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.”

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.