MA Classics and Ancient History

Year of entry: 2023

Course unit details:
Approaching Women in Greek Tragedy

Course unit fact file
Unit code CAHE60031
Credit rating 15
Unit level FHEQ level 7 – master's degree or fourth year of an integrated master's degree
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Offered by Classics, Ancient History, Archaeology & Egyptology
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


Since the 2nd century AD, scholars and critics have been discussing ways of interpreting the fascinating and prominent female characters of Greek Tragedy. With the advent of Feminist scholarship to Classics, this discussion has branched into a variety of particularly fruitful scholarly approaches. This course will introduce students to some of those approaches, and the readings of tragedies which have resulted from them. Students will read and discuss a range of tragedies from the works of Aeschylus, Euripides, and Sophocles, and consider how successful critical approaches have been in generating new understanding of the female characters found within them.



  • To introduce students to a range of tragedies by the three major tragedians.
  • To explore some of the most influential approaches to studying women in these tragedies

Knowledge and understanding

  • To gain knowledge of a range of tragedies by the three major tragedians.
  • To gain broad understanding of the history (especially recent) of the study of women in Greek tragedy
  • To develop an understanding of how new research approaches are developed and can be critically judged.
  • To develop the ability to generate interpretations of tragedies which show awareness of the influence of critical approaches, as well as independent judgements.

Intellectual skills

  • Further develop written and verbal communication skills.
  • The ability to assimilate and summarise large quantities of evidence, and to engage critically and analytically with this evidence.
  • The ability to conduct independent research, and to present the results in a professional manner with appropriate and detailed reference to sources and modern published scholarship.
  • The ability to judge and analyse particular research approaches, as a precursor to the development of an independent approach in the MA dissertation work.

Practical skills

  • Time-management.
  • The ability to engage in critical discussion and debate.
  • The ability to work co-operatively with other students.

Transferable skills and personal qualities

  • The ability to retrieve information from complex sources and present it in a compelling and cogent fashion, as exemplified by engaging at a sophisticated level with difficult primary and secondary material.
  • Improved abilities to engage in independent research and analysis.
  • Development of presentation and discussion skills (including confidence) through discussion of topics in class. 

Employability skills

The course involves a large number of important employment skills, most notably an ability to analyse and examine complex information, an ability to synthesise an argument in a cogent form, the ability to retrieve information from complex sources and present it in a compelling and cogent fashion.

Assessment methods

Book Review 0%
Essay 100%


Feedback methods

Feedback method

Formative or Summative

Written feedback

Formative and Summative

Class discussion, oral feedback



Recommended reading

  • Foley, Helene Peet. 1981. ‘The Concept of Women in Athenian Drama’. In Foley, Helene Peet. Reflections of Women in Antiquity, 127–68. Gordon & Breach Science Publ.
  • Seidensticker, Bernd. 1995. ‘Women on the Tragic Stage’. In B. Goff. History, Tragedy, Theory. Austin: University of Texas Press. 151–73.
  • Wohl, Victoria 2005. ‘Tragedy and Feminism’. In Bushnell, Rebecca. A Companion to Tragedy.  Oxford, UK: Blackwell Publishing Ltd. 145–60
  • Zeitlin, F. I. 1990. ‘Playing the Other¿: Theater, Theatricality, and the Feminine in Greek Drama’. In Winkler, J. & Zeitlin, F. Nothing to do with Dionysos? Athenian Drama in its social context. Princeton: Princeton University Press. 63–96.

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Practical classes & workshops 3
Project supervision 3
Seminars 14
Independent study hours
Independent study 130

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Emma Griffiths Unit coordinator

Additional notes

  • Classes and seminars (14 hours)
  • Introductory and essay-planning sessions (3 hours)
  • 3 dedicated consultation hours.
  • Possibility of trip to see a tragedy in performance (with associated discussion) (Subject to government health and safety rules in place)

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