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Level 5

5AACTL60 The Novels of Nikos Kazantzakis and the Ancient World

Credit value: 15
Module convenor/tutor: 
2017/18: TBC
Teaching pattern: 10 x 2-hour seminars (weekly)
Availability: Please see module list for relevant year
Assessment: 1 x 2000-word essay (50%); 1 x 2-hour exam (50%)

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.

Assessment pattern for Graduate Diploma Students

2 x 2000 word essays (50% each)


Kazantzakis is internationally the most famous Greek novelist of modern times, probably best known today for the films based on his novels Zorba the Greek (Cacoyannis 1966) and The Last Temptation of Christ (Scorsese 1988). But he himself came to fiction late in a life that had been devoted to poetry, drama and travel-writing. Of his seven mature novels, written between 1941 and the author’s death in 1957, we will study two in depth: Freedom and Death (described as a 'modern Iliad'), and The Last Temptation, a historical novel of the life of Jesus. We will explore the different ways in which these two novels re-imagine aspects of the ancient world as seen from the perspective of Greece in the mid-20th Century.

Core reading

The two novels listed above, and:

      • Bien, Peter. Kazantzakis: Politics of the Spirit. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Vol. 1 (1989) has useful background information on Kazantzakis’s philosophical and religious ideas and early work; Vol. 2 (2007) includes chapters that are essential reading on the novels covered by the course
      • Bien, Peter. Nikos Kazantzakis: Novelist. (Studies in Modern Greek.) Bristol: Bristol Classical Press, and New Rochelle, NY: Aristide Caratzas, 1989. More readable than the above, but long out of print. Most of the material is repeated in vol. 2 of the later, fuller study
      • Kazantzakis, Helen. Nikos Kazantzakis: a Biography Based on his Letters. Translated by Amy Mims. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1968; Oxford: Cassirer, 1968
      • Homer, The Iliad (any translation)
      • The New Testament: Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John (any edition or translation)

The purchase of these books is not mandatory.  

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