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Unit information: Greek Poetry and Poetics in 2020/21

Unit name Greek Poetry and Poetics
Unit code CLAS30020
Credit points 20
Level of study H/6
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 4 (weeks 1-24)
Unit director Dr. Michelakis
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of Classics & Ancient History
Faculty Faculty of Arts


What is the function of poetry? What kinds of experience does it offer? How does it provide access to knowledge? What is the role of emotions in poetry? The focus of this unit is on the very formulation of these questions and on the attempts to answer them in the major tradition of poetic theory and criticism produced by Greek culture. The unit combines close textual analysis, literary theory, and the history of ideas. Key texts include the Homeric epics, Aristophanes' Frogs, Plato's Republic, Aristotle's Poetics, Gorgias' Helen, and Longinus' On the Sublime.


To engage with defining texts in Greek poetics;

To gain understanding of and ability to analyse different ways of conceptualizing the experience of poetry;

To gain understanding of and ability to analyse different ways of thinking about literary criticism as an aesthetic and social activity;

To develop critical interaction with primary and secondary materials;

To develop written presentation skills through the course assessment.

Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of this unit students will:

(1)be familiar with the differing ways in which poetry has been configured in the texts studied, and the uses to which these texts have been put

(2)have an appropriate level of skills in reading and interpreting different kinds of texts in relation to issues of literary criticism, ethics, and aesthetics

(3)be able to use the knowledge acquired in class and through independent research to construct coherent, relevant and critical arguments concerning the interpretative issues raised by the texts studied

(4) ability to apply existing analytical strategies to new evidence

Students will also be expected to show:

(5) skills in critical thinking and in written communication appropriate to level H

Teaching details

1 x 2 hour seminar and 1 x 1 hour seminar per week

Assessment Details

One summative coursework essay of 3000 words (50%) and one unseen examination of 2 hours (50%).

Both elements will assess ILOs (1) (2) (3). The coursework essay in particular will offer students the opportunity to demonstrate ILOs (4) and (5).

Reading and References

  • Andrew Ford, The Origins of Criticism: Literary Culture and Poetic Theory in Classical Greece, Princeton University Press 2004
  • Stephen Halliwell, Between Ecstasy and Truth: Interpretations of Greek Poetics from Homer to Longinus, Oxford University Press 2012
  • Grace Ledbetter, Poetics before Plato: Interpretation and Authority in Early Greek Theories of Poetry, Princeton University Press 2002
  • Penelope Murray, ‘Poetic Inspiration in Early Greece,’ The Journal of Hellenic Studies 101 (1981) 87-100
  • James I. Porter, The Origins of Aesthetic Thought in Ancient Greece: Matter, Sensation, and Experience, Cambridge University Press 2010