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The Politics of Archaic and Classical Greek Literature: New Mythologies of the Social


This module brings together several authors from archaic and classical Greece, surveyed chronologically but also thematically. It considers how we might think about the politics of literary production in the ancient world – not just in terms of content, but also and perhaps especially in terms of form.

How do texts do political work in the world? This is, fundamentally, a way into investigating the relationship between power and its modes of literary mediation/construction in ancient Greek texts.

How do we negotiate the nature of politics as an historical / historiographical / theoretical / literary-theoretical phenomenon?

How do we negotiate the relation between the politics of form and the politics of context, and what do we mean by these frames of reference?

The module focuses on the epic origins of political thought in the Iliad before moving on to choral lyric poetry. We then aim to assess these issues in the poetics of Athenian democracy, and in later fifth-century Greek historiography and rhetoric.


The module balances familiar authors and contexts against less familiar ones; and familiar ways of reading texts against less familiar ones.

Learning outcomes:

  • During this module, all students will:
  • acquire a broad knowledge of a variety of texts in a range of genres in which power is figured, mediated, and discussed;
  • gain an appreciation of the contributions of literary form to cultures of power and their assessment;
  • gain the ability, in detail, to situate literary texts in relation to broader cultural and ideological contexts.


Additionally, final-year students will:

  • develop the ability to set their findings into a wider comparative context, drawing in other aspects of the study of the ancient world;
  • engage creatively with a wider range of secondary literature that includes discussion of classical literature within broader comparative, including critical-theoretical, frames.

This module is available in 2023/24. It is a 15-Cats module, running from the start of term 2.

Module convenor:

Prof David Fearn