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This module looks at the obsession with the ancient world in modern theatre and cinema. The study of the classical tradition in the modern world has become a significant area of scholarship, and this module aims to introduce students to this popular and accessible aspect of Classical Reception Studies. It is indeed impossible to study the ancient world without an appreciation of the dense history of interpretations brought to bear to that world. "Antiquity" only "exists" as such, or is reifiable, in relation to (a) "modernity." This module interrogates what we mean by "the classical tradition" and what it means to "appropriate" classical texts and visual culture. Students will survey several key aspects of modern engagement with the ancient Mediterranean to ask:

  • What does it mean to claim that ancient drama can be brought back to life?
  • Is Greek tragedy a historical or transhistorical phenomenon?
  • What does it mean to think about the "tragic" with and without Aristotle?
  • How has the reception of tragedy enabled and disenabled feminist politics?
  • What can Greek tragedy teach us about our desires and sexualities?
  • Can tragedy be political in the twentieth century? Is it a fascist or anti-fascist institution?
  • What does it mean to translate Greek tragedy?
  • What does it mean to translate Greek tragedy into African and postcolonial contexts?
  • Is modern cinema a good teacher of ancient history?
  • How does Hollywood moralise about Christianity in its films?
  • Is Hollywood classical epic a radical critique or a conservative pillar of twentieth-century American values?
  • Does European art-house cinema offer a more truthful or more surreal understanding of the ancient world? Indeed was the ancient world always already surreal?