personal statement anything about the total absence of degrees in Classics in Russia (as it is why I couldn’t get into a Classics programs - they simply do not exist here!)? 


Thank you A LOT in advance

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I'm not sure how much help I can be, but here's a question that might provide more context: What do you want out of a Classics program specifically? (Also, I don't know of a difference in American terminology between Classics and Classical Studies, except for one interdisciplinary program at Columbia that uses the latter term, so I don't know how you're using the terms differently.) If your goal is to work mainly on ancient philosophy, one can do that in a Classics department (I do), but it'll likely be very difficult for you to get into a Classics program with these credentials, to be blunt. How good are your languages? If you can show they're very good, that would help, but it sounds like you'll have little language training on your transcript/official record. I'd prioritize having letter writers who can attest to your language skills if you don't have lots of language on your transcript. It sounds reasonable to discuss in your statement the lack of Classics in Russia, but that'll probably only get you so far.

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Marcus_Aurelius' advice is good. I'd like to add that most American (and British?) "Classics" or "Classical Studies" (in most cases the terms are used interchangeably) are really "Classical Philology" programs, so when you say Russia has no "Classics" programs, maybe you mean there are no programs beyond philology -- that is, no interdisciplinary programs that focus on the subject matter of the ancient Greek/Roman worlds without the languages so much. There aren't many of these in the US either: most "Classics" programs want a solid grounding in Latin and Greek (2-3+ years of each).

It's my understanding that some UK universities will admit their applicants pretty early, but make them wait until June or so to hear back about funding (someone with experience in this process, care to weigh in?). US universities admit between January and March and usually have funding news when they admit you, though some schools will admit you and waitlist you for funding.

I wouldn't ask someone for a letter of recommendation unless they know you quite well. It's best if you can have someone from Classics write for you, but given your experience it might not be a bad idea to have another philosophy professor do so. At any rate you should definitely mention the lack of programs in your area of interest in Russia.

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