BA Latin and Italian / Course details

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
The Odyssey

Course unit fact file
Unit code CAHE10101
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 1
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


The Odyssey is one of the earliest and greatest works of Western literature. It tells of the toils 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-requisite units

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

Co-requisite units

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



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 some appreciation of the influence of the Odyssey on later art and literature.

Learning outcomes



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, seminar readings, course unit schedule, relevant announcements, lecture handouts, and other supporting materials.

Teaching and learning take place through plenary lectures and small-group seminars. The lectures provide a broad framework by introducing students to major themes, questions, and problems, and by showing how they can be further investigated. The seminars require students in advance to research and prepare answers to specific questions, for focused discussion together, to which all are expected to contribute. Seminar tasks are formatively but not summatively assessed.

This course-unit introduces students to their first experience of reading ancient Greek literature at university. Many features and characteristics of the Odyssey are alien to modern readers, so the course gradually builds the necessary concepts and skills for approaching and appreciating such a poem. These skills and concepts are developed throughout the course-unit through seminar tasks which include passages from the primary text for commentary, the critical assessment of secondary literature, and the preparation of answers to specific questions. Prior to the first piece of summatively assessed coursework, students do a practice piece (submitted electronically) on which they receive formative written feedback.

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 foundational 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:

  • respond thoughtfully to a difficult and complex text;
  • comment critically on the text and alternative approaches to it.

Practical skills

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

  • engage better in critical discussion and debate;
  • use IT resources in more various ways.

Transferable skills and personal qualities

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

  • their verbal and written expression;
  • the organisation of their private study.

Employability skills

The course involves a range of important employability skills, notably the ability to examine and analyse a large amount of often difficult information, the ability to understand both sides of an argument, the ability to synthesise an argument clearly and cogently, the ability to retrieve information from various sources, and to present it concisely and lucidly.

Assessment methods

Method Weight
Other 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 (available as ebook)
  • Linguists (in addition): F. Garvie (ed.), Homer, Odyssey, Books VI-VIII, Cambridge 1994

Additional reading:

  • 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
  • Said, Suzanne. 2011. Homer and the Odyssey. 2nd Edition. Oxford.
  • Schein, S. (ed.) (1996). Reading the Odyssey: Selected Interpretive Essays. Princeton

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 22
Tutorials 11
Independent study hours
Independent study 167

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Julene Abad Unit coordinator

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