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Unit information: The Passions in 2018/19

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Unit name The Passions
Unit code CLAS30035
Credit points 20
Level of study H/6
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Dr. Lampe
Open unit status Not open




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


“Passion” is something that overcomes you. It’s something you need to manage. But it’s also something that makes life worth living, and arguably makes you human. In this unit we’ll use a variety of media in order to explore diverse perspectives on passion, ranging from Euripides’ Hippolytus to Neil Gaiman’s graphic novel The Sandman, Volume 9: The Kindly Ones. (Though it never explicitly signals its reception of classical literature, The Kindly Ones reworks the Hymn to Demeter and Aeschylus' Oresteia alongside Norse and Gaiman's own mythology.) These works have been chosen because they are not only, without exception, amazingly good, but also because they feature a mix of male and female protagonists: gender is deeply implicated in our preconceptions of passion. You will also have the option of joining me for a guided tour of the Freud Museum in London, which will be coordinated with our study of Freud’s case history, usually called The Wolf Man.

Unit Aims

  • to introduce the way passions are represented in a range of literary, graphic, cinematic, and psychological works;
  • to introduce several ways of explaining the intuition that the passions are central to humanity;
  • to introduce several ways of explaining the intuition that the passions blur the boundaries between self and world;
  • to introduce the psychological theories of Freud and the Stoics;
  • to help students reflect on their own passional life, and some of the mechanisms available for cultivating it;

To give students opportunities to develop their skills in extemporaneous discussion, prepared oral presentation, research and formal writing.

Intended learning outcomes

By the end of this unit, successful students will:

1) be able to explain and apply a range of ancient and modern theories of the nature of the passions;

2) be able to explain and apply a range of theories about the therapy and cultivation of the passions;

3) be able to use the understanding gained in (1) and (2) in order to enjoy and interpret with greater sophistication works from a variety of genres, such as ancient Greek tragedy, ancient philosophy, modern graphic novels, and modern cinema;

4) have developed their ability in extemporaneous discussion during seminars;

5) have had the opportunity to develop their ability in research and formal writing, to a standard appropriate to level H/6.

Teaching details

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

Assessment Details

One 3000 word essay (50%) and one 2 hour exam (50%). Both will assess ILOs 1-5.

Reading and References

  • Euripides, Hippolytus (The preferred translation is by David Grene in Euripides I, ed. by D. Grene, R. Lattimore, M. Griffith and G. W. Most [Chicago])
  • Freud, S., The Wolfman, trans. by L. A. Huish (London: Penguin, 2010)
  • Gaiman, N. et al., The Sandman, Volume 9: The Kindly Ones (London: Titan Books, 1996)
  • Jung, C. G. Two Essays on Analytical Psychology, trans. by R. F. C. Hull, 2nd ed. (Princeton, 1966)