BA Archaeology and History / Course details

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
From Cloud Cuckoo Land to Atlantis: Utopian thinking in the Ancient World

Course unit fact file
Unit code CAHE20142
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 2
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Available as a free choice unit? Yes

Overview

Imagining ‘other’ worlds and ‘perfect’ societies is one of the many activities that links our modern world to antiquity. This course considers some of the many ‘utopias’ developed by ancient authors, from ‘Cloud Cuckoo Land’ in Aristophanes’ comedy, to Plato’s ‘Republic’, to Lucian’s account of life on the moon. We will consider why these authors and philosophers chose to imagine other worlds and how they expected their ideas to affect this world. We will also look at the influence of ancient utopian thinking on modern political thought and make comparisons with utopian ideas found in cultures beyond Greece and Rome.

Aims

  • to introduce students to the nature and purpose of utopian thinking
  • to introduce students to the wide range of utopian thinking found in ancient Greece and other cultures
  • to introduce students to a representative comparative sample of texts written by Greek and other authors
  • to encourage students to reflect on the influence of ancient utopian thinking on modern political and literary thought
  • to enable students to discuss political and cultural alternatives with confidence and critical insight

Knowledge and understanding

By the end of this course unit, students will:

  • have read and discussed a wide range of examples of utopian thought from ancient Greece and other cultures
  • have come to understand the variety and complexity of purpose and presentation of utopian thought
  • have critically evaluated a variety of examples of ‘utopia’
  • have come to understand the influence of ancient utopian thinking on modern thought

Intellectual skills

By the end of this course unit, students will

  • have developed their ability to critically evaluate political and cultural alternatives
  • have developed their ability to compare and contrast different political and utopian suggestions
  • have learned the value of considering suggestions with which they disagree
  • have developed their ability to recognise the influence of the ancient world and its reception in modern political thinking and literature

Practical skills

By the end of this course units, students will

  • have improved their ability to produce written summaries of their analysis
  • have improved their ability to participate in robust, critical discussion of ideas
  • have improved their ability to engage with material unfamiliar to them from across a range of genres
  • have developed their ability to produce poster presentations, condensing complex ideas into accessible summaries

Transferable skills and personal qualities

By the end of this course units, students will

  • have improved their ability to produce written summaries of analyses of texts and ideas
  • have improved their confidence in participating in group discussions
  • have improved their ability to adapt to a wide range of unfamiliar ideas and recognize connections between them

Assessment methods

Assessment task

Formative or Summative Weighting within unit (if summative)
Text analysis Formative

n/a 

Poster

Summative 50%

Coursework essay

Summative 50%

 

Resit Assessment

Assessment task

Coursework essay

Feedback methods

Feedback method

Formative or Summative

Written feedback on Text Analysis

Formative

Written feedback on summative assessments

Formative and Summative

Oral feedback in lectures, seminars and office hours

Formative

Recommended reading

  • Plato Republic, Laws, Timaeus-Critias
  • Lucian True History
  • Homer Odyssey
  • Aristophanes Birds
  • Utopias in Ancient Thought (2021) edited by P. Destrée, J. Opsomer, and G. Roskam
  • The Concept of Utopia (1990) R. Levitas

Study hours

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

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Jenny Bryan Unit coordinator

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