Course Description and Objectives
In this course we shall read major works of ancient Greek literature and explore many facets of ancient Greek civilization. In the first half of the course, we shall focus on the mythic world of Homer’s Odyssey and the λόγοι of Herodotus' Histories. Next, we shall move to classical Athenian tragedy, comedy, and philosophy. Finally, we move into the later Second Sophistic to read dialogues of Lucian. We shall read all of these works in their cultural context, considering their place in an evolving Greek world.
Your main task at home will be reading the ancient texts: there will be extensive reading, around two hours' worth per class. Together we shall discuss those texts and work toward placing them in cultural and historical context. In class we shall move beyond the literature to consider other primary sources as well, such as inscriptions, coins, sculpture, vase paintings, wall paintings, mosaics, and archaeological remains.
You will not merely read these texts and objects; you will interrogate them, get inside them and find out their assumptions and biases, and ultimately make informed judgments about them. You will recognize elements both familiar and foreign, and by close study come to a better understanding of both ancient culture and yourselves. You will be able to zoom in on the smallest nuance and zoom out to its implications for the biggest picture. You will learn about Greek history, culture, and society while reading some of the greatest literature the Greeks produced. You will furthermore be challenged to consider what has given those stories such a resonance through the ages; to this end, we will examine the reception of Greek literature from Roman antiquity through Renaissance art to modern film adaptations and beyond.
Classical Studies 260 provides you with four of the twelve necessary General University Requirement (GUR) credits in Humanities (HUM). The Humanities requirement provides an introduction to the subject matter, methods of inquiry and forms of expression of academic fields that treat language, literature, fine arts, history, philosophy and religion in the Western cultural tradition. The humanities study principal themes, issues and images concerning human beings and their place in the universe, as these have been shaped and expressed since ancient times, in thought, imagination and action.
Masterworks of Ancient Greek Literature focuses on the following GUR competencies:
- GUR Competency 1: "Analyze and communicate ideas effectively in oral, written, and visual forms"
- GUR Competency 2: "Analyze and interpret information from varied sources, including print and visual media."
- GUR Competency 6: "Explore, imagine and create."
- GUR Competency 7: "Recognize the rights, responsibilities, and privileges of participating in, and contributing as a citizen in, a diverse society."
- GUR Competency 8: "Understand and evaluate assumptions, values, and beliefs in context of diverse local, national and global communities."
In addition to considering multiple works of Greek literature and visual examples of material culture related to those works of Greek literature, you will engage in writing exercises and discussions on Canvas to explore ethical concerns of ancient literature and the complex relationship between ancient Greek literature and the modern Western cultures that often claim descent from ancient Greece.
On Keeping an Open Mind
While many people say that ancient Greece lies at the roots of modern western civilization, the ancient world also differs from the modern in may ways. Likewise, within ancient Greece there were many different views on important social and cultural issues, just as the modern world enjoys a diversity of perspectives. Some of the ancient ideas that you encounter in this class will seem very alien, and some may be shockingly different from your own perspectives. Some of the various Greek sexual practices (like Athenian pederasty) will prove especially challenging to many students.
The discomfort of learning about a foreign culture's practices and beliefs plays a part in Herodotus' Histories. Famously, Darius, king of the Persians, asked a group of Greeks if they would eat the corpses of their own fathers. The Greeks were disgusted. Then, Darius asked a group of Callatians if they would bury the corpses of their fathers. The Callatians were as disgusted with the thought of burial as the Greeks were with cannibalism. Try, like Darius, to keep an open mind and recognize that different cultures embrace diverse perspectives.
Class Times and Location
Masterworks of Ancient Greek Literature meets every Tuesday and Thursday from 8:00 AM until 9:50 AM in Fraser Hall 201 (marked with a large and confusing "3" in green paint on the wall of the main hallway: Fraser has lecture halls 2, 3, and 4, but no 1, and those numbers have nothing to do with the official room numbers). Lectures begin Tuesday, January 8, and continue through Tuesday, March 12. There are no Tuesday or Thursday holidays during the winter quarter, but I have cancelled class on Thursday, March 14, because I will be giving a paper at a conference on medical history then. The midterm and final examinations are scheduled on Canvas, so there is no need to be in class on those days, nor is there any need for a final exam period during exam week: take the final when and where you choose during exam week.
- Tuesday and Thursday: 10:00 AM –11:00 AM
- Monday, Wednesday, and Friday: 2:30 PM – 3:00 PM
I have asked the bookstore to make the following books available; I have given the ISBN number and the WWU bookstore price as of November 12.
- Costa, C. 2009. Lucian: Selected Dialogues. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0199555932. $14.
- Fagles, R. 1999. Homer: The Odyssey. New York: Penguin. ISBN 978-0140268867. $16.
- Johnson, W. 2016. The Essential Herodotus. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0199897957. $16.
- Lefkowitz, M. and Romm, J. 2016. The Greek Plays. New York: Modern Library. ISBN 978-0812983098. $23.
- Reeve, C. 2006. Plato on Love. Indianapolis, IN: Hackett. ISBN 978-0872207882. $15.
- Sommerstein, A. 2008. Aristophanes: Lysistrata and Other Plays. New York: Penguin. ISBN 978-0140448146. $11.
The University bookstore should carry all of these books, but they can also be ordered online, most for next to nothing and some for as low as one cent. You are not, however, obligated to use exactly these editions or even these translations: you can use another translation if you prefer, and you can find free translations online.
I would strongly advise getting the recommended edition of The Essential Herodotus and Lucian: Selected Dialogues. Both contain selections that we shall read, since reading the entire corpus of either author within the time allotted would prove onerous.
You can always read the authors in the original Greek. If enough good people skilled in reading Greek are interested in reading Lucian in the original, I'd love to get together a reading group. Lucian was the first Greek author taught in western classrooms at the dawn of the Renaissance, and his dialogues, translated into Latin, became the foundation even for the teaching of Latin and modern languages through their influence on Erasmus.
If you have specific questions that pertain only to your work, your grades, or only to you, send me an e-mail.
If you have general questions about the course, don't e-mail them: post them to the General Course Questions Discussion. As questions are asked and answered, it will become an FAQ for the course, a place where you and your fellow students can find answers quickly.
If you have technical difficulties, contact the Help Desk. If you think that Canvas is malfunctioning, you should let the Help Desk know, because they cannot fix problems about which they know nothing. I cannot fix your computer, but the Help Desk might be able to help you.
University Services for Students
I am more than happy to make accommodations for students with disabilities or other special needs. So that the Disability Access Center (DAC, formerly DRS) can ensure that your needs are being met appropriately, all requests for accommodation must be made through the MyDAC system every quarter: accommodations do not automatically roll-over into future quarters. New students should enroll with DAC to receive accommodations. Accommodations are not retroactive, so you should obtain them as soon as possible.
The Student Health Center not only provides primary care services but handles documentation of medical issues and medical leaves of absence for you, making your life easier.
Phone: (360) 650-3400
In the case of a family or personal crisis or emergency, please contact the Office of Student Life. During a personal or family crisis, the office of the Office of Student Life can coordinate non-medical leaves of absence for you, making your life easier.
Phone: (360) 650-3450
Attendance and Participation (10%)
You should come to class. Every day, there will be a small attendance paper on which you will answer a question about the day's lecture. I do read each and every one of them, as the students from CLST 350 will tell you.
That will also serve to record attendance, so be sure to turn in the attendance paper at the end of class. Instead of keeping attendance in Canvas' "Roll Call Attendance" tool, which doesn't allow me to excuse absences or show students which days they were present or absent, I keep each day's attendance as a separate assignment in Grades under the heading of "Attendance and Participation." That should make attendance transparent.
I understand that emergencies do sometimes arise. Canvas will drop two absences automatically, with or without documentation. After that, you need to show me a very good reason for your absence if you do not want the attendance grade to diminish.
Six brief writing assignments will require you to engage with themes and topics of classical Greek literature; a sixth gives you visual context for Greek history. You will find them as discussions on Canvas: you will post your assignment to a small discussion group, where your peers will read and comment on your writing and you on theirs. More specific instructions will accompany each assignment. Be civil in your discussions, and try to be meaningful.
Nine quizzes are scheduled. All are due on Friday but remain open until Saturday. Instead of taking each quiz in class, you will take it on Canvas. This means that you can take the quiz when you feel that you have studied enough, rather than being forced to take it ready-or-not the last ten minutes of class.
The quizzes have a ten-minute time limit. You should not use your notes, books, or any other materials during the quizzes.
Should an emergency arise that keeps you from taking the quiz at any point by the end of Friday (the due date), Canvas will keep the quiz open for you for one more day (the deadline). After the deadline, the quiz closes forever.
There will be a midterm examination on Canvas, between the units on History and Tragedy. The midterm is due on Tuesday, February 12, a day on which no class is scheduled. It opens Thursday, February 7, after class, and it remains open until 11:59 PM on Wednesday, February 13. That means that you have six days during which to find an hour to take the midterm, and a day of classes has been omitted to ensure that you have the time to get this done.
The final examination will be available on Canvas during the exam week, so that you will be able to take the final examination at a time convenient to you.
Below you will find a schedule of all exams, quizzes, assignments, readings, and so forth
This syllabus is subject to change, but changes are highly unlikely, because I am an obsessive planner. Changes, if any, will be announced in class. Since the syllabus is on Canvas, students will have the latest information available at all times. Students will be held responsible for all changes.
Canvas provides feeds to which you can subscribe, to keep all your course info in your favorite calendar program like Apple's Calendar or Microsoft Outlook. For details, see the Canvas Guide on Calendar.
The syllabus page shows a table-oriented view of the course schedule, and the basics of course grading. You can add any other comments, notes, or thoughts you have about the course structure, course policies or anything else.
To add some comments, click the "Edit" link at the top.