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2018/19 Undergraduate Module Catalogue

CLAS2920 Plato's Republic

20 creditsClass Size: 12

Module manager: Dr Elizabeth Pender

Taught: Semesters 1 & 2 (Sep to Jun) View Timetable

Year running 2018/19

This module is mutually exclusive with

CLAS3910Plato's Republic

This module is approved as a discovery module

Module summary

This 20-credit module taught over two semesters will provide a reading of one of the most famous and controversial books of world literature: Plato's Republic. This influential text of ancient Greek philosophy presents a utopian vision of the best type of political constitution, based on ideals of justice and rationality. The discussions between Socrates and his friends deal with many still pressing questions of human life, including how to organise and live in communities, how to educate citizens, and how to achieve happiness. The main approach of the module will be literary, examining in detail how Plato presents and develops his enquiry into the just society, including his use of character, dramatic setting, structure, conceptual vocabulary, conversation and story-telling. Attention to the placing of the various mythological stories of the text will help to uncover its philosophical programme.


This module aims to analyse and discuss central philosophical issues of Platonism as presented in Plato's Republic, the philosopher's best-known work. It will examine the overall progression of thought through this long and apparently meandering work that seeks to imitate the nature of conversation; consider Plato's political thought as a reaction to the contemporary political situation at Athens in the 5th and 4th centuries BC; and discuss the implications of the dialogue form for the expression of Plato's ideas, as well as of the presence of several different modes of writing present within the text (aporetic dialectic, exposition, extended images and analogies, and myth).

Learning outcomes
On completion of this L2 module students should have provided evidence of being able to:

- demonstrate a broad understanding of the concepts, information, practical competencies and techniques which are standard features in a range of aspects of the study of Plato;
- appreciate and employ the main methods of enquiry in the study of Plato’s writing and critically evaluate the appropriateness of different methods of enquiry, including in particular literary and philosophical;
- use a range of techniques to initiate and undertake the analysis of a set text;
- effectively communicate information, arguments and analysis in the forms of an essay and an exam with comment questions;
- show an enhanced knowledge of classical antiquity through study of a key literary and philosophical text written in 4th century BC Athens and its cultural context.


The module will consider each of the ten books of the Republic. After an introduction to the text as a whole, lectures and seminars will look in turn at each book in turn: beginning from book 1 we will trace the central questions of: justice and the nature of the soul; the theories of Tripartition and Forms; Plato’s utopian vision of the ideal state; radical proposals about the capacities of women and the care and education of children; the philosopher king; the banishment of the artists; the good life and how to achieve harmony of soul for this life and the afterlife. The impact of the chosen setting (at a religious festival) and various characters, including Plato's own brothers, will be explored. These and other literary features, such as Plato’s dominant comparisons of "inner and outer states" and of enlightenment as an upward journey, will be noted as the discussion progresses through the individual books to the concluding myth of the afterlife.

Teaching methods

Delivery typeNumberLength hoursStudent hours
Private study hours180.00
Total Contact hours20.00
Total hours (100hr per 10 credits)200.00

Private study

80 hours preparation of mid-module essay (40%), divided through teaching weeks in the form of set-reading prescriptions of the set text (Republic) and relevant secondary literature according to topics that follow the sequence of the set text.
100 hours preparation of end of module exam (60%), once the essay is completed, the private study can turn fully to secondary literature, as relevant to the chosen main topic (via topic-based bibliographies).
For the exam the students will undertake independent study into their two chosen topics, on key aspects of Plato’s text, from a choice of five:
1. Justice
2. Education
3. Women
4. Ideal State
5. Harmony & Happiness

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

During teaching sessions; through seminar contributions; via the mid-module essay.

Methods of assessment

Assessment typeNotes% of formal assessment
Essay2000 words essay40.00
Total percentage (Assessment Coursework)40.00

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

Exam typeExam duration% of formal assessment
Standard exam (closed essays, MCQs etc) (S1)1 hr 30 mins60.00
Total percentage (Assessment Exams)60.00

The exam of this L2 version of the module will comprise comment questions only, whereas the L3 version will comprise comment questions and an essay.

Reading list

There is no reading list for this module

Last updated: 28/06/2018


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