Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Postgraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2014-2015 (archived)


Department: Classics and Ancient History


Type Tied Level 4 Credits 30 Availability Available in 2014/15 Module Cap
Tied to Q8K507
Tied to Q8K607
Tied to Q8K807
Tied to Q8K707
Tied to Q8K307


  • None.


  • Dissertation (CLAS51260, CLAS40160, CLAS40260, CLAS40360, CLAS40460).

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None.


  • The aim of this module (which will run through the full teaching year) is to provide students pursuing the MA in Classics or Ancient Epic or Ancient Historiography or Ancient Philosophy or Greece, Rome and the Near East with training in methods of Classical research appropriate to study at Level 4. In particular, this means that it will provide them with the skills necessary not only for the preparation of their (Level 4) dissertation, but also for progression to independent research at a higher level The relevant external standard for the level, breadth and depth of skills acquired is the guidance offered by the AHRC for applicants to its Research funding programme.


  • (1) Generic component (four 1.5-hour sessions).
  • General introduction to graduate work: what is research? how does an MA differ from a BA? research and its values (cognitive and ethical); how to go about writing an MA thesis.
  • Data and transmission I: the classical tradition (reception, reflexes, resources).
  • Data and transmission II: the evidence (texts and materials).
  • Research resources: introduction to libraries (including use of catalogues; finding standard reference works; decoding abbreviations); classical databases (including electronic texts; bibliographical resources; the internet as a tool of Classical research); style and bibliographical conventions (MLA, Harvard &c.); databases and sources in 'alien' sub-disciplines (discovering and citing sources for evidence 'not in my field' - with the aim of challenging presuppositions about the range of resources that might be relevant to 'my field').
  • (2) Three Optional Components, each consisting of four 1.5-hour classes. The range of classes to be offered will vary from year to year (see note (2) below). The following is a representative list of possibilities:
  • (a) Literary and Cultural Theory: Structuralism and Post-Structuralism; Marxism and Feminism; Psychoanalytical readings; Semiotics and Narratology;
  • (b) Textual Criticism: stemmata; reading apparatus; principles of editing; papyrus evidence;
  • (c) Historical Sources and Methods: types of sources and their uses; the role of ancient historiography; history and theory; types of history (e.g. oral/written; sacred/secular; intentional, cultural, national, 'entangled' history and histoire croisee);
  • (d) Epigraphy: knowledge of the types of public and private texts which were inscribed, and the media on which they were inscribed; understanding of the skills involved in the transcription, editing and restoration of epigraphic texts; a knowledge of epigraphic publications; an understanding of the uses which scholars can make of epigraphic texts;
  • (e) Archaeology and Iconography: what archaeology is, what it can and can't do; common misuses of archaeology; the development of theory for the interpretation of archaeological material;
  • (f) Numismatics: Greek Coinage; Roman Republican Coinage; Early Imperial Coinage; Later Imperial coinage.
  • Note (1): although some of these components involve sources in Latin and Greek, they will not presuppose knowledge of these languages in the students. (Indeed, an ability to make use of sources despite lack of linguistic expertise - e.g. to check translations at just those points that are identified as crucial - is itself an important skill.)
  • Note (2): the choice (and to some degree the availability) of components available in a given year will be decided first of all by the needs of the student’s proposed research for the MA dissertation and (where applicable) future PhD work; and then by the desirability of acquiring as wide a range of competencies as possible. (Students of literature might, ceteris paribus, be encouraged to learn about historical sources, and so on.)

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • Knowledge of the various style and bibliographical conventions appropriate to writing in the field of Classics;
  • Knowledge of a range of evidence-types available to those conducting research in the field of Classics (e.g. texts, fragments, inscriptions, coins &c.), and the ability to locate the sources for them (museum collections, electronic and printed databases, standard collections &c., as appropriate);
  • A basic knowledge (sufficient for students to build on autonomously according to the developing needs of their research) of how to make use of and present such evidence;
  • An awareness of the limits as well as the potential of the evidence-types studied;
  • An awareness of theoretical disputes associated with (the use of) particular kinds of evidence.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • The ability to plan and pursue effectively research in the student’s chosen field of Classics studies;
  • The use of libraries for Classical research, including knowledge of key works of general reference.
Key Skills:
  • Facility with IT resources including textual and bibliographic databases, and intelligent use of the internet.

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • Teaching for each of the four components of the module will be in four 1.5-hour classes, in which the relevant skill to be explained, discussed, and exemplified through the use of real examples of the relevant material.
  • Summative assessment will be in three parts. The first part will comprise of a piece of coursework submitted in May / June comprising of an outline of and bibliography for the student’s dissertation (1000-1500 words, excluding bibliography), which (inter alia) will locate the proposed work in its wider intellectual context, and include a reflective account of the methodology (or methodologies) required for its preparation. This part of the assessment will test the student’s ability to make use of available 'generic' resources in planning for a large piece of work (the dissertation) in a specific area, as well as ensuring awareness of the evidential resources and theoretical context for their proposed work.
  • The specific skills taught in the optional components will, in addition, be summatively assessed by a portfolio of one essay (2500-3000 words) and one literature review (1000 words) submitted in May / June.
  • The relative weighting of the summative assessments, and the relative weighting of components within the dissertation proposal, reflect the expectation that some of the same skills will be required for and directly assessed as part of the dissertation itself.
  • Formative assessment will ensure at a relatively early stage that students put into practice the skills learnt in the module as a whole by requiring from them a first draft of the proposal for their dissertation. Facility in the specific skills taught in the optional components will in addition be fostered by seminar presentations which will serve as the basis of the students' summative essay; and one literature review (1000 words) submitted in December, on which students will receive specific feedback.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Classes 16 Four blocks of weekly classes evenly spaced over Terms 1 and 2 1.5 hour 24
Preparation and Reading 276
Total 300

Summative Assessment

Component: Dissertation Proposal Component Weighting: 40%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Outline of planned dissertation (including account of methodology and location within wider academic context) 1,000 - 1,500 words 60%
Bibliography 40%
Component: Summative Portfolio Component Weighting: 60%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Literature Review 1000 words 30%
Essay 2500-3000 words 70%

Formative Assessment:

Formative assessment for the generic component will be based on a first draft of the student's dissertation proposal (500 words, excluding bibliography), presented at the beginning of Epiphany Term (and linked, thereby, to the first stages of work for the dissertation itself). Formative assessment for the optional components will be constituted by research exercises throughout the year; and one seminar presentation, on the basis of which students will write their summative essay. Students also receive feedback on the first of two literature reviews (1000 words), to be submitted at the end of Michaelmas Term.

Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University