Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Undergraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2023-2024 (archived)

Module CLAS2621: Interpreting Greek Tragedy Today

Department: Classics and Ancient History

CLAS2621: Interpreting Greek Tragedy Today

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


  • CLAS1601 or ENGL1011 or ENGL1031


  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None


  • To study Greek tragedies and a variety of approaches to interpreting them; both in performance and as literary texts.
  • To gain an awareness of a range of approaches to studying tragedy, including the use of critical theories (their application and limitations).


  • The module involves the in-depth study of several tragedies in translation (e.g. Sophocles' Oedipus Tyrannus and Euripides' Medea and Trojan Women. The module explores the plays within their ancient contexts (e.g. social, cultural, performance, competitive) but also refers to the performance tradition of these tragedies. It also considers the application of some modern critical approaches to tragedy (e.g. Structuralism, Deconstruction, Semiotics, Narratology, New Historicism, Feminism, Psychoanalytic Criticism, Gender Theory and Post-Colonialism).

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • Knowledge of the translated texts of Greek tragedies in detail; of the relationship of the tragedies to their Athenian dramatic, literary, social and cultural context; of the issues of interpretation raised by the tragedies.
  • Knowledge of the range of approaches that scholars use for the study of Greek tragedy, including critical theories; their relationships to each other; their advantages and limitations.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Ability to understand and interpret, on a broad and on a detailed level, the genre of Greek tragedy.
  • Ability to identify some critical theories operative in scholarship and to evaluate differing interpretations of the tragedies in the light of the ancient text.
Key Skills:
  • Ability to use both primary and secondary sources to interpret texts; to use texts as a means of understanding their broader cultural background; to evaluate the arguments of others and to produce arguments of one's own in support of a given case.
  • Increased familiarity with techniques of analysing and organising theoretical argument and presenting the results in writing.
  • Enhancement of research and writing techniques in preparation for more advanced work (including the final-year dissertation).

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

  • Lectures will provide detailed analysis of the tragedies. Seminars will provide opportunities to engage with the texts and interpretative issues through various activities undertaken in a discursive context.
  • A formative essay will enable detailed engagement with the specified tragedies; a summative essay will develop the skills so far acquired by engaging critically with the tragedies studied. Tutorials will provide feedback during this process.
  • The examination will assess students' familiarity with the text of the tragedies covered in the lectures and their ability to illuminate details of those texts; and will test the general sophistication of their anyalysis.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures 22 1 per week 1 hour 22
Tutorials 6 3 in Michaelmas, 3 in Epiphany 1 hour 6
Preparation and reading 172
Total 200

Summative Assessment

Component: Examination Component Weighting: 70%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Examination 2 hours 100% Yes
Component: Examination Component Weighting: 30%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
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