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Unit information: Classics and Comparative Literature in 2018/19

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Unit name Classics and Comparative Literature
Unit code CLAS30032
Credit points 20
Level of study H/6
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Dr. Laura Jansen
Open unit status Not open




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


How is Homer or Ovid read in modern Caribbean or Italian literature? How do these readings compare with those from modern South American and Greek authors? And what new understandings of classical authors do we obtain from this comparative exercise? This unit is designed to appeal to those who wish to read Classics from a Comparative Literature perspective. With a focus on modern world literature’s dialogue with Greco-Roman antiquity, the unit explores a wide range of literary, philosophical, and socio-political texts from the classical canon, such as the Homeric epics, Plato’s dialogues, Lucretius’ On the Nature of the Universe, Ovid’s Metamorphoses, Seneca’s plays and dialogues, and/or Pliny’s Natural History. The range of modern authors is also wide, though a special emphasis will be placed on twentieth- and twenty-first century writers from the Caribbean (Derek Walcott), Greece and Greco-America (Constantine P. Cavafy; Jeffrey Eugenides), Italy (Calvino; Roberto Calasso), and/or South America (Jorge Luis Borges and Julio Cortázar). The course thus aims to offer fresh and exciting insights into Greco-Roman literary culture, while introducing participants to writers of modernity rarely read for their engagement with the classical past.

Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of this unit, students will:

  1. Have developed an in depth knowledge of a range of key primary and secondary sources for this theme in antiquity and in the present day
  2. Have developed a rigorous ability to analyse and make critical connections between these sources, and to situate them within their wider historical and literary context
  3. Be able to identify, assess and apply a wide range of different methodological approaches to the materials and critically assess these methods
  4. Be able to use the knowledge acquired in lectures and through group discussion and their own researches to construct coherent, relevant and persuasive arguments on different aspects of the subject
  5. Have developed skills in critical thinking and oral and written communication appropriate to level H.

Teaching details

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

Assessment Details

One course work essay of c. 3,000 words 50%; one written examination (two hours) 50%. Both elements will assess ILOs 1-5.

Reading and References

S. Bassnett (1993), Comparative Literature: a Critical Introduction. Oxford.

Jorge Luis Borges (1998), Collected Fictions, translated by A. Hurley. London.

Jorge Luis Borges (1999), Selected Non-Fictions, edited by E. Weinberger. London and New York.

Italo Calvino (1999), Why Read the Classics? (esp. “The Odysseys within the Odyssey” and “Ovid and Universal Contiguity”), translated by M. McLaughlin. London.

Constantine Cavafy (1978), Poems, translated by J. Mavrogordato. London.

Derek Walcott (1993), The Odyssey: A Stage Version. London