Show/hide main menu

Level 5

5AACTL27 Death in Greek Literature

Credit value: 15
Module convenor/tutor: Professor Michael Trapp
Teaching pattern: 10 x 2-hour seminar (weekly)
Availability: Please see module list for relevant year
Assessment: 1 x 2-hour exam (50%); 1 x essay of 2,000 words (50%)

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

Assessment pattern for Graduate Diploma/Study Abroad students only

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. 

Assessment: 2 x 2,000-word essays (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.

Death has always been one of the greatest challenges to human creativity and understanding  This module aims to introduce students to a range of  ways in which death has been envisaged and depicted in Greek narrative and dramatic literature from Homer to the period of the Roman Empire, through a selection of texts from epic, tragedy, philosophy, biography, and satire.  It will look both at the different ways the moment, or process, of death has been portrayed, and at the different ways in which these deaths are contextualized and (if at all) explained in the texts in question; attention will also be given to the elements of continuity and diversity between the different literary forms involved. 

All texts will be studied in English translation.

This module goes closely with 5AACTL28, Death in Greek Myth and Thought, but can be taken separately from it.

Provisional teaching plan

  1. Introduction: death as action, event and narrative.  Deaths in the Iilad
  2. Homeric deaths II: the Odyssey
  3. Varieties of tragic death: Agamemnon and Clytemnestra (Aeschylus,
  4. Oresteia)
  5. Varieties of tragic death: Heracles (Sophocles, Trachiniae)
  6. Varieties of tragic death: Antigone (Soophocles, Antigone)
  7. Varieties of tragic death: Oedipus (Sophocles, Oedipus at Colonus)
  8. The philosophical martyr: Plato’s Socrates (Plato, Phaedo)
  9. Great deaths in Plutarch’s Lives: Antony and Cleopatra
  10. Great Deaths in Plutarch’s Lives: Phocion and Cato
  11. Satirical Death: Lucian’s Peregrinus and others

Suggested introductory reading

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

  • Enright, D.J. (ed), The Oxford Book of Death (OUP 1987)
  • Friedrich, W.-H., Wounding and Death in the Iliad (Duckworth 2003)
  • Griffin, J., Homer on Life and Death (OUP 1980)
  • Loraux, N., Tragic Ways of Killing a Woman (Harvard UP 1991)
  • Macintosh, F., Dying Acts: death in ancient Greek and modern Irish tragic drama (Cork UP 1994)
  •  Vermeule, E., Aspects of Death in Early Greek Art and Poetry (Univ of California P 1979)
  •  Wilson, E., The Death of Socrates (Profile 2007)
Sitemap Site help Terms and conditions  Privacy policy  Accessibility  Modern slavery statement  Contact us

© 2020 King's College London | Strand | London WC2R 2LS | England | United Kingdom | Tel +44 (0)20 7836 5454