Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Postgraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2018-2019 (archived)

Module CLAS43930: Law and Literature in Ancient Greece and Rome

Department: Classics and Ancient History

CLAS43930: Law and Literature in Ancient Greece and Rome

Type Open Level 4 Credits 30 Availability Available in 2018/19 Module Cap None.


  • None


  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None


  • To introduce students to the interdisciplinary field of law and literature.
  • To develop critical thinking in legal theory and employ it in interpreting classical texts.
  • To gain knowledge of the legal nature of Greek and Roman literature.
  • To consider the historical, philosophical, and literary parameters that define the similarities and differences between law and literature.
  • To promote self-motivated and self-directed research on law and literature in the classical world for students who have received appropriate grounding in their undergraduate studies.


  • The relationship between law and literature is a close, but changing one, historically variable but always significant. Literature is shaped by developments in law as well as being an influence upon the law. Issues of law and legality arise in current critical movements in the interdisciplinary field of ‘Law and Literature'. The ideological or ethical functions of texts, the links between modes of writing and developments in aesthetics, psychoanalytic readings or gender dynamics of legal narratives lie at the heart of current criticism. Greco-Roman antiquity with its rich tradition of interactions between law and literature is a particularly fruitful field which we shall explore in this module.
  • The module covers a number of representative works which are chosen for their fundamentally juridico-discursive nature. We shall examine how different media are intricately involved in the production and criticism of legal discourse. From Hesiod to Seneca, we shall approach issues of orality, literacy and performativity in law and literature as well as constructions of authority, autonomy and sovereignty. Studying law and literature as force fields of mutual contestation, we shall draw on a variety of critical tools and methodologies in legal and literary theory, such as gender studies, political theory, theory of performance and narratology. The various interests and disciplinary backgrounds that members of the class may bring to the subject will be integral to the module and play an active role in shaping it.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • Detailed knowledge of a selection of Greek and Latin primary sources.
  • Knowledge of a range of current scholarship on law and literature.
  • An understanding of the significance of historical, philosophical, legal and literary developments in the production and criticism of law and literature.
  • An understanding of the ways in which different media and literary genres are involved in the production of legal discourse.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • An ability to analyse and draw conclusions from a broad range of primary sources from the Greco-Roman world.
  • An ability to evaluate and synthesise critical insights of literary and legal theory in interpreting Greek and Latin literature.
  • A capacity to combine the transhistorical insights of ancient and modern theories of law and justice with historically focused interpretations of primary sources.
Key Skills:
  • The ability to assess and compare a range of different arguments and methodologies.
  • The ability to collaborate with your peers in seminar presentations and discussions.
  • The capacity to produce tight, well-evidenced, clearly expressed and original arguments in both oral and in written form.
  • A capacity to produce independent and convincing interpretations of literary and legal texts.

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

  • Teaching will be by fortnightly seminars organised around specific genres and authors.
  • The seminars are fortnightly and two hours long sessions to allow and encourage significant preparation and detailed discussion.
  • Formative assessment will be a short essay submitted at the end of Michaelmas term (2,500 words) and a presentation on a topic of each student’s own choosing.
  • Summative assessment will be a 5,000-word essay on a topic of each student’s own choosing, which should be different from the formative essay.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Seminars 8 4 in Michaelmas term, 4 in Epiphany term 2 hours 16
Preparation and Reading 284
Total 300

Summative Assessment

Component: Essay Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Essay 5,000 words 100%

Formative Assessment:

One essay (2,500 words) One oral presentation

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