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Study information

Ancient Drama in its Social and Cultural Context

Module titleAncient Drama in its Social and Cultural Context
Module codeCLAM111
Academic year2019/0
Module staff

Dr Nicolo' D'Alconzo (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Module description

This module examines a series of key topics in the study of Greek and Roman drama. It studies in depth a number of Greek and Roman tragedies and comedies, and explores the relationship between the plays and the social and cultural context in which they were first produced.

Module aims - intentions of the module

  • To enable you to study in depth some of the surviving works of Greek and Roman drama and to reflect critically and independently on the interrelationship between ancient drama and the society and culture in which it was produced. In particular, the module aims to guide you to strike a balance between detailed knowledge of the primary material (e.g. the plays) and analysis of the conceptual issues raised by scholarship.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 1. On completing this module, you will have developed an enhanced degree of expertise in reading and interpreting the range of surviving ancient plays and in understanding and evaluating critical responses to those plays
  • 2. Have developed knowledge and understanding of selected topics and issues in ancient drama – particularly the ways ancient drama is related to its social and cultural context
  • 3. Evaluate critically and use a range of theoretical approaches to ancient drama

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 4. Have practised working with their instructor and peers in an independent, constructive and responsive manner
  • 5. Have developed skills in evaluating scholarly approaches to ancient material, and in developing your own readings and interpretations

ILO: Personal and key skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 6. Have enhanced your ability to think independently and analytically on the basis of primary sources and secondary literature
  • 7. Have developed bibliographical skills, applied the latest forms of information retrieval, and practised word-processing and oral presentation skills
  • 8. Have enhanced your ability to construct, present and defend a sustained argument, both in written form and orally
  • 9. Have practised working with your instructor and peers in an independent, constructive and responsive manner

Syllabus plan

The seminars will explore key topics in the study of ancient drama through discussion of specific case-studies. They will also include an in depth exploration of individual plays. Whilst the content may vary from year to year, it is envisioned that it will cover some or all of the following topics:

Indicative list of topics:

  • Structural patterns of ancient drama
  • Production and performance
  • Drama and myth
  • Drama and religion
  • Drama, society and politics

Indicative list of plays:

  • Aeschylus, Agamemnon, Libation-bearers, Eumenides
  • Sophocles, Ajax, Electra
  • Euripides, Medea, Electra, Helen
  • Aristophanes, Wasps, Frogs
  • Menander, The Bad-tempered Man, Men at Arbitration
  • Plautus, Two Bacchises. Terence, The Eunuch

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled learning and teaching15Intensive seminar and reading group teaching
Guided independent study135Working independently and in groups in preparation for seminars and essays

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Close study of primary texts and of secondary material in preparation for class and in class; small group presentations on primary texts under discussion; whole class discussions and debatesOngoing1-9Oral feedback

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Essay804000 words1-9Mark; written and oral comments
Oral presentation2020 minutes1-9Mark; written and oral comments

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
EssayEssay1-9Referral/Deferral period

Re-assessment notes

Deferral – if you miss an assessment for certificated reasons judged acceptable by the Mitigation Committee, you will normally be either deferred in the assessment or an extension may be granted. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of deferral will not be capped and will be treated as it would be if it were your first attempt at the assessment.

Referral – if you have failed the module overall (i.e. a final overall module mark of less than 50%) you will be required to submit a further assessment as necessary. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of referral will be capped at 50%.

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Primary texts (indicative recommended translations):

  • Aeschylus: A. Sommerstein’s translations for the Loeb Classical Library (2008).
  • Sophocles: H. Lloyd-Jones’ translations for the Loeb Classical Library (1994-1996).
  • Euripides: J. Davie’s translations for the Penguin Classics series (1998-2006); or J. Morwood’s translations for the Oxford World's Classics series (1997-99).
  • Aristophanes: J. Henderson’s translations for the Loeb Classical Library (1998-2007).
  • Menander: M. Balme, Menander: The Plays and Fragments, with introduction by P. Brown (Oxford 2001).
  • Plautus: W. de Melo’s translations for the Loeb Classical Library (2011-13).           
  • Terence: P. Brown, Terence: The Comedies (Oxford 2006).

Secondary bibliography (indicative basic reading):

Introductory works:

  • P. E. Easterling and B. Knox (eds), The Cambridge History of Greek Literature: I, Greek Literature (Cambridge 1985), chapters 10-12.
  • H. Sommerstein, Greek Drama and Dramatists (London 2002).
  • C. Storey and A. Allan, A Guide to Ancient Greek Drama (Malden 2005).

Also the essays in:

  • P. E. Easterling (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Greek Tragedy (Cambridge 1997).
  • J. Gregory (ed.), A Companion to Greek Tragedy (Malden 2005).
  • G.W. Dobrov (ed.), Brill’s Companion to the Study of Greek Comedy (Leiden 2010).
  • M. Fontaine and A. Scafuro (eds), Oxford Handbook of Greek and Roman Comedy (Oxford 2014).
  • M. Revermann (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Greek Comedy (Cambridge 2014).

More specialised preparatory reading:

  • M. Bowie, Aristophanes: Myth, Ritual and Comedy (Cambridge 1993).
  • S. Goldhill, Reading Greek Tragedy (Cambridge 1986).
  • R. L. Hunter, The New Comedy of Greece and Rome (Cambridge 1985).
  • D. J. Mastronarde, The Art of Euripides: Dramatic Technique and Social Context (Cambridge 2010).
  • B. R. Pelling, Greek Tragedy and the Historian (Oxford 1997).
  • W. Pickard-Cambridge, The Dramatic Festivals of Athens (3rd ed. Cambridge 1988, rev. J. Gould and D. M. Lewis).
  • R. A. S. Seaford, Reciprocity and Ritual: Greek Tragedy in the Developing City-State (Oxford 1994).
  • M. S. Silk (ed.), Tragedy and the Tragic (Oxford 1996).
  • Sourvinou-Inwood, Tragedy and Athenian Religion (Lanham 2003).
  • O. Taplin, Greek Tragedy in Action (London 1978).
  • J. J. Winkler and F. I. Zeitlin (eds), Nothing to do with Dionysus? Athenian Drama in its Social Context (Princeton 1990).

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Key words search

drama, tragedy, comedy, Greek, Roman

Credit value15
Module ECTS


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