Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Undergraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2023-2024 (archived)


Department: Classics and Ancient History


Type Open Level 1 Credits 20 Availability Available in 2023/24 Module Cap Location Durham


  • None.


  • None.

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None.


  • To introduce students to the cultural, anthropological and literary implications of translation.
  • to assess the role of translations in the study of the classical past.
  • to offer detailed comparisons between different translations of classical texts.
  • to encourage students to engage with Greek and Latin texts with the help of translations.


  • This module looks at the place of translation in the reception of classical literature.
  • It investigates the cultural, anthropological and literary implications of translation and asks students to think about what constitutes a translation as well as what is understood by 'the original'.
  • Several translations and adaptations of classical literature in modern poetry, prose, film, art and the stage will be discussed.
  • Students will be asked to compare and contrast different translations with a view to discovering what they tell us about themselves and about the text(s) which they translate.
  • They will be asked to produce their own versions of texts with the help of dictionaries, commentaries and other translations, and will be encouraged to experiment with different media and forms of translation.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • A knowledge of some fundamental aspects of translation theory, an understanding of the main resources which can be used to study ancient texts (dictionaries, commentaries, translations), and of the way in which translation shaped the discipline of classics. Students should also have specific knowledge of a selection of translations and adaptation of classical authors, in particular Homer and Ovid.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • An ability to use commentaries and dictionaries, an ability to interpret a range of ancient texts through later translations and adaptations of those texts, and understanding of translation and reception theory within the field of classics.
Key Skills:
  • An ability to engage in an informed and sophisticated way with a range of texts and images from an alien culture; an ability to understand the processes whereby those texts have become part of our culture, in particular through a focus on translation, a capacity to translate ancient texts into modern mediums, and to sustain a clear, well-structured and well-defended argument in written form.

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

  • The course will be taught wia a mixture of plenary lectures and smaller-szed classes in which students will be given hand-on experience in comparing different translations of texts, and producing their own versions. This will enable them understand the theory of translation (cf. Learning Outcomes, subject specific knowledge) through their experience of its practice (cf. Learning Outcomes, Key Skills).
  • Practical help with using dictionaries and commentaries will be given (cf. Learning Outcomes, Subject-specific skills).
  • Students will learn by attending and preparing for the lectures, as well as presenting their own work in seminars. They will write formative essays and translations (cf. Learning Outcomes, Key Skills).
  • Group work will be an important aspect of the course, so that students can learn from one another the use of key resources which can be used to study ancient texts (cf. Learning Outcomes, Subject Specific Knowledge).
  • The course will be assessed through two pieces of summative work (a translation accompanied by an account of the choices which informed it; and an essay on translation theory). This mode of assessment enables students to build on the formative essays and translations, and to make use of the resources mentioned under Learning Outcomes, Subject Specific Skills.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures 20 Weekly 1 hour 20
Seminars 8 3 to 4 per term 1 hour 8
Preparation and Reading 172
Total 200

Summative Assessment

Component: Translation Exercise Component Weighting: 50%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Comparative Translation Exercise 100%
Component: Essay Component Weighting: 50%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Essay on Translation Theory 100%

Formative Assessment:

Various assignments for seminars, some of which will be done in groups.

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