Classical Literature and Civilisation (Q820): Selected Module Descriptions Year 2

Second Year

Compulsory modules 

Athenian Drama (20)

From its beginnings around 500 BC, tragic and comic drama was central to the democratic culture of ancient Athens, and plays rooted in ancient Greek drama continue to fascinate audiences around the world. In this module, we study drama in its ancient contexts of myth, history, politics and philosophy, and explore individual plays through the medium for which they were created: theatrical performance. We reflect both on their role in ancient democratic citizenship and on the qualities which make them such compelling models for playwrights and audiences today.

Seminar II (choice of seminar topics) (20 credits)

A range of topics (circa 15 each year) will be offered across the disciplinary scope of Department.  The topics will vary according to the current research interests of each member of staff but will normally focus on a well defined body of primary literary, visual, historical or archaeological data. Staff will publish a 300 word account of the topic offered and its research potential together with a brief introductory bibliography before course registration each year to enable students to select from themes related to their own period, area or subject interests.

Study Tour (20)

The Study Tour gives students the opportunity to plan and undertake travel to various parts of the world (usually Italy, Greece, or Turkey) to visit sites, monuments and museums of particular interest to their degree programmes. Group work is key to the module: students plan, travel and present work as a group (normally 2-6 students in a group).

Semester 1 is the is the tour preparation section. In groups, students decide where they are going to visit, choose individual research topics, plan a detailed and annotated itinerary including two weeks of Study Tour activity, prepare a preliminary bibliography (academic and practical) and present these as an illustrated report. In addition they prepare a preliminary version of the University Risk Assessment form. In the course of the teaching period of Semester 2, students will liaise with their academic supervisor on two to four occasions to optimise their academic understanding of what is to be visited before setting out. In the Easter Vacation each group will undertake a 14-day Study Tour as outlined in their first illustrated report.

The Age of Cicero (20)

The module’s focus is on the letters, philosophical writings and forensic speeches of Cicero as literary and cultural documents. Themes considered include: friendship; love and sex; morality and immorality; public and private; the role of rhetoric; ambition and competition; the role of religion. Cicero’s contemporaries Catullus, Lucretius, and Sallust are included in the core reading, enabling students to form a complete picture of the literature and culture of the final years of the Roman republic.

Example optional modules may include:

Classical Epic (20)

The module studies Greek and Roman epic poetry from Homer to Late Antiquity. Texts for detailed study will be chosen from a range which may include (but is not restricted to) the Homeric epics, the Homeric Hymns,  the works of Apollonius, Ennius, Catullus, Virgil, Lucan, Statius, and Quintus of Smyrna. It combines new perspectives on familiar classical texts with investigation of less widely-read authors from various periods. Students will follow the development of the epic genre and explore how its literary techniques and sense of tradition adapt to radically transformed cultural, social and historical circumstances. Students will also be encouraged to draw comparisons with the epic traditions of other cultures and to engage critically with modern receptions and translations of ancient epic.

From Mummification to Burial (20)

For the ancient Egyptians the most crucial part of life was their posthumous travel to the beyond without dying a second death. Each dead individual had to pass several stages before s/he could become an Osiris and lead his/her life as a circumpolar star in the beyond, “sitting and standing up with the gods”. In this option course we will be looking into the mechanics necessary to guarantee a positive outcome of this rite of passage in order to successfully socialise the deceased into the world of the dead. Textual as well as archaeological sources will help to unfold a detailed picture of the various processes and concepts involved. Among many other topics, we will look into several cemeteries in detail, discuss child burials, listen to recitations performed by priests in the embalming chambers and learn to understand how the Book of the Dead worked. The focus of this option course will be on funerary belief offering a complete picture of how a burial procession leading from the embalming chamber to the tomb was organised, including all rituals and personnel involved. It will enable you to understand ancient Egyptian funerary rituals and religion and will give you an integral picture of the complexity of ancient Egyptian ritual practice. 

Greece and Rome in Film and TV (20)

In this module students engage with representations of ancient Greece and Rome in cinema and television, selected from a range of films and programmes from the mid-20th to the early 21st century. Students also become acquainted with theories of film and media studies, and with the study of film/tv as a branch of classical reception studies.

Greek, Latin or Egyptian Langauge at appropriate level (20 or 40)

Imperial Egypt (20)

 The New Kingdom (Eighteenth to Twentieth Dynasties, c. 1550-1070 BC) saw the transformation of Egypt from an impoverished country ruled by the foreign ‘Hyksos’ to an empire stretching from the Euphrates in Syria to the fifth cataract on the Nile in modern Sudan. It was thus an era of warrior pharaohs but also of Hatshepsut, Akhenaten and Tutankhamun. International trade and diplomacy figure prominently, as do enormous religious building projects, extensively decorated tombs such as that of Nebamun, the Book of the Dead, personal religion and the village of Deir el-Medina. It’s also the period of Amenhotep, son of Hapu, later deified, and Khaemwese, the ‘first Egyptologist’. 

The New Kingdom has left an extensive archaeological and historical record, richer in many respects than any other period of Egyptian history. This module addresses a range of different topics and themes in a broadly chronological framework and consistently emphasises primary sources. If you’re intrigued by Egyptian temples and gods, by what they believed about an afterlife, by famous pharaohs, by relief carving, painting and sculpture, diplomatic correspondence and private letters, or interconnections with Africa, the Near East and the Mediterranean, there is something here for you. Much of what you read about ancient Egypt is interpretation rather than ‘fact’, and this module will enable you to understand the evidence on which such discussion is based.

Imperial Rome (20)

This module will examine Roman society in the first to third centuries AD – the time when the empire was at its height, when huge building projects expressed the wealth and confidence and when one could travel from northern Britain to Iraq without leaving Roman control. There are three main strands to the module. One will examine the power structures of the empire: the state under Augustus; imperial rule – Caligula, Nero, and Hadrian; imperial women; imperialism and conquest; and imperial cult. The second will look at our writers – Pliny the Younger, Tacitus and Suetonius and will consider how far our ‘Rome’ is a product of their agendas. The third will look at wider society: ‘muted’ groups such as the poor, women and slaves; Rome’s relationship with its eastern territories including the Greeks and the Jews; religion under Rome; Rome, the non-Roman and resistance; death and disease.

Professional Skills Development (20)

The lecture for this module provides an introduction to professional behaviours and workplace ethics. The second part of the module involves 20 weeks of experience and learning in a professional situation. In addition to gaining practical experience in organisations including Birmingham City Council, Charities and Social Enterprises, students will also be introduced in work processes on site.

Placements are restricted to non-profit organisations. This module follows the scheme of options and are fully credited, subject to assessment during the examination period.

Roman Britain and the Roman Army (20)

This module uses the evidence for the Roman army in Britain both as a case-study the Roman army on an empire-wide basis and as a defining aspect of the study of Roman Britain. It introduces students to the sources of evidence for and debates about a range of topics including: the structure of the Roman army; the evidence for its forts and fortresses; conditions of service; military equipment; civilians and the Roman army; frontiers, especially Hadrian’s Wall and the Antonine Wall; the late Roman army and the Saxon Shore.

Thinking Athenian (20)

Classical Athenians saw themselves as special. Descended from kings born from the earth itself, championed by the goddess Athena (who had to fight Poseidon for the honour!), inventors of democracy, victors at Marathon and Salamis, inventors of the dramatic arts, home to the best minds in the world, the list goes on and on. This module will look at Athenian attitudes to a variety of issues including: bravery, leisure, sexuality, politics, religion, warfare, money, and imperialism. It will also focus closely on the Athenian tendency towards the “othering” of non-elite male groups such as women, slaves, and foreigners, and even the poor. Ultimately we will be aiming to answer the question of whether the Athenians were peculiar in how they thought about the world.