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Approaching Ancient Texts: Methodologies, Theories and Practice

This module, which takes the form of a weekly seminar, explores a range of methodologies and approaches used in the study of ancient texts in their cultural and political contexts. The module also aims to provide specialist training in conducting research at postgraduate level, allowing students to develop the expertise required to continue to doctoral study should they wish to. Students will be able to significantly enhance the knowledge and skills acquired at undergraduate level, and to develop their own ideas and projects in a supportive and stimulating environment. The first four, two-hour seminar sessions of the term are dedicated to research methods, techniques, tools and resources, and to skills in written and oral presentation of research, and will involve workshops and group discussion. In the remaining sessions, which require specific reading and preparation, we investigate a particular theme, idea, debate or theory that informs or has shaped an area of modern classical scholarship of ancient texts. Examples include ‘intertextuality and the dialogic’; ‘historicisms old and new’; ‘the unconscious’; ‘paratext’; ‘phonocentrism’; ‘exemplarity’; ‘postcolonialisms’; ‘the law’; ‘ideology’; ‘redemption’; ‘performativity’; ‘absence’. Students will be asked to give regular short presentations throughout the term, and to write an assessed 5,000 word essay. The module runs in the first term of the MA, and is followed in term 2 by the optional core modules ‘Roman Literature and Thought’ and ‘Greek Literature and Thought’, which will further develop, apply and put into practice the techniques and methodologies studied here.

By the end of this module students should expect to have:

  • acquired advanced knowledge of, and ability to use, the latest research resources and tools available to classicists;
  • acquired a detailed, interdisciplinary understanding of a range of methodologies and approaches to the study of ancient texts within their historical, cultural and political contexts;
  • acquired a detailed knowledge of, and ability to analyse, a wide range of contemporary scholarship on ancient texts;
  • developed a nuanced understanding of how critical theory has been used and interpreted by classicists from the early 20th century to the present;
  • developed into autonomous researchers with the skills and expertise required to produce professionally laid out papers, develop extended scholarly arguments, and to give confident, well-organised and fluent presentations.

Module Convenors:

Dr. David Fearn

Professor Victoria Rimell


This module is worth 30 CATS.