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2020/21 Undergraduate Module Catalogue

CLAS2790 Greek Tragedy

20 creditsClass Size: 12

Module manager: Professor Malcolm Heath

Taught: Semester 2 (Jan to Jun) View Timetable

Year running 2020/21

This module is mutually exclusive with

CLAS3790Greek Tragedy

This module is not approved as a discovery module

Module summary

This module focuses four Greek tragedies: Sophocles’ Ajax and Philoctetes, and Euripides’ Medea and Heracles. The plays will be read in English translation. In the course of the module we will consider: - themes and issues shared by the four plays - making sense of texts composed in a culture different from our own- issues of staging, performance, structure and dramatic technique- how the dramatists innovated in their use of traditional stories


This module aims to introduce students to the genre of Greek tragedy through a detailed study of four representative plays, encompassing close reading and focus on techniques and major themes, as well as the relationship between the set plays and their literary, social, and cultural contexts.

Learning outcomes
1. Students will be familiar with the structural and performance conventions of Greek tragedy.
2. Students will recognise typical themes of Greek tragedy.
3. Students will be able to relate these themes to their ethical and social context.
4. Students will be able to explain points of detail in passages from the tragedies studied.
5. Students will be able to demonstrate a holistic understanding of individual plays.
6. Students will be able to display an awareness of relevant modern scholarship, and to exercise independent judgement of competing interpretations.


This module will study four tragedies by Sophocles (Ajax, Philoctetes) and Euripides (Medea, Heracles) in English translation. The introductory lectures will highlight important themes and issues in the four plays; outline their transmission and reception; and discuss some of the problems of interpretation posed by texts composed in a culture different from our own. In the subsequent lectures and seminars the plays themselves will be studied with a view to: performance and staging; dramatic technique and structure; innovations in the stories dramatised; religious and ethical issues.
The recommended translations are: Sophocles: Electra and Other Plays, tr. D. Raeburn (Penguin 2008); Euripides: Heracles and Other Plays, tr. R. Waterfield (Oxford World’s Classics 2003); Euripides: Medea and Other Plays, tr. J. Morwood (Oxford World’s Classics 1998).

Teaching methods

Due to COVID-19, teaching and assessment activities are being kept under review - see module enrolment pages for information

Delivery typeNumberLength hoursStudent hours
Private study hours177.00
Total Contact hours23.00
Total hours (100hr per 10 credits)200.00

Private study

Reading primary texts: 4 x 15 hours
Lecture preparation: 18 x 1 hours
Seminar preparation: 5 x 3 hours
Essay: 42 hours
Exam preparation: 42 hours.

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

Student progress will be monitored through attendance and participation in lectures, and seminar contributions. The feedback on the week 8 assessed essay will also provide an opportunity for formative feedback ahead of the exam.

Methods of assessment

Due to COVID-19, teaching and assessment activities are being kept under review - see module enrolment pages for information

Assessment typeNotes% of formal assessment
Essay1,800 words40.00
Total percentage (Assessment Coursework)40.00

The coursework essay in CLAS3790 requires students to demonstrate an understanding of the relationship between two plays in their coursework essay. The coursework essay in CLAS2790 focuses on a single play, and is correspondingly shorter.

Exam typeExam duration% of formal assessment
Online Time-Limited assessment2 hr 00 mins60.00
Total percentage (Assessment Exams)60.00

Normally resits will be assessed by the same methodology as the first attempt, unless otherwise stated

Reading list

The reading list is available from the Library website

Last updated: 02/10/2020 13:48:14


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