An interest in the culture of some of the most influential societies of all time is crucial to this course. An ability to engage with some of the most fascinating thoughts, texts and works of Art ever produced, combined with an eagerness to explore societies far removed but also strangely familiar to our own, will be invaluable when approaching this subject. Good essay writing skills are also required.
This is a reformed A Level course with three discrete units of study. These units will involve study of both ancient Greece and Rome.
Unit 1: The World of the Hero.
Within this unit you will explore two of the key texts that stand at the pinnacle of the Western literary tradition. We will study either Homer’s Iliad or Odyssey AND Virgil’s Aeneid. Within our study of the Homer text we will investigate the key features of epic poetry including the characterisation of gods, monsters and heroes. We will also examine what the poem reveals about ancient world’s attitudes to war, slaves, women and civilisation itself. Virgil’s great epic of Rome’s mythical foundation and imperial destiny is examined as a product of the emerging political and social regime of the first Emperor Augustus and is also compared thematically with our Homeric text.
Unit 2: Invention of the Barbarian OR Greek Theatre
Invention of the Barbarian
This unit will explore ancient Greek ideas of identity, race and the creation of an inferior Other: the “barbarian”. These ancient issues of race and stereotype have cast a huge shadow over the “West’s” understanding of the “East” and so will encourage students to think about their own society and beliefs. We will examine how and if a Greek identity was created during the Persian Wars. We then study the Persian Empire itself to question how far the Greek stereotype of the Persians was based on fact or prejudice. We will also undertake a study of mythological “barbarians”, especially the Greek fascination with the Amazon female warrior race. Students will engage in a close analysis of literary and artistic material which will provide them with a hugely exciting course of study.
Arguably, the modern world’s greatest inheritance from the ancients is found in the world of theatre and drama. In this course we will explore the origins and practice of theatre in ancient Athens and also study three plays in detail. When reading Oedipus the King we will engage with the earliest detective story and most terrible of tragedies. The Bacchae focuses on the power of the god, Dionysus and the great suffering inflicted on those who doubt his divinity. In Frogs we explore an ancient comedy which combines surreal fantasy with hard hitting satire.
Unit 3: Love and Relationships
This unit will combine an examination of ancient ideas about the nature of love, desire and relationships. In addition to exploring love and marriage in everyday life in Greece and Rome, we will study both Greek and Roman literature and philosophy. The study of the lyric poetry of Sappho, one of the few female voices we have from the ancient world, will provide us with some of the most intense love poems ever composed, while when we turn to Ovid’s Art of Love we will find a scurrilously hilarious guide to seduction. A more conceptual appreciation of both hetero and homosexual love and desire will be explored in our study of Plato and Seneca.
6/above in English Literature.