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2017/18 Undergraduate Module Catalogue

FREN3591 Heroines: Representations of Mythological Women from Antiquity to the Present

20 creditsClass Size: 12

Module manager: Dr Paul White

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

Year running 2017/18

This module is mutually exclusive with

CLAS3595Heroines: Representations of Mythological Women from Antiqui

This module is not approved as a discovery module

Module summary

This module looks at representations of the heroines of ancient myth through the ages. Focusing on four classical figures -Helen of Troy, Medea, Phaedra, Dido - it will consider the various ways in which writers have responded to their stories in literature, from antiquity through the medieval and early modern period to the modern era. Over the centuries writers have returned again and again to these heroines, each age creating them anew, rewriting their stories and casting them in unexpected roles. There will be an opportunity to read texts by major Latin, Greek, French and English authors. Texts in Greek and Latin will be studied in translation; texts in French will be studied in the original language.We will explore questions of gender and genre, virtue and transgression, power and freedom. And we will consider the ways in which representations of mythological heroines have been used to put ethical and political questions to the test; to explore the complexities of the mind and the shocking extremes of human behaviour; and to do new and unexpected things with literary form and genre. Classical heroines were imagined not only as passive, suffering figures, or embodiments of insane vengeance, but as fascinatingly complex agents of their own stories. It was the depiction of female figures of myth that gave writers the opportunity to challenge narratives of heroism and subvert the expectations of readers.


To provide research-based teaching in one of my specialist areas.
To equip students with an understanding of ancient myth and modern engagements with it.
To introduce students to a wide-ranging and comparative approach to the reading of literature, and to a range of literary genres and traditions; to enable them to understand texts in their proper historical and cultural contexts.
To interrogate theoretical issues relating to gender, genre and reception.
To read and closely analyse literary language in French and in English translation.

Learning outcomes
On completion of this module, students should be able to:
- comparatively analyse literary texts written in a range of periods and languages (in French and in English translation);
- show an awareness of the historical, cultural and literary contexts of the set texts;
- gain enhanced awareness of theoretical questions relating to gender, genre and reception;
- gather, evaluate and use information from secondary sources;
- communicate effectively, both orally and in writing


The first semester will include introductory lectures on myth, literary genre and classical reception and will focus on the figures of Medea (Euripides, Ovid, Seneca, Chaucer, Corneille, Anouilh) and Dido (Virgil, Ovid, Boccaccio, Jodelle, Marlowe). The second semester will look at Phaedra (Euripides, Ovid, Seneca, Racine; and modern performances); Helen (Euripides, Ovid, Giraudoux, modern poetry selection) and others. Lectures will be complemented by linked seminars.

Teaching methods

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

Private study

Students will be expected to prepare for seminars by (a) reading set text selections; (b) preparing individual and group presentations; (c) reflecting on specific research questions; (d) carrying out bibliographical research.

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

Informal formative feedback will be given on seminar presentations and discussions throughout the year. Students will be given the opportunity to write an unassessed practice commentary in the second semester, which will prepare them for the examination (comparative commentary). Written feedback will be given to the students on both the practice piece and on the assessed piece.

Methods of assessment

Assessment typeNotes% of formal assessment
Essay2500 words40.00
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)2 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: 08/05/2017


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