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Ancient Literature and Society

Duration 9 weekly meetings
Tutor Dr Gina Bevan
Course code LIT24A5501A
Fee £264
Concessionary fee £211 (find out about eligibility and funding options)

Online course

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What did it mean to be Greek or Roman in the ancient world? What does the study of ancient texts reveal about attitudes to war, love, family, and gender?

Studying a range of different texts and the voices they contain, from epic poetry to comedy, and including works by Homer, Sophocles, Ovid, and Virgil, we will explore societies that birthed stories that continue to captivate audiences today.

We will consider new and exciting areas of research such as attitudes to homosexuality and race, what they tell us about the people of the ancient world, and explore how historians are able to hear the voices of the marginalised in works overwhelmingly produced by elite men.

We will investigate the lasting influence of ancient literature in the modern world, particularly as used by Sigmund Freud and in Spike Lee’s film Chi-raq (2015).

Learning and teaching

The module will be taught online, through nine sessions incorporating recorded lectures and online seminars and workshops involving class discussion and group work on specific topics relating to the module.

The discussion and group work will enable students to think critically and to contribute to the debates and topics presented during the lectures.

The discussion-led sessions and the lectures will be supplemented by resources available to students via Learning Central.


  • Introduction: Society in Ancient Greece and Rome
  • Heroic Beginnings: Homer’s Odyssey
  • Tragic Fathers: Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex [Three Theban Plays]
  • Tragic Daughters: Sophocles’ Oedipus at Colonus and Antigone [Three Theban Plays continued]
  • Tragic Sons: Euripides’ Orestes
  • Finding Female Voices: Sappho and Aspasia
  • Comedy: Aristophanes’ Lysistrata
  • Love and Lust: Ovid’s Metamorphoses and Ars Amatoria
  • Homer’s Influence: Virgil’s Aeneid

Coursework and assessment

You will be expected to complete two pieces of assessed work:

  • a short source analysis
  • a 1000-word blog

Advice and support will be provided for both assignments and you will receive detailed feedback relating to strengths and areas for improvement on both pieces of work.

Reading suggestions

  • Fagles, R. (trans.), Sophocles. The Three Theban Plays: Antigone, Oedipus the King, Oedipus at Colonus (New York, 1984).
  • Homer, The Odyssey (Multiple versions and translations available).
  • Melville, A.D. (trans.), Ovid: Metamorphoses (Oxford, 1986).
  • Peck, J. and Nisetich, F. (trans.), Euripides: Orestes (Oxford, 1995).
  • Plant, I.M. (ed.), Women Writers of Ancient Greece and Rome: An Anthology (London, 2004).
  • Sommerstein, A.H. (trans.), Aristophanes: Lysistrata and other Plays (London and New York, 1973).
  • Virgil, The Aeneid (Multiple Versions and translations available).

Library and computing facilities

As a student on this course you are entitled to join and use the University’s library and computing facilities. Find out more about using these facilities.


Our aim is access for all. We aim to provide a confidential advice and support service for any student with a long term medical condition, disability or specific learning difficulty. We are able to offer one-to-one advice about disability, pre-enrolment visits, liaison with tutors and co-ordinating lecturers, material in alternative formats, arrangements for accessible courses, assessment arrangements, loan equipment and dyslexia screening.