What you will study
The module consists of an introduction and four main blocks.
In the first two blocks the main emphasis is on obtaining knowledge of a specific range of myths and mythical characters and their function, and on critical analysis of the presentation of myths in a variety of sources, such as history, poetry, drama and art.
The later blocks add more detailed analysis of poetry and its very influential reception in medieval and Renaissance poetry and visual art. In the final block, philosophy is added to the range of sources to be studied and analysed.
As the module progresses, you are expected to develop a degree of independence in learning to the extent that you are able to complete independent analyses using the skills you have learned in the course of your study, leading to a project-type essay at the end of the module.
The module content is as follows:
In a short introduction, we ask basic questions like ‘What is myth?’, and ‘Why Greek and Roman myth?’ There are sections on ‘catch-up’ reading for those unfamiliar with classical antiquity, learning outcomes and the basic structure of the module. This leads to a ‘taster’ that introduces you to the mythical narrative of the Roman poet Ovid, and how the famous myth of the Fall of Icarus is represented in Renaissance and modern art and poetry.
Block 1: The myth of Hippolytus and Phaedra
In this block you'll trace the development of a particularly influential myth through the Greek and Roman worlds. This is the myth of the Greek youth Hippolytus, whose tragic fate is explored through the contrasted presentations of a range of sources from Greek drama to Roman and early Christian art. This block concludes with a study of the cult of Hippolytus at Nemi near Rome and the famous treatment by Sir James Frazer in the Golden Bough.
Block 2: Myth in Rome: power, life and afterlife
In this block you'll concentrate on how myths of origin and power functioned in the Roman Empire. You investigate the role of myth in the validation of Roman imperial rule, and how myth related to history. At the other end of the social scale, you explore how myth impacted on everyday life and related to Roman attitudes to death.
Block 3: Ovid and the reception of myth
In this block you'll focus on Ovid’s Metamorphoses as a key source for the literary interpretation of Greek and Roman myth. There is close reading of selected sections from this seminal poem, with a concentration on different types of interpretation. This includes recent scholarship and with reference to its influence in medieval and Renaissance reception in literature and visual art, in particular looking at allegorical interpretation of the classical myths.
Block 4: Myth and reason
In this block you'll examine the relations and tensions between ‘mythical’ and ‘rational’ thought in Greek culture. Starting with origins, i.e. how the world began, this block progresses to consideration of emerging rational and scientific modes of thought. This is principally in the Presocratic philosophers and in Hippocratic medicine, of the sixth to fourth centuries BCE and then progressing to a consideration of how human life ends, i.e. myths of the afterlife in Mystery religion and the philosopher Plato.
You will learn
By studying this module you will:
- gain an in-depth knowledge of a specific range of myths and mythical characters, and learn to consider how myths function in a range of contexts, historical, social and cultural
- study and analyse the presentation of myths in a variety of sources – such as poetry, drama, history, philosophy, art, architecture and archaeology – evaluating the context of the evidence and how different contexts may relate to each other
- develop the ability to write a well thought-out analysis of texts/artistic representations and produce essays containing logical argument and analysis at an appropriate level
- become familiar with critical analysis of the reception of Greek and Roman myth, including a range of theoretical approaches and modern scholarship relating to Classical Mythology
- develop a degree of independence in learning that will enable you to complete analyses, using the skills you have learnt, including investigations of bibliography via the internet, libraries, etc.
You will also be required to undertake, with a degree of independence, a project at the end of the module.