Classics Professor Marden Nichols currently teaches Roman Architecture and Introductory Latin. In past semesters she has taught Intro to Roman Archaeology, a study of Pompeii and an Advanced Latin course focusing on the works of Cicero.
What is your focus within the field of Classics?
Latin literature and Roman art and archaeology.
Where does your interest in Classics come from?
When I was twelve, my mother gave me a book of poems by classically educated American poets. Their works drew on ancient models and even included verses in ancient Greek and Latin. Their conviction that ancient literature was unique ignited my interest in the classical world. Once I started learning the languages I found that the more I read, the more enjoyable the experience became. My reason for pursuing Classics then was largely aesthetic – but when you have the chance to engage with something that is astoundingly beautiful, it can transform you. Being in contact with beautiful things can enrich your life in ways you don’t even recognize.
Favorite classical author?
Some of my favorites would have to be the Roman satirists, particularly Horace and Persius, who created a new genre of literature that was quintessentially Roman. Their works contain all this biting criticism and angst about their environments. Reading these satirists – these authors confronting issues in their literary environment and wider culture – provides another frame of reference as we think through the problems in our own time and how they are reflected in art.
Favorite thing about Georgetown?
The insightfulness, energy and earnestness of the students. Teaching requires a lot of energy, but students give the same energy back, so I always leave class feeling motivated, feeling really inspired by the students. Often, students’ questions make me look at things I’ve studied for years in a new way.
When you describe your job to your friends and family, what do you say?
I usually begin with how respectful students are of themselves, of others in the classroom, and of their professors. This is most apparent when one student is struggling in some way— it is encouraging to see how everyone rallies around that student to make him or her more comfortable. Georgetown is a very special community of people who have a shared goal of pursuing knowledge, but who also value kindness and community in a way that is rare.
What do you do outside of Georgetown?
I enjoy theater, and I am a big fan of the theaters on 14th St. – Studio Theater, Constellation Theater. I also visit the museums on the National Mall, particularly the National Gallery of Art. There are so many new great restaurants that have opened up in DC. I live near the U St. corridor, and I really love that area.
What is your favorite memory from college?
I have vivid memories of the cafeteria on Saturday and Sunday mornings… A couple of people would start eating breakfast, then a few more would join, and we would start talking about the night before. That type of storytelling and observational comedy – people trying to make each other laugh by retelling the hijinx of the night before – is a distinctive part of campus life that comes from having so many shared experiences.
Any advice to students on how to make the most out of their times in college?
There’s a lot of criticism of the “bubble” of college. People are always talking about getting out of the bubble, and that’s often for really sound reasons, but I think that students should also appreciate how unique this time can be— you’re in a kind of incubator of strangers, some of whom may become your best friends in life… Also, it’s okay to slow down and give yourself time to grow. Georgetown students are extraordinarily talented, and there are so many choices and opportunities. Learning new things is the work of a lifetime… You don’t have to pursue everything at once.
If you have already fulfilled the language requirement or are a little intimidated by the study of Latin, Professor Nichols’ other courses are “studies” courses, some of which fill the College writing requirement and the MSB history requirement. She is an incredible professor and a really cool person, so look out for her as you pick your courses for the fall!
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