Student Profile: Rachel Preminger

Rachel Preminger fell in love with classics during a required humanities course as a first-year student at Reed College. “The lessons you learn are so portable,” she says. “It’s not about memorizing facts but learning how to think.”

Wilson Shearin, Classics Ph.D., 2007

In his own words: Wilson Shearin, Classics Ph.D., 2007

Few disciplines are as traditional, in every possible sense of the term, as the field of Classics. Indeed, it could be said that Classics – the intensive study of Greek and Roman literature, language, and culture – is an originary site for the notion and study of tradition. traditio (a noun: “handing over, delivery; the handing down of knowledge”) and its cognate tradere (a verb: “to hand over; to hand down”) are both Latin words. These two terms encode a double sense: first, the notion of making a present-time gift and second, the notion of wisdom handed down through time. One powerful example of this duality is the Homeric rhapsode, a bard who professes in each performed song to enact “Homer” – the ever-same, traditional poems by the ever-same poet. Yet each performance is a different event. Ancient evidence suggests that different performances produced drastically different, if structurally similar, poems. Each performance thus relies upon tradition (traditio), even while it delivers (tradit) the present-time gift of a new poem.