Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Undergraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2023-2024 (archived)

Module CLAS2151: Traditions of Epic

Department: Classics and Ancient History

CLAS2151: Traditions of Epic

Type Open Level 2 Credits 20 Availability Available in 2023/24 Module Cap Location Durham


  • None.


  • None.

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None.


  • To study representative examples of Greek and Roman epic, to introduce students to a wide range of approaches to the study of epic including its role as a device for memorialisation, and to explore the ways in which the genre developed in Greek and Roman antiquity, and beyond.


  • Ancient epic lies at the heart of the Western literary canon, and has influenced the greatest writers from the Middle Ages to modernity.
  • At the same time, epic is the only classical genre which is regularly studied in relation to poems which do not belong to the Western literary tradition.
  • This course approaches ancient epic both as the cornerstone of western literature and as traditional poetry comparable to other great epic traditions from all over the world.
  • It explores the tensions between different approaches to epic.
  • examines issues of authorship, traditionality, social context, memorialisation, intertextuality, reception.
  • and offers a close study of representative texts such as Homer Iliad and Odyssey, Apollonius Argonautica, Virgil Aeneid, Ovid Metamorphoses and Lucan Civil War.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • A knowledge of the major examples of Greek and Roman epic, as well as a range of epics from other cultures; a knowledge of the relevant approaches to epic as a genre, and of the development of the genre in Greco-Roman antiquity.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • An ability to handle a wide range of diverse and complex epic narratives, to place them in their generic, cultural and historical context, and to discuss in an informed and sophisticated way the issues raised by diverse modern approaches such as oral-traditional research and reception studies.
Key Skills:
  • An ability to engage in an informed and sophisticated way with diverse and challenging texts from a range of different cultures; an ability to compare and assess different interpretative approaches and methodologies; a capacity 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 lectures focus on the main texts and topics covered in the course.
  • The formative essay will require students to develop arguments at greater length.
  • The examination will assess the students' familiarity with the evidence and the sophistication of their analyses.
  • The summative essay will test student's ability to focus on relevant issues and organise knowledge and argument appropriate to questions raised.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures 22 1 per week 1 hour 22
Tutorials 5 3 in Michaelmas Term, 2 in Epiphany Term 1 hour 5
Preparation and Reading 173
Total 200

Summative Assessment

Component: Examination Component Weighting: 70%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
written examination 2 hours 100% Yes
Component: Essay Component Weighting: 30%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Summative Essay 2500 words 100% Yes

Formative Assessment:

One formative exercise

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