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Writing Rome : Syllabus
Introduction Objectives Instructors Residence Textbooks Requirements

Writing Rome is a one-credit travel seminar to Rome designed to highlight interdisciplinary perspectives on and personal responses to the Eternal City.

The seminar's itinerary includes major ancient sites, museums, the Vatican, churches, the Jewish quarter and the Great Synagogue, Ostia Antica, and other locales ripe with the historical and cultural layering that is the city’s hallmark.

During our two-plus weeks in Rome, students will complete various writing assignments about their experiences, thereby continuing the tradition of writing Rome. Students will also present on the sites they have researched in Reading Rome.

Bustling, dense, layered, and sublime, Rome has withstood tyrants, invasions, disasters, and the ravages of the centuries.  The Roman story is the story of civilization itself, with chapters written by citizens and foreigners alike.

Now you are the author.


Students of Reading Rome will

— put their knowledge of ancient and modern Rome to work;

— record their experiences in writing;

— present well researched reports on location in the city; and

— experience Rome as a living and layered urban environment.


Professor Dan Curley (Classics)

Phone: TBA

Professor Gregory Spinner (Religious Studies)

Phone: TBA

Peer Mentor: Sarah Breitenfeld (Classics '15).

Phone: TBA


Our home from late May to early June will be the Rome Campus of St. John's University, which is located in the Prati district. The campus offers quality housing, laundry facilities, and a computer lab, among other amenities.

Rome Campus Orientation
The neighborhood on Google Maps

Please be mindful that St. John's is affiliated with the Roman Catholic church.  Members of the study tour should comport themselves with all due respect toward the faith and religious traditions of our hosts.

Textbooks & supplies

Do not leave home without these:

  • Macadam, A. with A. Barber. Blue Guide: Rome. 10th edition (Blue Guides Limited, 2010);
  • Streetwise Rome Map (Streetwise Maps, 2015);
  • earbuds or headphones (for our audio equipment);
  • sturdy notebook for taking notes and writing in the field;
  • a supply of pencils and pens (though the latter might not be allowed in some museums); and
  • your passport.

Laptops are not required, since St. John's has a fully functioning computer lab, but are strongly recommended. Your laptop will need to be registered with St. John's IT in order to access wireless internet.

Although St. Johns will supply us with linens, you should probably bring your own washcloth and towel. (The latter will be handy on beach day.) Our Peer Mentor also recommends shower shoes.

See the OCSE handout, Writing Rome Travel Tips, for other items to bring (such as photocopies of your passport).

Other readings, materials, and equipment will be distributed electronically or manually.


Class participation (30%)

Preparation and respect are two key requirements of participating in a study tours. Good preparation involves staying up-to-date-with our itinerary, checking email/our blog at least twice per day for important messages, and knowing the requirements and due dates for assignments.

Preparation also involves being ready for conditions in the field. You should always have the following with you on excursions from St. John's:

  • St. John's ID card and room key
  • Skidmore ID (for entrance to some sites)
  • weekly bus pass
  • Blue Guide
  • Streetwise Rome Map
  • DigiWave equipment and earbuds/headphones
  • notebook and writing utensils
  • site-report handouts booklet
  • sunscreen or a hat or both
  • water
  • money

Furthermore, if a church is listed on our itinerary, be sure to have appropriate dress at the ready: no bare knees or bare shoulders.

Respect involves attending all excursions, partaking in conversations and writing exercises, and paying attention to speakers (instructors, guests or peers). It will be extremely important to gather at the specified times. If you are late, we might have no choice but to leave you behind.

Students must also bear in mind the welfare of the group and make responsible decisions before, during, and after our scheduled activities. The code of conduct is in effect at all times. The Golden Rule: DO NOTHING TO DIMINISH THE EXPERIENCE OF OTHERS.

Writing assignments (40%)

After spending a semester mostly reading about Rome, it is now time for students to write about the Eternal City.

Students will complete regular writing assignments like the ones in Reading Rome. The bases for the assignments will be the excursions that make up the study tour, including the four solo excursions that students must make during our residency in Rome.

Rome has long been a haven for writers, from ancient poets who moved to the city, to native essayists and novelists, to expatriates who never ended their Grand Tour... [MORE]

Site reports (30%)

While in Rome, students will deliver the 15–20 minute site reports that they researched and wrote for Reading Rome. These reports are the backbone of our itinerary and have dictated the number and order of our excursions.

Although you ought to be very well prepared to hold forth on your site or monument, you will still need to plan ahead to make sure your report suits the realities of being on location. This means visiting your site and practicing your report several times in order to make the most of this opportunity... [MORE]

© MMXV Skidmore College Classics Department