Skip to main content Skip to navigation

Space and Place in Ancient Greek Literature - Module Syllabus

cave, inside and outside, and journey


Week 1: Introduction to the module; terms, concepts and theoretical approaches;

Aims, outcomes and assessment; The spatial 'turn' in humanities and social sciences; Space, place and landscape in Greek literature and thought: terms, concepts and theoretical approaches Space in narrative; space and performance; space as metaphor

Week 2: The cosmos of Hesiod and cosmological speculations in Homer 

The mythical universe of Hesiod: the Theogony; myth, metaphor and space; the generation of the cosmos as space and as world order; Cosmic spaces in Homer

Week 3: Cosmos and space in the early Greek philosophers;

KOSMOS: Cosmology and cosmogony after Hesiod; early cosmological speculations; kosmos in the Presocratics from Ionia: Thales, Anaximander, Anaximenes; kosmos in Heraclitus and Empedocles

Week 4: Cosmos and metaphor; Images of the cosmos;

Journeys as cosmological metaphors; Circles and cycles; Weaving the kosmos; Cartography, cartographic imagination and literature; Space and Journeys in the Homeric Hymn to Apollo

Week 5: Preparing your presentations and practical criticisms;

Making effective presentations using texts and images; recording video presentations using Powerpoint; Some examples of past video presentations; Presentation topics; Practical criticisms: how to choose excerpts and how to prepare and present them

Week 6: Reading week; Students work on presentations and practical criticisms

Week 7: The underworld: Student presentations and seminar discussion;

Possible texts include: Homer Odyssey and Iliad; Hesiod, Theogony; Homeric Hymn to Demeter; Aristophanes, Frogs; Plato, Phaedo

Week 8: The sea and other waterscapes: Student presentations and discussion

Possible texts include: Homer Iliad 21; Odyssey passim; Selections from Hesiod, Theogony & Works and Days, Aeschylus, Persians; Pindar Pythian 4; Bacchylides 17;

Week 9: Mountains and Caves: Student presentations on mountains and caves in Greek poetry and/or philosophy;

Possible texts include: Selections from Hesiod, Works and Days; Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite; Aeschylus' Oresteia; Euripides' Ion; Euripides' Bacchae; Sophocles' Oedipus King & Women of Trachis; Plato Republic book 7, 514-20;

Week 10: Heavenly spaces and elements above: Student presentations and discussion. Possible texts include

Selections on wind imagery in Aeschylus' Oresteia; selections from Anaximander from earlier weeks; Hippocratic Airs, Waters, Places and On Breaths; Selections from Hesiod, Works and Days; Aristophanes, Clouds; Herodotus Histories; Aristotle Meteorologica)


Week 1: Liminality and liminal spaces;

Liminality as an anthropological concept; liminality in literature; Liminal spaces in Euripides' Trojan plays; Space and the liminality of Achilles in Homer's Iliad

Week 2: Body, cosmos and their boundaries;

Selections from the Hippocratic corpus (Airs Waters Places, and On Breaths; Aeschylus' Oresteia, Homer Iliad 21

  • The influence of the outside world on the inside of the body
  • The reflection of bodily interiors and their processes (including intellectual processes and emotions) on the outside world •The use of the body as metaphor for other spaces, including society and the cosmos (i.e. as microcosm)

Week 3: Space and gender [Lecture and Seminar];

Space and gender in religion, ritual and drama: a re-examination; private and public spaces; the house and the polis

Week 4: Nostos: a pervasive motif in Greek imagination; 

Nostoi: the motif of homecoming from archaic epic to Hellenistic literature. Texts include fragments of epic poetry; selections from Homer's Odyssey; Aeschylus' Oresteia; Sophocles, Trachiniae; Euripides, Heracles and Andromache; Apollonius Rhodius, Argonautica; 

Week 5: Greek Geography and geographers: the development of a science to the 3rd century

Week 6: Reading week (no class)

Week 7: The city of Athens in literature and imagination

Week 8: The city of Thebes: topography and ideology [Seminar]

Week 9: Staging the Oresteia: a collaborative workshop

Use what you have learnt throughout the year and apply space criticism to Aeschylus' trilogy with a view to staging it in 2021

Week 10: Space and travelling in Hellenistic poetry and in the Novel

Apollonius Rhodius and travelling; Urban spaces in Hellenistic literature Bucolic poetry and space


Week 1: Revision of Term 1 material

Week 2: Revision of Term 2 material

Week 3: Mock exam practice