Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Postgraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2020-2021 (archived)

Module CLAS44930: Classical Modernisms: Receptions of Greece and Rome in Literary and Visual Cultures from T. S. Eliot to Anne Carson

Department: Classics and Ancient History

CLAS44930: Classical Modernisms: Receptions of Greece and Rome in Literary and Visual Cultures from T. S. Eliot to Anne Carson

Type Open Level 4 Credits 30 Availability Available in 2020/21 Module Cap None.
Tied to


  • None.


  • None.

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None.


  • To develop students’ in-depth understanding of classical reception in the period: its contexts, methodologies and possibilities, and to promote and develop self-motivated and self-directed research and communication, enabling students to focus on a specialist area in an environment of shared interests. There are no formal pre-requisites, but the module is geared towards students who have received some relevant grounding in their undergraduate studies or in their personal reading (e.g., demonstrable interest in classical reception studies and/or the literature and/or art of the twentieth century).


  • ‘Modernism’, the period roughly spanning 1890-1945, was a paradigm-shifting moment in the reception of ancient Greece and Rome. The reverberations of the radical experiments of its writers and visual artists can still be felt today, from how we interpret a poem to how we visualise the ancient past in fragments. From T. S. Eliot and James Joyce to Rodin and Di Chirico, writers and artists turned to the classical past — ‘these fragments I have shored against my ruins’, as Eliot famously put it — in order to make sense of the modern, urban present. This module explores the reception of Greek and Roman antiquity in the literary and visual cultures of the modernist period and its afterlife in the later twentieth and twenty-first centuries. It will be anchored in an in-depth study of the core modernist period, but will also explore art and writing after modernism, including, for example, the poets Anne Carson or Josephine Balmer. Providing students with grounding in the core period and methodologies, the module aims substantially to accommodate students’ own interests, fostering in-depth, individual research within the context of a shared interest in the classical reception cultures of the period.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • At the end of the course students should have a good understanding of the main issues in classical reception in the period, and a grasp of the key methodologies and issues in classical reception studies that can be used to interpret them.
  • They will have produced in-depth research on selected aspects of classical reception in the art, literature or culture of the period.
  • They will have studied a variety of source material, gaining the tools to interpret it critically and accurately and to place it within relevant cultural historical contexts.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Students will need to develop the historical, visual and literary skills relevant to the critical interpretation of a range of sources within their historical context, from artistic production of the period to developments in classical scholarship.
  • They will be challenged to construct cogent and convincing arguments about complex historical, literary and visual material, and develop a wide variety of skills associated with the sophisticated understanding of literary and cultural history.
Key Skills:
  • The skills required for the successful completion of this module are transferable to most fields. It demands sophisticated understanding of texts and objects and their cultural and historical meanings. It develops the ability to construct cogent arguments about historical, visual and literary evidence, requiring complex problem solving and the ability to accomplish large tasks independently. The teaching and assessment for the module fosters analytical and interpretive skills, as well as a high standard of written and oral communication. It also requires the effective use of library and IT resources.

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

  • The group will meet eight times. Seminars will evolve to suit the individual interests of students as the course progresses. An introductory session will be followed by a set of in-depth representative case studies, largely led by the instructor and incorporating student presentations, while later seminars will be geared towards the individual research projects and interests of students.
  • Assessment will take the form of one formative essay (c. 2500 words) to be handed in at the end of Michaelmas term and one summative essay (5000 words), based on an inclass presentation.
  • Seminars will help students orient themselves in the field; student presentations will offer opportunities for presenting research, receiving informal constructive feedback, and developing oral presentation skills; the formative essay ensures writing practice and early written feedback in good time for the summative work.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Seminars 8 Fortnightly 2 hours 16
Preparation and Reading 284
Total 300

Summative Assessment

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

Formative Assessment:

One formative essay of 2,500 words and 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