BA Politics and Modern History / Course details

Year of entry: 2020

Course unit details:
The Odyssey

Unit code CLAH10101
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 1
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Offered by Classics & Ancient History
Available as a free choice unit? Yes

Overview

The Odyssey is one of the earliest and greatest works of Western literature. It tells of the struggles of Odysseus, one of the heroes of the Iliad, to achieve his nostos (return home), and of his struggles once home to re-establish himself as father, husband and leader on Ithaca. Composed in circumstances still largely unclear, the poem combines heroic saga with folklore and sailors’ tales, comedy with pathos, and an astonishing range of theme and scale, from the magical and the grandiose to small-scale domestic and touchingly human concerns. This course-unit, which assumes no previous knowledge of Greek literature, familiarises students with the intricacies of this complex text, with how it functions as a work of literature, and with some modern critical responses to it. Topics studied include: the nature of oral poetry and the circumstances of the poem’s composition; characteristics of ancient epic and the architecture of the Odyssey; the characterisation of a Homeric hero, and of the principal men, women and gods in the Odyssey; the recurring themes of identity, hospitality and recognition; and the morality of the poem.

All students will read and study the Odyssey in its entirety in translation.  Students taking the course in Greek will read in the original extracts from books 6, 7 and 8, and cover slightly less tutorial material overall.

Pre/co-requisites

Pre-requisites: 
Non-linguists: none; Linguists: (at least) A-level/CLAH30162 Intensive Greek 2 or equivalent (higher is fine).

Co-requisites:
Non-linguists: none; Linguists: (at least) CLAH30120 Advanced Greek 1 or equivalent (higher is fine).

Aims

This course aims to:

  • introduce students to the study of ancient Greek literature;
  • introduce students to a key poem in the history of Western literature, and enable them to engage with it critically and intelligently;
  • enable the appreciation of the main relevant lines of criticism on the poem;
  • give students an appreciation of the importance and influence of the Odyssey on later literature.

Syllabus

The Odyssey is one of the earliest and greatest works of Western literature. It tells of the struggles of Odysseus, one of the heroes of the Iliad, to achieve his nostos (return home), and of his struggles once home to re-establish himself as father, husband and leader on Ithaca. Composed in circumstances still largely unclear, the poem combines heroic saga with folklore and sailors’ tales, comedy with pathos, and an astonishing range of theme and scale, from the magical and the grandiose to small-scale domestic and touchingly human concerns. This course-unit familiarises students with the intricacies of this complex text, with how it functions as a work of literature, and with some modern critical responses to it. Topics studied include: the nature of oral poetry and the circumstances of the poem’s composition; characteristics of ancient epic and the architecture of the Odyssey; the characterisation of a Homeric hero, and of the principal men, women and gods in the Odyssey; the recurring themes of identity, hospitality and recognition; and the morality of the poem.

All students will read and study the Odyssey in its entirety in translation.  Students taking the course in Greek will read in the original extracts from books 6, 7 and 8, and cover slightly less tutorial material overall.

This course assumes no previous knowledge of Greek literature. 

Teaching and learning methods

  • 2 x 1 hour lectures per week;
  • 1 x 1 hour seminar per week;
  • 1 dedicated consultation hour per week.
  • Blackboard: course unit bibliography, tutorial readings, course unit schedule, relevant announcements, lecture handouts, and other supporting materials.

Teaching and learning take place through plenary lectures and small-group tutorials. The lectures provide a broad framework by introducing students to major themes and problems and showing how they can be further investigated. The tutorials require students to prepare selected topics in advance for concentrated and detailed discussion, to which they are all expected to contribute. Tutorial tasks are formatively but not summatively assessed.

This course-unit introduces students to their first experience of reading ancient Greek literature at university. Many characteristics and features of the Odyssey are unusual and unfamiliar, so the course gradually builds the necessary skills and concepts for tackling such a poem. These skills and concepts are developed throughout the course-unit through tutorial tasks which include passages from the primary text for translation and/or commentary, the critical assessment of secondary literature and the preparation of a range of tutorial tasks. In addition to the summatively assessed coursework there is also a formatively assessed piece of coursework (submitted electronically) on which the students will receive written feedback, before they attempt the first piece of summatively assessed coursework.

Knowledge and understanding

By the end of this course students will be able to:

  • show a knowledge and critical understanding of the content, form, conventions, and background of one of the key works of Western literature; 
  • show an appreciation of some aspects of the nature of poetry composed in an oral tradition;
  • show an understanding of the significance for later literature of the Odyssey.

Intellectual skills

By the end of this course students will be able to:

  • show the ability to respond thoughtfully to a difficult and complex text, and to comment critically upon it.

Practical skills

By the end of this course students will be able to:

  • engage in critical discussion and debate.

Transferable skills and personal qualities

By the end of this course students will be able to demonstrate improvements to:

  • verbal and written expression;
  • the organisation of personal study;
  • use of IT resources.

Employability skills

Analytical skills
The course involves a large number of important employment skills, most notably an ability to analyse and examine a large amount of often difficult information, an ability to see both sides of an argument, the 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

Method Weight
Written exam 50%
Written assignment (inc essay) 50%

Feedback methods

  • Written feedback on formative and summative assessment (see above); all summative coursework feedback is designed to contribute formatively towards improvement in subsequent assignments. Students are encouraged to seek formative feedback ahead of the first assignment of the unit by discussing work plans and approaches during seminars (where appropriate) and in consultation hours.
  • Additional one-to-one feedback (during the consultation hour or by making an appointment).

Recommended reading

Set Texts

  • Non-linguists: Hammond, Martin, Homer: The Odyssey. Duckworth 2000
  • Linguists (in addition): F. Garvie (ed.), Homer, Odyssey, Books VI-VIII, Cambridge 1994

Additional reading:

  • Griffin, J. (1980). Homer (Past Masters). Oxford
  • Griffin, J. (1987).  Homer. The Odyssey. Cambridge
  • Jones, P. (1988) Homer’s Odyssey: A Companion to the English Translation of Richmond Lattimore. Bristol
  • Rutherford, R. B. (1996). Homer (Greece & Rome New Surveys, 26). Oxford
  • Schein, S. (ed.) (1996). Reading the Odyssey: Selected Interpretive Essays. Princeton

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Assessment written exam 2
Lectures 22
Seminars 11
Tutorials 11
Independent study hours
Independent study 154

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Emma Griffiths Unit coordinator

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