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Level 6

6AACT17B Living in the City in Classical Literature

Credit value: 15
Module convenor/tutor 2019/20: Dr Pavlos Avlamis
Teaching pattern: 10 x 2-hour seminars (weekly)
Availability: Please see module list  for relevant year
Assessment: Essay, 1 x 3,000 words (100%)  

Prohibited combination: this module cannot be taken in conjunction with 6AACTL17

In antiquity, the city as idea and as experience provided a central trope for Greeks and Romans to think about their place in the world, their social and political organisation, the relationship between culture and nature, self and other, morality, and history. This module focuses particularly on the presence of urban everyday life in classical literature and asks students to explore ancient representations through the lenses of cultural history and current critical approaches to the city. Our starting point will be to think about what is ‘natural’ to us and put it at a critical distance: the ways in which the city has featured in literature and film in modernity. We will proceed to explore the extent to which these modern representations and their cultural context find antecedents in antiquity. We will pay special attention to urban space (house/home, street, theatre, baths and barbershops) as well as time and occasion (city at night, erotic city, landscapes of disaster, routine).

Suggested introductory reading

The following is suggested reading that you may want to explore in preparation for taking this module; purchase of these books is not mandatory.

Portions of classical texts to be studied in translation, as well as secondary literature will be provided electronically and will include selections from various authors from Homer to Late Antiquity.

General introductory reading:

  • K. R. McNamara (2014) The Cambridge Companion to the City in Literature. Cambridge
  • G. Bachelard (1994) The Poetics of Space, with a new foreword J. R. Stilgoe. Boston


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