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Level 5

5AACTL25 Who needs myth?

Credit value: 15 credits
Module convenor/tutor 2018/19: Professor Ismene Lada-Richards
Teaching pattern: 10 x 1-hour lectures & 10 x 1-hour seminars (weekly)
Please see module list for relevant year
1 x 2-hour examination (100%)

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

Assessment pattern for Semester 1 Study Abroad and Graduate Diploma students

The assessment pattern below applies for Semester 1-only Study Abroad students (when the module runs in Semester 1). Study Abroad students otherwise follow the undergraduate assessment pattern listed above. 

2 x 2,000 word essay (100%, essays worth 50% each)

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.

We usually think about ancient myth in the context of the great poetry of the Graeco-Roman world: Odysseus and Achilles, Heracles and Theseus, Aeneas and Dido, Medea, Oedipus and Clytemnestra are all part and parcel of our Homer and Vergil, our Sophocles, Euripides and Ovid. But for the ‘participants’ themselves in ancient Greek and Roman culture “myth” was not simply part of the weave of poetic composition but one of their most valuable and versatile tools for making sense of the world around them, from the basic cultic-and-ritual hierarchy of “beast-man-god” to the asymmetry between the sexes and from the performance of animal sacrifice to the harbouring of hopes for a brighter life in the beyond. From consolation to moral and ethical improvement, from entertainment to education, from philosophy to the construction of civic foundation legends, myth was the lifeblood of ancient society. The relevance of myth to cultural discourses and narratives of personal/collective identity formation is simply inexhaustible.

Rather than being designed as an introduction to the great myths or as a “who is who” in ancient mythology, the module hopes to help you address a much more challenging question: how did myth as an intellectual category function in antiquity and how did the Greeks and the Romans use  their myths?

Throughout the module you will be working with literary, historical and philosophical texts ranging from Homer to the polemical treatises of the Fathers of the early Christian Church as well as with material evidence, from vase-paintings to mosaics and sarcophagi.

Suggested introductory reading:

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

No prior knowledge will be required, but if you wish, you can have leaf through the following:

R. Buxton, Imaginary Greece: The Contexts of Mythology (Cambridge 1994)

E. Csapo, Theories of Mythology (Oxford 2005)

F. Graf, Greek Mythology: An Introduction (trans. T. Marier) (Baltimore 1993)

R. Martin, Myths of the Ancient Greeks (London 2003)

H. Morales, Classical Mythology: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford 2004)

BJ. P. Vernant, The Universe, the Gods, and Mortals: Ancient Greek Myths (trans. from the French) (London 2002)

R. D. Woodard, The Cambridge Companion to Greek Mythology(Cambridge 2007)


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