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Level 4

4AACAT01 Working with Greek & Latin Literary Texts: An Introduction

Credit value: 30 credits

Module convenor/tutor 2018/19: Dr Dan Orrells (Semester 1) & Professor William Fitzgerald (Semester 2)
Teaching pattern: 
20 x 2-hour lecture (weekly); 20 x 1-hour seminar (weekly) 
Availability: Please see module list for relevant year
Assessment: 2 x 2,000 word essays (60%, based on the higher of the two marks; failure to submit 2 essays will be penalized by capping essay component of module mark at 40%); 1 x 2-hour examination (40%)

Students are reassessed in the failed elements of assessments by 1 x 3-hour examination (100%).

Single semester versions
  • 4AACAT1A Working with Greek Literary Texts: an Introduction
  • 4AACAT1B Working with Latin Literary Texts: an Introduction

Single semester versions of the module, split into Greek Literary Texts (semester 1) and Latin Literary Texts (semester 2) are available to Graduate Diploma Classical Studies and other students from outside the Department.

Undergraduate students in the Department of Classics may also be allowed to take the single semester version to make up their required credits. For example, if they wish to take 15 Credits with another Department in the Faculty of Arts & Humanities, or the 15 Credit module 4AACHB01 Receptions of the Past: the Hellenic World from Antiquity to Today (in 2018/19, this module runs in Semester 1).


  • 4AACAT1A & 4AACAT1B: 2 x 2,000 word essays (100%, based on the higher of the two essay marks; failure to submit 2 essays will be penalized by capping module mark at 40%)

Students are reassessed in the failed elements of assessment and by the same methods as the first attempt.

The modules offered in each academic year are subject to change in line with staff availability and student demand: there is no guarantee every module will run. Module descriptions and information may vary between years.

Working with Greek & Latin literary texts: An Introduction is a first year module aiming to introduce freshers into the riches of the Greek and Latin literary tradition by means of a close engagement with extracts from selected literary texts, chronologically arranged and covering a large swathe of the Graeco-Roman literary production. It is designed in such a way as to cater primarily for the immediate needs of students coming up to University with good working knowledge of one ancient language but, on the whole, without significant background knowledge of either Greek or Roman literature.

All the while offering a broad survey of periods, genres and best known authors of Greek and Roman literature, the course is also meant to use literary extracts as a springboard for giving first year students a first taste of how a professional classicist goes about reading texts critically and from a wide variety of angles. Major thematic stops of this module (indicatively) include: early Greek epic and lyric poetry; fifth-century Athenian drama; classical historiography; fourth century oratory; Plato and Aristotle; Hellenistic poetry; imperial Greek literature; the Greek novel; the literature of early and late Republican Rome; highlights from Augustan literature; Neronian literature; the Roman satirical tradition; Latin literature into late antiquity.

No previous knowledge of ancient Greek / Latin literature and history is assumed; all texts underpinning the teaching of this module can be studied in English translation, but Greek and Latin originals for all passages discussed critically in class will be provided, with the teacher making a special effort to point out key words and concepts in such a way as to make them fully accessible even to those with inadequate mastery of one of the ancient languages.

Suggested introductory reading

If you would like to familiarise yourselves with the broader scope of this module before coming up to university, here is a list of books you may want to browse.  

All of them contain infinitely more information than you will ever need to use in the course of your degree, let alone in one first year module, but a preliminary look at a couple of these items, whichever you can easily lay hands on, will give you a good sense of direction and plenty of food for thought. Enjoy!

This is suggested reading and purchase of these books is not mandatory.

  • T. Whitmarsh, Ancient Greek Literature (Cambridge 2004)
  • P. E. Easterling and B. Knox (eds), The Cambridge History of Classical Literature, vol. 1: Greek Literature (Cambridge 1989) - also published in separate paperback period specific volumes
  • M. Hose and D.Schenker (eds), A Companion to Greek Literature (Blackwell, June 2013)
  • S. M. Braund, Latin Literature (N. York and London 2002)
  • G. B. Conte, Latin Literature (Baltimore 1994)
  • E. Fantham, Roman Literary Culture from Cicero to Apuleius (Baltimore and London 1996).
  • E. Kenney and W. Clausen, Cambridge History of Classical Literature, vol. 2: Latin Literature (Cambridge 1982) - also published in separate paperback period specific volumes
  • S. Harrison (ed), A Companion to Latin Literature (Blackwell 2006)
  • R. Rutherford, Classical Literature: A Concise History (Blackwell 2004)
  • O. Taplin (ed.) Literature in the Greek and Roman World (Oxford 2000). NB. This invaluable book has also been published in two separate volumes, one for the Greek and one for the Roman period; these are in paperback, so easier to carry around.

The following two items are very general volumes on the Greek and Roman cultures and the numerous subdisciplines (e.g. epigraphy, numismatics) associated with them. They are invaluable with respect to the breadth of their coverage, but go easy on them!

  • G. Boys-Stones, B. Graziosi, and P. Vasunia (eds), The Oxford Handbook of Hellenic Studies (Oxford 2010)
  • A. Barchiesi and W. Scheidel (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Roman Studies (Oxford 2010)
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