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Oxford faculty may nix Homer's 'Iliad,' Virgil's 'Aeneid' from Classics syllabus to close 'attainment gaps' among students

'Removing Homer and Virgil would be a terrible and fatal mistake'

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The Classics faculty at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom is proposing to remove Homer's "Iliad" and Virgil's "Aeneid" from the early stages of study in order to close "attainment gaps" among students, according to the Oxford Student, a campus newspaper.

What are the details?

This proposal is part of a series of reforms aimed at modernizing the first stage of the Classics degree, known as Moderations (aka Mods), the Student said.

But the Mods — culminating with a set of 10 exams — has been increasingly criticized in recent years due to attainment gaps between male and female candidates, as well as between candidates who have studied Latin or Greek to the "A-Level" and those who have not, the paper noted.

More from the Oxford Student:

The removal of Virgil and Homer papers, which take up two out of the ten Mods papers, have been marketed as a move that will reduce the attainment gaps and thus improve access to the subject. However many have questioned why the solution to this problem involves the removal of Homer and Virgil.

There have been a number of other recent reforms proposed by the faculty, including changes to the way in which students are streamed based on previous levels of study as well as an increase in the amount of language tuition available to all Classicists. However, this most recent reform has accused of being an unnecessary step by members of the Classics faculty who claim that the removal of the compulsory study of Homer and Virgil would result in an incomplete and less fulfilling course of Classical study.

What did one Classics student have to say?

Jan Preiss, a second-year Classicist at New College, set up a petition against the proposal, the paper said.

"Removing Homer and Virgil would be a terrible and fatal mistake," Preiss told the Oxford Student. "[The proposal] would mean that firstly, Oxford would be producing Classicists who have never read Homer and never read Virgil, who are the central authors of the Classical tradition, and most of Classical literature, in one way or another, looks back to Homer and interacts with the Iliad. Removing it would be a shame because Homer has been the foundation of the classical tradition since antiquity, and it is impossible to understand what comes after him without studying him first."

What did a professor have to say?

Professor Jonathon Prag told the paper that no decision has been made on the proposal.

What else has been going on at Oxford?

One last thing…
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