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Courses

Students who take classes in our department enjoy opportunities to explore various methods and approaches to studying Greek and Roman antiquity. The department itself offers courses in Greek and Latin language and literature as well courses which don't require knowledge of Greek or Latin and examine a wide set of issues pertaining to the literature, history, archaeology and culture of ancient Greece and Rome. These courses often draw on an interdisciplinary perspective and/or on reception studies so as to position our students to understand the multiple meanings that classical antiquity has had throughout the ages.

  • Language courses focus on reading ancient works in their original Greek or Latin. A full sequence of both Greek and Latin from the beginning to the advanced level is available.
  • Other courses involve the study of ancient culture in English translation. For example, "From Homer to Omeros", "Greek Archaeology", and "Women in Antiquity" are accessible to all members of the Vassar community. Another ancient culture course is the Blegen Seminar, taught by a different visiting scholar each year. Recent Blegen courses have included, "Romans, Greeks, and Jews", "Food in the Ancient Mediterranean", and "Introduction to Indo-European linguistics"
  • Ancient History and Culture are also taught in translation. These courses may focus on Greek and Roman history, art, archaeology, or literature.

The department organizes its courses by subject area and level of difficulty. Not every course is offered every year, and the department often teaches special courses on a one-time-only basis.

Further information on the department's majors and correlate sequences is available in "For Students."

Courses

The following information is from the 2017-18 Vassar College Catalogue.

Greek and Roman Studies: I. Introductory

100b. Then and Now: Reinterpreting Greece and Rome 1

Here we are at the beginning of the 21st century, yet all around us we continue to see allusions to and creative engagements with Greek and Roman antiquity. From the bestseller list which features a novel claiming to reveal recently discovered books of the Odyssey to an HBO series that takes place in ancient Rome and comparisons of the post 9/11 United States to the Roman Empire in the news, the worlds of ancient Greece and Rome continue to be viscerally alive and compelling as sources for artistic and cultural production. Why is this so? In this course we examine the ways that the legacies of classical antiquity continue to be felt today and invite us to explore the cultures of Greece and Rome. The course serves as an interdisciplinary introduction to the study of Greek and Roman languages, literature, history, and archaeology and the interpretation of these cultures by subsequent civilizations. The course addresses both the complex political, social, intellectual, and cultural settings of the ancient world and the ways in which the study of antiquity can challenge and enrich our experience of the present. To pursue these questions we read ancient texts, examine material artifacts, study linguistic evidence, and engage with creative contemporary responses to antiquity and recent theoretical work on the study of the ancient world. In serving as an overview of the kinds of questions that contemporary culture inspires us to ask of and about antiquity and the materials and approaches that scholars use for their inquiries, the course prepares the student for further work in the department. Curtis Dozier.

Two 75-minute periods.

101 Civilization in Question 1

(Same as CLCS 101 and MRST 101) In the past, college curricula in this country were often organized around the idea of the "Great Books" of "Western Civilization." Today though, the very idea of a Western literary canon has been challenged as a vehicle for reinforcing questionable norms and hierarchies and silencing other important perspectives. In this class we read well-known ancient, medieval and Renaissance texts with a view to how they themselves question the civilizations from which they emerge. A unique feature of this class is that it is taught by faculty from three different disciplines who bring a variety of interpretive practices to bear on the texts. This creates a classroom environment in which dialogue is the means to discovery. Students are encouraged to be part of the conversation both during class and in weekly discussion sections. Readings may include such authors as Homer, Aeschylus, Plato, Augustine, Chretien de Troyes, and Machiavelli. Nancy Bisaha, Rachel Friedman, and Christopher Raymond.

Not offered in 2018/19.

Two 75-minute periods plus extra periods.

104a. Greek Archaeology 1

This course examines sites and monuments of the ancient Greek world from the Bronze Age to the Classical period. We introduce archaeological methods, examine the history and developement of Greek archaeology from the origins of the field in the 1870's to the present, and trace the chronological development of Greek art and architecture across several major sites including Knossos, Mycenae, Olympia, Delphi, and Athens. Particular emphasis is placed on understanding and interpreting monuments in terms of their political, social, and economic contexts. Barbara Olsen.

Alternate years. Not offered in 2017/18.

Two 75-minute periods.

186 Violence in Ancient Literature and American Cinema 1

(Same as MEDS 186) "I would guess that the vast majority of the people who are seeing it . . . are taking it for kicks and thrills and are coming away from it palpitating with a vicarious sense of the enjoyment of war." So writes New York Times film critic Bosley Crowther about the 1967 film The Dirty Dozen, but could his words not equally apply to the grisly war violence of the Homeric Iliad? In other words, why are violent poems like the Iliad and Aeneid typically exempt from the kinds of criticisms that are leveled at cinematic violence? In this course we explore questions of taste and representation by putting works of ancient literature, especially ancient epic, in dialogue with landmarks of American screen violence like ScarfaceBonnie and Clyde and Psycho. In addition to formal analysis of cinematic and literary texts, we  investigate the impact of gender, genre, medium, audience and production context on the ways that violence is depicted. Students also have the opportunity to collaborate on their own cinematic adaptation of a scene of ancient literary violence. The department.

Two 75-minute periods.

187 Greek Tragedy for Trauma 1

In this class we look at the work of Outside the Wire, a production company based in NYC that uses ancient Greek tragedy to help different communities deal with trauma and suffering: combat veterans and their families, prisoners and the people who guard them, those dealing with end of life care, and people struggling with addiction. We consider the efficacy of the arts—particularly the ancient arts—for dealing with modern afflictions. We also ask some of the big questions that preoccupied the ancient Greeks and that still preoccupy us today: what are the effects of war on individuals and communities? How can communities heal from tragedy, suffering, and loss? What are the gendered dimensions of violence? Whose stories get told and why? Readings include Bryan Doerries' Theater of War and various ancient dramas such as Sophocles' Ajax and Philoctetes, and Euripides' Trojan Woman and Herakles, among others. In addition to academic essays, writing assignments include personal narratives and theatrical reviews. Tara Mulder.

Open only to freshmen; satisfies the college requirement for a Freshman Writing Seminar.

Two 75-minute periods.

Greek and Roman Studies: II. Intermediate

202b. Myth 1

This course examines ancient myth from a variety of theoretical perspectives. It compares Greek and Roman myth with other mythic traditions and explores different versions of the same myth within Greek and Roman culture. We also consider transformations of ancient myths into modem versions. Literary, artistic, and archaeological evidence provide ways to understand the function of myth in ancient Greek and Roman society. Rachel Friedman.

Not offered in 2017/18.

Two 75-minute periods.

203 Women in Greek and Roman History and Myth 1

(Same as WMST 203) Greek and Roman literary and historical accounts abound with vividly drawn women such as Helen, Antigone, Medea, Livia, and Agrippina, the mother of Nero. But how representative were such figures of the daily lives of women throughout Greek and Roman antiquity? This course investigates the images and realities of women in the ancient Greek and Roman world, from the Greek Late Bronze Age (c. 1200 BCE) to the Roman Empire (up to the III c. CE) by juxtaposing evidence from literature, historical sources, and archaeological material. Throughout, the course examines the complex ways in which ancient women interacted with the institutions of the state, the family, religion, and the arts. Barbara Olsen.

Two 75-minute periods.

204 Gender and Sexuality in Roman Culture 1

(Same as WMST 204) This course examines in detail the sexual attitudes and behaviors of the ancient Romans and the gender roles that both shaped and were shaped by those attitudes. We study selections from ancient Greek and Roman literature, examine artistic remains, and read articles written by prominent scholars of ancient Rome. While the readings are in roughly chronological order, the course is principally organized by topic (e.g., a day for "Roman pederasty" or "Vestal virgins"). All readings are in English translation.

Not offered in 2017/18.

Two 75-minute periods.

210 Art, Myth, and Society in the Ancient Aegean 1

(Same as ART 210) Eve D'Ambra.

Prerequisite(s): ART 105  or ART 106 or coursework in Greek & Roman Studies, or permission of the instructor.

NRO available to non-majors.

Not offered in 2017/18.

Two 75-minute periods.

211 Rome: The Art of Empire 1

(Same as ART 211) From humble beginnings to its conquest of most of the known world, Rome dominated the Mediterranean with the power of its empire. Art and architecture gave monumental expression to its political ideology, especially in the building of cities that spread Roman civilization across most of Europe and parts of the Middle East and Africa. Roman art also featured adornment, luxury, and collecting in both public and private spheres. Given the diversity of the people included in the Roman empire and its artistic forms, what is particularly Roman about Roman art? Eve D'Ambra.

Prerequisite(s): ART 105 or ART 106 or one unit in Greek and Roman Studies, or permission of the instructor.

Not offered in 2017/18.

Two 75-minute periods.

215 The Art and Archaeology of Ancient Egypt 1

(Same as ART 215) Ancient Egypt has long fascinated the public with its pyramids, mummies, and golden divine rulers. This course provides a survey of the archaeology, art, and architecture of ancient Egypt from the prehistoric cultures of the Nile Valley through the period of Cleopatra's rule and Roman domination. Topics to be studied include the art of the funerary cult and the afterlife, technology and social organization, and court rituals of the pharaohs, along with aspects of everyday life. Eve D'Ambra.

Prerequisite(s): ART 105 or ART 106 or one unit of Greek and Roman Studies, or permission of the instructor.

Not offered in 2017/18.

Two 75-minute periods.

216b. History of the Ancient Greeks 1

(Same as HIST 216) This course examines the history and culture of the ancient Greeks from the emergence of the city-state in the eighth century BCE to the conquests of Alexander the Great in 335 BCE. In addition to an outline of the political and social history of the Greeks, the course examines several historical, cultural, and methodological topics in depth, including the emergence of writing, Greek colonialism and imperialism, ancient democracy, polytheism, the social structures of Athenian society, and the relationship between Greeks and other Mediterranean cultures. Students both read primary sources (for example, Sappho, Tyrtaios, Herodotus, Thucydides, Aristophanes, and Plato) and examine sites and artifacts recovered through archaeology; the development of students' critical abilities to evaluate and use these sources for the study of history is a primary goal of the class. Barbara Olsen.

Not offered in 2017/18.

217 History of the Ancient Romans 1

(Same as HIST 217) This course examines the history of the ancient Romans from the foundation of their city around the eighth century BCE to the collapse of their Mediterranean Empire in the fifth century CE. The course offers a broad historical outline of Roman history, but focuses on significant topics and moments in Roman history, including the Republican aristocracy, the civil and slave wars of the Late Republic, the foundation of the Empire by Caesar Augustus, urbanism, the place of public entertainments (gladiatorial combats, Roman hunts, chariot races, and theater) in society, the rise of Christianity, the processes of Romanization, and barbarization, and the political decline and fall of the Roman Empire. Students read primary sources such as Plautus, Cicero, Livy, Tacitus, and Suetonius, and secondary accounts dealing with important issues such as slavery, religious persecution and multiculturalism. Students also examine important archaeological sites and artifacts. The development of students' critical abilities to evaluate and use these sources for the study of history is a primary goal of the class. Tara Mulder.

Two 75-minute periods.

219b. The First Cities: The Art and Archaeology of the Ancient Near East 1

(Same as ART 219 and URBS 219) The art, architecture, and artifacts of the region comprising ancient Iraq, Iran, Syria, Palestine, and Turkey from 3200 BCE to the conquest of Alexander the Great in the fourth century BCE. Beginning with the rise of cities and cuneiform writing in Mesopotamia, course topics include the role of the arts in the formation of states and complex societies, cult practices, trade and military action, as well as in everyday life. How do we make sense of the past through its ruins and artifacts, especially when they are under attack (the destruction wrought by ISIS)? Eve D'Ambra.

Prerequisite(s): ART 105 or 106 or one unit in Greek and Roman Studies, or permission of the instructor.

Two 75-minute periods.

286 Gaming Antiquity: Interactive Historical Fiction and Classical Athens 1

(Same as MEDS 286) Have you ever experienced the feeling of being joyfully lost in another world? Maybe you felt this sensation when reading Harry Potter or The Lord of the Rings, or perhaps you experienced it while creating your own work of art? In this course you have the opportunity to evoke this sense of immersion by crafting your own interactive historical fiction in the form of a digital role-playing game set in classical Athens. We begin by reading Mary Renault's classic of historical fiction, The Last of the Wine, and exploring how she so effectively conjures the world of 5th-century Athens. You then begin working in teams to craft your own historical fiction in the form of a playable 'quest' designed within the framework of a tabletop role-playing game. For your culminating project you craft a digital version of your quest by 'modding' (modifying) The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. This course aims to develop your creative, technical and analytical capacities all at once by challenging you not just to develop a playable historical fiction set within the ancient world, but also to confront the difficult questions of adaptation posed by the disturbing realities of antiquity, like patriarchy, pederasty and slavery. No experience in Computer Science is necessary to enroll in this course.

Two 75-minute periods.

289 Homer's Odyssey: From Oral Composition to Digital Editions 1

(Same as MEDS 289) In this course we consider the long history of Homer's epic poem from its beginning as an oral composition in Archaic Greece to its current manifestations in digital editions. Along the way we look at papyrii, medieval manuscripts, early print editions, examples of fine printing and contemporary versions.  As we consider the history of the poem we also study the poem itself and explore the ways that its meaning has also been transformed through time. Among the issues we consider are orality and oral cultures, the advent of writing, the development of the text and the influence of technology. We examine materials in Greek, Latin, and English though no knowledge of the ancient languages is required. The Archives and Special Collections Library, with its rich collection of primary sources, will serve as our laboratory. Rachel Friedman and Ronald Patkus.

Two 75-minute periods.

290 Field Work 0.5 to 1

Prerequisite(s): Special Permission.

298a or b. Independent Study 0.5 to 1

Prerequisite(s): Special Permission.

Greek and Roman Studies: III. Advanced

301 Seminar in Classical Civilization 1

Topic for 2017/18a: Slavery and Violence in Ancient Greece and Rome. Slavery was ubiquitous in ancient Greece and Rome. Without enslaved peoples the Athenians would not have built the Parthenon, created "democracy," and dominated the Mediterranean. Famous Roman writers and statesmen such as Cicero, Tacitus, and Marcus Aurelius would not have had the leisure or resources to write and publish the texts that we know as classics today. But slaves were subjected to a harsh, restricted, and dominated existence, despite the romanticization of slavery that we see in Roman Comedy and the fantasy of emancipation in elite narratives of ancient slavery. Seen as the property of their owners, enslaved people, men and women alike, were particularly at risk for physical and sexual violence. They were theorized as sub-human entities who did not have the right to bodily autonomy or state-recognized family relationships. In this course, we look at the history of slavery in the ancient Greek and Roman worlds, giving particular attention to the disconnect between philosophies about slaves and slavery articulated by elite writers and the lived realities of slavery as accessed through written, epigraphical, and visual evidence. We  look at how modern scholars have understood ancient Mediterranean slavery within the broader history of slavery in the world and look at the most up-to-date studies on ancient slavery. Primary readings in English translation are selected from a wide range of Greek and Roman authors including Lysias, Aristotle, Demosthenes, Plautus, Cicero, Livy, Pliny, Tacitus, Galen, and Roman legal writers, among others. Tara Mulder.

Prerequisite(s): previous course work in Greek and Roman Studies or permission of the instructor.

Two 75-minute periods.

302b. The Blegen Seminar 1

The course is offered by the Blegen Distinguished Visiting Research Professor or the Blegen Research Fellow in Classics, appointed annually to pursue research and lecture on his/her scholarly concerns in classical antiquity. We encourage students to take note of the fact that each Blegen Seminar is uniquely offered and will not be repeated. Since the topic changes every year, the course may be taken for credit more than once.

Topic for 2017/18b: Literature on the Brain: An Introduction to Cognitive Literary Studies. What happens to your brain when you read a poem and find yourself laughing out loud or wrinkling your nose in disgust? What makes a story feel "nightmarish," "trancelike" or "dreamy" and can we pinpoint the literary features that generate such impressions? Why do we care so much about characters we meet in novels? Cognitive Literary Studies is an emerging approach the study of literature that seeks to answer precisely such questions. It uses insights drawn from cognitive science to reveal why novels and poems make us feel the way they do. Each week we read cutting edge research in this exciting new field and ask how it helps us make sense of literary texts.  These texts range widely through different languages, cultures and times from ancient Greek epics to contemporary American science fiction. The course appeals to students with interests in Greek and Roman Studies, literary studies, linguistics, psychology, neuroscience, philosophy and beyond – but it requires no prior experience in any of these areas. Elizabeth Young.

Prerequisite(s): previous coursework in Greek and Roman Studies or a field related to the topic, or permission of the instructor.

Two 75-minute periods.

314 Seminar in Ancient Art 1

(Same as ART 314 and URBS 314) Topic for 2017/18b: Pompeii: Public and Private Life. The volcanic eruption of Vesuvius in A.D. 79 blotted out life in Pompeii, but the Roman town lives on as a study site and tourist attraction. Its urban development with grand theaters and amphitheaters alongside of taverns and brothels exemplifies high and low Roman culture. The homes of private citizens demonstrate intense social competition in their scale, grounds, and the Greek myths painted on walls. Pompeii gave shape to the world of Roman citizens and others through its raucous street life and gleaming monumental centers. Eve D'Ambra.

Prerequisite(s): permission of the instructor.

One 2-hour period.

360a or b Senior Thesis 1

One semester senior thesis. Seniors only

361a. Senior Thesis 0.5

Full Year Thesis (1/2 unit per semester). Seniors Only.

362b. Senior Thesis 0.5

Full Year Thesis (1/2 unit per semester). Seniors Only.

363a or b Senior Project 0.5

Extended writing or other project elected concurrently with a seminar in Greek and Roman Studies. Seniors only.

Prerequisite(s): permission of the instructor of the concurrent seminar.

399 Senior Independent Study 0.5 to 1

Courses in Greek Language and Literature: I. Introductory

125b. Elementary Greek 1

Introduction to the language. Rachel Friedman.

Open to all classes. No previous Greek is required.

Yearlong course 125-GRST 126.

Not offered in 2017/18.

Four 50-minute periods.

126 Elementary Greek 1

Introduction to the language. Rachel Friedman.

Open to all classes.

Yearlong course GRST 125-126.

Not offered in 2017/18.

Four 50-minute periods.

127 Intensive Elementary Greek 2

An intensive introduction to the fundamentals of classical Greek grammar and syntax. Students with no background in ancient Greek learn to read Homer, Plato, Greek tragedy, Herodotus, and other classical texts after one semester's intensive work. This course is the equivalent of GRST 125 - 126 and fulfills the language requirement by itself. Rachel Friedman.

Four 75-minute periods plus one 50-minute grammar drill.

Courses in Greek Language and Literature: II. Intermediate

225a. Intermediate Greek 1

Authors may include Sophokles, Euripides, Xenophon, Lysias, and Plato. In addition to consolidating knowledge of grammar, the selection of passages brings into focus important aspects of Athenian culture. Tara Mulder.

Prerequisite(s): GRST 105   -GRST 106    or permission of the instructor.

Three 50-minute periods.

226 Intermediate Greek: Topics in Greek Literature 1

(Same as GRST 321) Topic for 2017/18b: How to Win an Argument in Ancient Greece." Those who have persuaded and do persuade anyone about anything are shapers of lying discourse . . ." So the Greek orator Gorgias remarks about the power of speech in his famous defense of Helen of Troy, but these words have special resonance at this contemporary moment, when truthiness blurs the lines between truth and falsehood, and fake news has the ability to impact elections. In this course we explore the power, practice and theory of persuasive speech by reading, in ancient Greek, oratorical works by Gorgias, Antiphon and Isocrates. In addition to studying the structure, argumentation and stylistic elements of Greek oratory, we also investigate the civic context of persuasive discourse in classical Athens, as well as the debates that raged over what constitutes an authentic attempt to seek truth and what is 'mere' rhetoric.Thomas Beasley.

This course should be elected by students before electing any advanced Greek course in the department. Students enrolled in GRST 226 have an extra hour of grammar review and students enrolled in GRST 321 have longer Greek assignments.

Two 75-minute periods.

Courses in Greek Language and Literature: III. Advanced

321 Advanced Greek: Topics in Greek Literature 1

(Same as GRST 226) Topic for 2017/18b: How to Win an Argument in Ancient Greece. "Those who have persuaded and do persuade anyone about anything are shapers of lying discourse . . ." So the Greek orator Gorgias remarks about the power of speech in his famous defense of Helen of Troy, but these words have special resonance at this contemporary moment, when truthiness blurs the lines between truth and falsehood, and fake news has the ability to impact elections. In this course we explore the power, practice and theory of persuasive speech by reading, in ancient Greek, oratorical works by Gorgias, Antiphon and Isocrates. In addition to studying the structure, argumentation and stylistic elements of Greek oratory, we also investigate the civic context of persuasive discourse in classical Athens, as well as the debates that raged over what constitutes an authentic attempt to seek truth and what is 'mere' rhetoric. Thomas Beasley.

This course should be elected by students before electing any advanced Greek course in the department. Students enrolled in GRST 226 have an extra hour of grammar review and students enrolled in GRST 321 have longer Greek assignments.

Two 75-minute periods.

322a. Greek Tragedy 1

A reading of a play by Sophokles or Euripides. Careful study of the text helps us to understand the playwright's style. We also consider how the play examines and responds to the historical, social and political conditions of Athens in the fifth century BCE. Rachel Friedman.

Prerequisite(s): two units in 200-level courses in the language or permission of the instructor.

Offered in alternate years.

Two 75-minute periods.

323 Homer 1

Extensive selections from the Iliad, the Odyssey, and/or Homeric Hymns with attention given to oral theory, thematic structure, and social issues raised by the poems. Curtis Dozier.

Prerequisite(s): two units in 200-level courses in the language or permission of the instructor.

Offered in alternate years. ​

Two 75-minute periods.

Courses in Latin Language and Literature: I. Introductory

145a. Elementary Latin 1

Introduction to the language. The department.

Open to all classes. No previous Latin is required.

Yearlong course 145-GRST 146.

Four 50-minute periods.

146b. Elementary Latin 1

Introduction to the language. The department.

Open to all classes.

Yearlong course GRST 145-146.

Four 50-minute periods.

Courses in Latin Language and Literature: II. Intermediate

245a. Intermediate Latin I 1

Selected readings from authors such as Plautus, Cicero, Catullus, Caesar, Sallust, and Virgil. The selection of readings is designed to consolidate knowledge of grammar, provide an introduction to the translation of continuous, unadapted Latin, and highlight interesting features of Roman culture in the last two centuries of the Republic. The department.

Prerequisite(s): GRST 145-GRST 146 or permission of the instructor or chair.

Three 50-minute periods.

246b. Intermediate Latin II 1

Authors may include Horace, Livy, Ovid, Seneca, Petronius, Suetonius, and Virgil. Readings are selected to illustrate the diversity of literary forms that flourished in the early Empire and the interaction of literature with society, politics, and private life. The department.

Prerequisite(s): GRST 245 or permission of the instructor.

Three 50-minute periods.

Courses in Latin Language and Literature: III. Advanced

341 Topics in Latin Literature 1

Topic for 2016/17b:  The (Dis)embodied Self    This course examines narratives from Latin literature that raise questions about conceptualizations of the human body, matters of selfhood and personal identity, and various aspects of Roman culture. Our investigations center upon narratives in which the edges of the body are breached, penetrated, transgressed, blurred, and/or transformed. Possible readings in Latin include selections from Seneca's Thyestes, Ovid's Metamorphoses, Celsus' De Medicina, Lucan's De Bello Civili, and Apuleius' Metamorphoses, along with relevant pieces of modern scholarship. Our discussions also turn an eye toward the present day by comparing Roman constructs with perceptions of the body in the modern world.

Prerequisite: GRST 246 or permission of the instructor.

Two 75-minute periods.

342 Virgil 1

Selections from the Eclogues, Georgics, or Aeneid. Subjects of study include the artistry of the Virgilian hexameter, the relationship of Virgil's works to their Greek models, and general topics such as his conception of destiny, religion, and the human relation to nature. Curtis Dozier.

Prerequisite(s): GRST 246 or permission of the instructor.

Two 75-minute periods.

343 Tacitus 1

Close readings from the works of the imperial historian and ethnographer Tacitus. In connection with further developing students' reading skills, the class focuses on particular literary, cultural, or historical issues. J. Bert  Lott.

Prerequisite(s): GRST 246 or permission of the instructor.

Not offered in 2017/18.

344 Roman Lyric and Elegy 1

Poems of Horace, Tibullus, Propertius, Catullus and Ovid with attention given to poetic form, the influence of poets on each other, and the view they give us of Roman society in the first century BCE. Curtis Dozier.

Prerequisite(s): GRST 246 or permission of the instructor.

Offered every third year. Not offered in 2017/18.

Two 75-minute periods.