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Unit information: Epic in 2020/21

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Unit name Epic
Unit code CLAS12361
Credit points 20
Level of study C/4
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Professor. Liveley
Open unit status Not open




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


This unit will examine a selection of epic poems from ancient Greece and Rome - all studied in translation - to trace the development of the genre from the oral tradition of Homer through the literary composition of later Greek and Latin poets. Authors and texts studied in this unit may include Homer, Hesiod, Apollonius of Rhodes, Virgil, Ovid, Lucan, and Statius. Themes studied in this unit may include genre, gender, myth, the gods, destiny, mortality, narrative technique, oral and literary culture, or paradigms of heroism. We will also reflect on the cultural and political contexts of these works, including differences between Greek and Roman epics.

Unit aims:

  • To introduce students to a range of specific authors and texts.
  • To introduce students to the cultural contexts of ancient epic and its postclassical reception.
  • To introduce students to the principal critical approaches to studying epic as a genre.
  • To give students an opportunity to develop their skills in detailed analysis of literary texts.
  • To give students an opportunity to develop their skills in oral communication.

Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of this unit, successful students will be able to demonstrate:

1. knowledge of a wide range of ancient epic texts, the cultural contexts of their production, and their reception;

2. an understanding of the principal critical approaches and issues involved in studying individual epic texts and epic as a genre;

3. skills in oral communication through class-based activities in small groups and general discussion, and in written communication at a standard appropriate to level C in an essay and a written exam;

4. an ability to use the knowledge acquired in lectures and through their own researches to construct coherent, relevant and persuasive arguments on different aspects of the subject.

Teaching details

This unit will involve a combination of independent investigative activities, long- and short-form lectures, and discussion. Students will be expected to engage with materials and participate on a weekly basis. Feedback will be provided for both formative and summative assessments, and this will be supported by meetings with tutors.

Assessment Details

Exam (100%). [ILOs 1-4]

Reading and References

Foley, J.M. 2011. A Companion to Ancient Epic (Blackwell Companions to the Ancient World) (Oxford: Blackwell)

King, K.C. 2012. Ancient Epic (Blackwell Introductions to the Classical World) (Oxford: Blackwell)