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This module is studied entirely in translation. You are encouraged to read as many Greek tragedies and watch as many classics films as possible. There are numerous translations of tragedies. It is advisable to read as many different versions as possible - Penguin Classics, Oxford World Classics, Loeb Classical Library, etc.

You should read at least: Aeschylus' Oresteia; Sophocles' Oedipus Tyrannus and Antigone; and Euripides' Bacchae.

Photocopies of many texts examined in the course will be distributed to you throughout the year. You will need to buy the following texts:

  • Simon Goldhill (1986) Reading Greek Tragedy (Cambridge University Press)
  • Oscar Wilde (1891) The Picture of Dorian Gray [any full, unexpurgated edition]
  • Wole Soyinka The Bacchae of Euripides [any edition]
  • Athol Fugard, John Kani and Winston Ntshona (1993) The Township Plays (Oxford University Press)
  • Jean Anouilh (1942) Antigone. Methuen [or any full edition]
  • Jean-Paul Sartre (1943) The Flies. [any full edition]
  • Toni Morrison (1987) Beloved [any full are edition]
  • Edward Bulwer-Lytton's The Last Days of Pompeii (1834) [any unabridged edition]

DVDs of films can be borrowed from the university library and the module convenor.


Week One: Introduction to Module: Antiquity and Modernity

Week Two: (a) What is Reception Studies?

(b) Aristotle on tragedy.

Week Three: (a) Modern Theories of Tragedy

(b) Goldhill and Greek tragedy (Aeschylus' Oresteia)

Week Four: (a) Hegel: history, philosophy and tragedy (Sophocles' Antigone)

(b) Luce Irigaray: feminism and tragedy

Week Five: (a) Nietzsche's Birth of Tragedy (Euripides' Bacchae): HANDOUT

(b) Wagner's Greeks

Week Six: Reading Week

Week Seven: (a) Freud's Oedipus - The Interpretation of Dreams and The Dissolution of the Oedipus Complex (Sophocles' Oedipus Tyrannus)


Week Eight: (a) Jean-Pierre Vernant' "Oedipus without the Complex"


Week Nine: (a) Homosexuality, Performance and Greek Love: Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray (1891)

(b) Homosexuality and Tragedy: Wilde's De Profundis and Wilde (1997, dir. Brian Gilbert)

Week 10: Essay Returns


Week One: (a) Shakespearean Tragedy and Antiquity

(b) Racine, French Tragedy and Antiquity

Week Two (a) Tragedy and Nazism (1): Jean-Paul Sartre's Les Mouches

(b) Tragedy and Nazism (2): Jean Anouilh's Antigone

Week Three: (a) Classics, colonialism and postcolonialism: The Invention of Africa

(b) Postcolonial African Literature and the tragic

Week Four: (a) Wole Soyinka's The Bacchae of Euripides

(b) Athol Fugard's The Island

Week Five: (a) Classical Antiquity, the Victorians and Bulwer-Lytton's Last Days of Pompeii (1837)

Week Five: (b)) Introduction to Film Studies: Techniques and Theories

Week Six: Reading Week

Week Seven: (a) Classical Hollywood

(b) Antiquity, Spectacularity and Christianity: Ben Hur (1959)

Week Eight: Dissident Politics and Sexualities: Spartacus (1960)

Week Nine: Queer cinema: Sebastiane (1976) and Fellini's Satyricon

Week 10: Essay Returns


Weeks One and Two: Revision Sessions





Week Two (b) Aristotle on Tragedy.

Extract from Aristotle's Poetics in course booklet
Lear, J. (1988) Aristotle: The Desire to Understand (Cambridge), Part 1.

Week Three (a) Modern Theories of Tragedy (1)

Extract from Poole's Tragedy: A Very Short Introduction in course booklet
Extract from Eagleton's Sweet Violence in course booklet
Vernant, J-P. (1988) "The Tragic Subject: Historicity and Transhistoricity", in course booklet.

week three (b) Modern Theories of Tragedy (2)

READ: Aeschylus' Oresteia
Goldhill, S. (1986) Reading Greek Tragedy (Cambridge), chapters 1-3.
Goldhill, S. (2008) "Generalizing About Tragedy", pp.45-65 in R. Felski (ed.) Rethinking Tragedy (Baltimore)
Extract from Goldhill's How To Stage Greek Tragedy Today in course booklet
On the Enlightenment philosophical readings of tragedy: C. Rocco (1997) Tragedy and Enlightenment: Athenian Political Thought and the Dilemmas of Modernity (Berkeley/LA)

week four (A) hegel: history, philosophy and tragedy

READ: Sophocles' Antigone
Beistegui, M de (ed.) (2000) Philosophy and Tragedy (London), chapter one, "Hegel: or the Tragedy of Thinking"
Harris, H. S. (1997) Hegel's Ladder, Volume 2 (Indiapolis), pages 164-207
Krasnoff, L. (2008) Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit: An Introduction (Cambridge), chapter 8
Paolucci, A and Paolucci, H. (eds.) (1962) Hegel on Tragedy (New York), pages 260-73
Milss, P. J. (1998) "Hegel's Antigone", pages 243-71 in The Phenomenology of Spirit: Critical and Interpretive Essays, ed. J. Stewart
Shklar, J. (1971) "Hegel's Phenomenology: an Elegy for Hellas", pages 73-89 in Pelczynski (ed.) Hegel's Political Philosophy: Problems and Perspectives
Singer, P. (1983) Hegel Oxford
Steiner, G. (1984) Antigones: The Antigone Myth in Western Literature, Art and Thought (Oxford), pages 19-42
Stern, R. (2002) Routledge Philosophy Guidebook to Hegel and the Phenomenology of Spirit (London), chapter 5
See, of course, extract from Hegel in the course booklet
On German thought generally, an excellent, advanced introduction can be found in Terry Pinkard's German Philosophy 1760-1860: The Legacy of Idealism (Cambridge, 2002) - pages 214-246 are on Hegel and contextualise him within his historical moment.

week four (b) Feminist Theories of Tragedy

Extract from Irigaray in course booklet
Chanter, T. (1995) Ethics of Eros: Irigaray's Rewriting of the Philosophers (New York/London)
Moi, T. (1985) Sexual/Textual Politics (New York/London), pages 126-148 on Irigaray.
Extract from Butler in course booklet
Salih. S. (2002) Judith Butler (London)
Hoy, J. (2009) "Hegel, Antigone, and Feminist Critique: The Spirit of Ancient Greece", pages 173-189 in The Blackwell Guide to Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit, ed. K. Westphal.
Zayko, V. and M. Leonard (2006) Laughing with Medusa: Classical Myth and Feminist Thought (Oxford)


Week five (a) Nietzsche's Birth of Tragedy

READ: Euripides' Bacchae 
Extract from Nietzsche's Birth of Tragedy in course booklet
Nietzsche, F. (1999) The Birth of Tragedy and Other Writings (Cambridge), Introduction, pages vii-xxx (Raymond Geuss)
Porter, J. (1995) "Dionysus and the Platonic Midwife: Nietzsche's Birth of Tragedy" Journal of the History of Philosophy, 33.3, pp.467-97
Porter, J. (2000) The Invention of Dionysus. Stanford.
Silk, M. and L. Stern (1981) Nietzsche on Tragedy (Cambridge), pages 132-187
(chapter 4 is a summary of Nietsche's argument)
Riley, A. (2007) Nietzsche on Art (London), chapter 1.
Williamson, G. (2004) The Longing for Myth in Germany (Chicago), chapter 6
On the fin-de-siecle context see The Cambridge Companion to the Fin De Siecle, edited by Gail Marshall (2007)
Deathridge, John (2008) Wagner Beyond Good and Evil (Berkeley/Los Angeles)
Goldhill, Simon (2011) Victorian Culture and Classical Antiquity (Princeton)
Grey, T. S. (2008) The Cambridge Companion to Wagner (Cambridge)
Magee, Brian (2001) Wagner and Philosophy (London)
Owen, M. Lee (2003) Athena Sings: Wagner and the Greeks (Toronto)

week six - reading week


week seven (a) freud's Oedipus

READ: Sophocles' Oedipus Tyrannus
Extract from Freud's The Interpretation of Dreams and Introductory Lectures in course booklet.
Armstrong, R. (2005) The Compulsion for Antiquity: Freud and the Ancient World (Ithaca), chapter 3
Rudnytsky, P. (1987) Freud and Oedipus (New York), chapter 1.

week eight (a) jean-pierre vernant's "oedipus without the complex"

Leonard, M. (2005) "Oedipe et ses Mythes" [in English] from ibid. Athens in Paris (Oxford), pp.38-68
Vernant, J.-P. (1988) "Ambiguity and Reversal: On the Enigmatic Structure of Oedipus Rex", pp.113-140 in ibid. Myth and Tragedy in Ancient Greece


week nine (a) wilde and the tragedy of homosexuality

WATCH: Wilde (1997), directed by Brian Gilbert)
Wilde, O. (1905/1949) De Profundis (extract in course booklet)

week nine (b) wilde, the history of sexuality and dorian gray

Wilde, O. (1891) The Picture of Dorian Gray
The scholarly introductions in the Penguin Classics and Oxford World Classics editions are very helpful - both are in the library
Bartlett, N. (1993) Who Was That Man? A Present for Mr Oscar Wilde (Harmondsworth)
Bristow, J. (1992) "Wilde, Dorian Gray, and gross indecency, pp.44-63 in ibid. (ed.) Sexual Sameness (London and New York)
Cohen, E. (1992) Talk on the Wilde Side (London)
Ellmann, R. (1988) Oscar Wilde (Harmondsworth)
Foldy, M. (1997) The Trials of Oscar Wilde (London)
Foucault, M. (1984) The History of Sexuality, vol. 1 (extract in course booklet)
Raby, P. (ed.) (1997) The Cambridge Companion to Oscar Wilde (Cambridge)
Roden, R. (ed.) (2004) Palgrave Advances on Oscar Wilde Studies (Basingstoke)
Sedgwick, E. K. (1990) Epistemology of the Closet (extract in course booklet)
Sinfield, A. (1994) The Wilde Century (London)

week ten - essay returns


WEEK ONE - shakespearean tragedy, elizabethan literature, ancient rome and julius caesar

Anson, J. S. (1967) "Julius Caesar: The Politics of the Hardened Heart" Shakespeare Studies 2: 11-33
Baldwin, T. W. (1944) William Shakespere's Small Latine and Lesse Greeke (Urbana)
Barroll, J. L. (1958) "Shakespeare and Roman History" Modern Language Review 53: 327-43
Blits, J. S. (1981) "Manliness and Friendship in Shakespeare's Julius Caesar" Interpretation 9, 2-3: 155-67
Brower, R. (1971) Hero and Saint: Shakespeare and the Graeco-Roman Heroic Tradition (Oxford)
Cantor, P.A. (1976) Shakespeare's Rome: Republic and Empire (Ithaca)
Dollimore, J. (1984) Radical Tragedy (Chicago)
Fink, Z. S. (1962) The Classical Republicans: An Essay in the Recovery of a Pattern of Thought in Seventeenth-Century England (Evanston, IL)
Grafton, A. and Jardine, L. (1986) From Humanism to the Humanities: Education and the Liberal Arts in 15th and 16th Century Europe (Cambridge MA)
Hampton, T. (1990) Writing from History: The Rhetoric of Exemplarity in Renaissance Literature (Ithaca)
Jardine, L. and Grafton, A. (1990) "'Studied for Action': How Gabriel Harvey Read his Livy" Past and Present 129: 30-78.
Kahn, Coppelia. (1997) Roman Shakespeare: Warriors, Wounds and Women (London/New York)
Mallin, E. (1990) "Emulous Factions and the Collapse of Chivalry: Troilus and Cressida" Representations 29 (winter): 145-79
Martindale, Michelle and Charles. (1994) Shakespeare and the Uses of Antiquity (London)
Martindale, Charles and Taylor, A. B. (2000) Shakespeare and the Classics (Cambridge)
Miles, G. (1989) "How Roman Are Shakespeare's Romans?" Shakespeare Quarterly 40, 3: 257-83
Miola, R. S. (1983) Shakespeare's Rome (Cambridge)
Ong, W. J. (1959) "Latin Language Study as a Renaissance Puberty Rite" Studies in Philology 56: 93-110
Paster, G. K. (1989) "'In the spirit of men there is no blood': Blood as Trope of Gender in Julius Caesar", Shakespeare Quarterly 40,3: 284-98
Pitkin, H. F. (1984) Fortune Is A Woman: Gender and Politics in the Thought of Niccolo Machiavelli (Berkeley)
Poole, Adrian. (1987) Tragedy: Shakespeare and the Greek Example (Oxford)
Rebhorn, W. A. (1990) "The Crisis of the Aristocracy in Julius Caesar" Renaissance Quarterly 43, 1: 75-111
Ronan, C. (1995) "Antike Roman": Power, Symbology and the Roman Play in Early Modern England, 1585-1635 (Athens GA)
Smith, G. R. (1959) "Brutus, Virtue and Will" Shakespeare Quarterly 10,3: 367-79
Spencer, T. J. B. (1957) "Shakespeare and the Elizabethan Romans" Shakespeare Survey 10: 27-38
Stone, L. (1976) The Crisis of the Aristocracy 1558-1660, abridged edition (Oxford)
Thomas, V. (1989) Shakespeare's Roman Worlds (London/New York)
Traversi, D. A. (1963) Shakespeare: The Roman Plays (Stanford)
Velz, J. W. (1968) "'If I were Brutus now': Role-playing in Julius Caesar" Shakespeare Studies 4: 149-59
Velz, J. W. (1982) "Orator and Impersonator in Julius Caesar: Style and the Process of Roman History" Shakespeare Studies 15: 55-75
Whigham, F. (1984) Ambition and Privilege: The Social Tropes of Elizabethan Courtesy Theory (Berkeley)
Yates, F. A. (1975) "Elizabethan Chivalry: The Romance of the Accession Day Tilts", pages 88-111 in Astraea: The Imperial Theme in the Sixteenth Century (London)


Greenberg, Mitchell. (2009) Racine: From Ancient Myth to Tragic Modernity (Minnesota)

tragedy on the victorian and edwardian stage:

Richard, J. (2009) The Ancient World on the Victorian and Edwardian Stage (Basingstoke)

week two - tragedy and NAZISM

Fleming, K. (2006) "Fascism on Stage: Jean Anouilh's Antigone", pages 163-187 in Laughing With Medusa: Classical Myth and Feminist Thought, (eds.) V. Zajko and M. Leonard (Oxford).
Leonard, M. (2005) Athens in Paris: Ancient Greece and the Political in Post-War French Thought (Oxford), Epilogue (pages 216-231)
Miller, P. A. (2007) Postmodern Spiritual Practices: The Construction of the Subject and the Reception of Plato in Lacan, Derrida and Foucault (Columbus), chapter one, pages 27-60
Sen, K. (1999) Negotiating Modernity: Myth in the Theatre of Eliot, O'Neill and Sartre (Calcutta)
Thody, P. (1960) Jean-Paul Sartre (London)
Witt, M. A. F. (2001) The Search for Modern Tragedy: Aesthetic Fascism in Italy and France (Ithaca)
For more on Sartre, see:
Howells, C. (ed.) The Cambridge Companion to Sartre (Cambrdidge, 1992)
Leak, A. Sartre (London, 2006)
Morris, K. Sartre (Oxford, 2008)

weeks three and four - classics, colonialism and postcolonialism: the invention of africa

Ashcroft, B., G. Griffiths and H. Tiffin (eds.) (1989) The Empire Writes Back: Theory and Practice in Postcolonial Literature (London)
Bernal, M. (1988) Black Athena: The Afroasiatic Roots of Classical Civilization (Brunswick, N. J.), volume 1
Gilroy, P. (1993) The Black Atlantic: Modernity and Double Consciousness (London)
Goff, B. (2005) Classics and Colonialism (London)
Goff, B. and M. Simpson (2007) Crossroads in the Black Aegean: Oedipus, Antigone and Dramas of the African Diaspora (Oxford)
Gray S. (ed.) (1982) Athol Fugard (Johannesberg) (contains some interesting essays)
Hardwick, L. and C. Gillespie (eds.) (2007) Classics in Post-Colonial Worlds (Oxford) (contains several useful essays)
Kruger, L. (1992) The Drama of South Africa: Plays, Pageants, and Publics since 1910 (London)
Lazarus, N. (ed.) (2004) The Cambridge Companion to Postcolonial Literary Studies (Cambridge)
Mudimbe, V. J. (1988) The Invention of Africa: Gnosis, Philosophy and the Order of Knowledge (Bloomington)
Mudimbe, V. J. (1994) The Idea of Africa (Bloomington)
Okpewho, I. (1999) "Soyinka, Euripides, and the Anxiety of Empire" Research in African Literatures 30:32-55
Raji, W. (2005) "Africanizing Antigone: Postcolonial Discourse and Strategies of Indigenizing a Western Classic" Research in African Literatures 36.4:135-54
Reid, R. (2008) A History of Modern Africa from 1800 to the Present (Oxford)
Vasunia, P. (2005) "Greek, Latin, and the Indian Civil Service" The Cambridge Classical Journal: Proceedings of the Cambridge Philological Society, vol. 51, pp. 35–71.
Walder, D. (1984) Athol Fugard (Basingstoke)
Walder, D. (1992) "Resituating Fugard" New Theatre Quarterly 8.4, pages 343-60.
Wetheim. A. (2000) The Dramatic Art of Athol Fugard: From South Africa to the World (Bloomington)
Wetmore, K. (2002) The Athenian Sun in an African Sky (Jefferson)
Wetmore, K. (2003) Black Dionysos (Jefferson)
Young, R. (2001) Postcolonialism: An Historical Introduction (Oxford)
The African tragedies we are reading were written against the backdrop of the Nigerian civil war and Apartheid South Africa, so you will find these historical works helpful:
Falola, T. and Heaton, M. (2008) A History of Nigeria (Cambridge)
Price, R. (1991) The Apartheid State in Crisis: Political Transformation in South Africa, 1975-1991 (Oxford)
Walshe, P. (1971) The Rise of African Nationalism in South Africa: The African National Congress, 1912-1952 (Berkeley)
On Yael Farber's recent play Molora, and the politics of the Truth and Reconciliation Trial in South Africa see:

Cole, C. (2010) Performing South Africa’s Truth Commission: Stages of Transition. Bloomington/Indianapolis.
Farber, Y. (2008) Molora. London.
Farber, Y. Theatre As Witness: Three Testimonial Plays from South Africa. London.
Goff, B. and Simpson, M. (2007) Crossroads in the Black Aegean: Oedipus, Antigone, and Dramas of the African Diaspora. Oxford.
Hutchison, Y. (2005) ‘Truth or Bust: Consensualising a Historic Narrative or Provoking through Theatre. The Place of the Personal Narrative in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’, Contemporary Theatre Review 15.3: 354-62.
Orrells, D., Bhambra, G., and Roynon T. (2011) African Athena: New Agendas. Oxford: see Introduction.
Sanders, M. (2007) Ambiguities of Witnessing: Law and Literature in the Time of a Truth Commission. Stanford: Stanford University Press.
Parker, G. (2010) ‘Heraclitus on the Highveld: The Universalism (Ancient and Modern) of T. J. Haarhoff’, pp. 217-34 in S. A. Stephens and P. Vasunia (eds.) Classics and National Cultures, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Zyl Smit, B. van (2010) ‘Orestes and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’, Classical Receptions Journal 2.1: 114-135.

Molora is an adaption of Aeschylus's Oresteia, on which see:
Goldhill, S. (1984) Language, Sexuality, Narrative: the Oresteia. Cambridge.


weeks five to ten - the last days of pompeii, modern film and hollywood epic

On ancient and modern Christianity, ancient Rome and Victorian culture, including Bulwer-Lytton, see:

Goldhill, S. (2011) Victorian Culture and Classical Antiquity (Princeton)
Hales, S. and Paul, J. (eds.) (2011) Pompeii in the Public Imagination (Oxford) - contains chapters on Bulwer-Lytton

On modern film and Hollywood epic, see:

Babington, B. and P. W. Evans (1993), Biblical Epics: Sacred Narrative in the Hollywood Cinema (Manchester)
Bondanella, P. (1987), The Eternal City: Roman Images in the Modern World (Chapel Hill and London)
Cyrino, M. S. (2005) Big Screen Rome (Malden/Oxford)
Cyrino, M. (2008) Rome Season One: History Makes Television (Oxford)
Davis, N. Z. (2000) Slaves on Screen: Film and Historical Vision (Cambridge, Mass.) chapter 2.
Dyer, R. (1997) White (London), chapter 4.
Eldridge, D. (2006) Hollywood's History Films (London)
Elley, D. (1984) The Epic: Myth and History
Gunsberg, M. (2005) Italian Cinema: Gender and Genre (Basingstoke), chapter 3.
Hill, J. and Church P. (2000) Film Studies: Critical Approaches (Oxford)
Hughes-Warrington, M. (2007) History Goes to the Movies (London)
Joshel, S. et al. (2001) Imperial Projections: Rome in Modern Popular Culture (Baltimore)
MacDonald, M. (1983) Euripides in Cinema: the Heart Made Visible (Philadelphia)
McKinnon, K. (1986) Greek Tragedy into Film
Mayer, D. (1994), Playing Out the Empire: “Ben Hur” and Other Toga Plays and Films, 1883-1908 (Oxford)
Mulvey, L (1975) ‘Visual pleasure and narrative cinema’, Screen 1975 — reprinted in e.g. Constance Penley (edd.) (1988) Feminism and Film Theory, which also includes her important ‘Afterthoughts’ follow-up article.
Nisbet, G. (2006) Ancient Greece in Film and Popular Culture (Bristol)
Russell, J. (2007) The Historical Epic and Contemporary Hollywood (London)
Solomon, J. (2001) The Ancient World in the Cinema (New Haven)
Winkler, M. (ed.) (2007) Troy: From Homer’s Iliad to Hollywood Epic (Malden/Oxford)
Winkler, M. (ed.) (2001) Classical Myth and Culture in the Cinema (Oxford)
Winkler, M. (ed.) (1991) Classics and Cinema (Lewisburg)
Winkler, M. (ed.) (2004) Gladiator: Film and History (Oxford)
Winkler, M. (2009) Cinema and Classical Texts: Apollo's New Light (Cambridge)
Wyke, M. (1997) Projecting the Past: Ancient Rome, Cinema and History (London)
Wyke, M. (1997) "Herculean Muscle! The Classicizing Rhetoric of Bodybuilding" Arion 4.3
You will also find it helpful to look at James Russell: The Historical Epic (London), 2007; Barry Salt: Film Style and Technology: History and Analysis, (Starword), 1992; David Bordwell, Janet Staiger and Kristin Thompson: The Classical Hollywood Cinema, (London), 1985; Pierre Sorlin: European Cinemas, European Societies 1939-1990, (London), 1991.


Bondanella, P. (1992) The Cinema of Federico Fellini (Princeton) - chapter on "Fellini's Satyricon"
Burke, F. and M. Waller (ed.) (2002) Federico Fellini: Emerging Perspectives (Toronto)
Joshel, S., M. Malamud and D. McGuire (2001) Imperial Projections:Ancient Rome in Modern Popular Culture (Baltimore) - see chapter by Wyke on "Sebastiane"
Jezich, T. (2007) Federico Fellini: His Life and Work (London)