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Unit information: Time, Temporality and Texts in 2018/19

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Unit name Time, Temporality and Texts
Unit code CLAS37019
Credit points 20
Level of study H/6
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Professor. Liveley
Open unit status Not open




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


Time is one of the basic categories of our human experience, but is peculiarly subject to cultural construction. In this unit we look at the ways in which time has been theorized, conceptualized, and represented in texts past and present. We will see how different types of writing and representation play with time (speeding it up, slowing it down, reversing it) and will explore how the human experience of time maps on to different effects (inevitability, irony, suspense, pathos). We will take time to read ancient epic, tragedy, historiography and philosophy – alongside novels such as Martin Amis’ Time’s Arrow, George Orwell’s 1984, films such as Christopher Nolan’s Memento, and counterfactual histories such as SS-GB.

Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of this unit, students should:

  • be familiar with the differing ways in which time has been configured in the texts studied, and the uses to which these have been put.
  • have developed their skills in reading and interpreting different kinds of texts in relation to issues of time and temporality.
  • be able to use the knowledge acquired in seminars and through independent research to construct coherent, relevant and critical arguments concerning the interpretative issues raised by the representation of time in the texts studied.
  • have had the opportunity to develop their skills in oral and written communication, by making seminar presentations, taking part in seminar discussions, and producing an essay and a written examination.

Teaching details

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

Assessment Details

One essay of 3,000 words (50%) and one examination of 2 hours (50%).

Reading and References

Homer, Odyssey (Lattimore tr.)

Sophocles, Oedipus the King (Fagles tr.)

Virgil, Aeneid (Penguin, West tr.)

Augustine, Confessions 8 and 11 (Chadwick, tr.)

Selections from Aristotle, Livy, Hesiod

Saul Morson, G. Narrative and Freedom: The Shadows of Time (New Haven and London, 1994)