Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Undergraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2023-2024 (archived)

Module CLAS3701: Comedy & Tragedy, Laughter & Sorrow

Department: Classics and Ancient History

CLAS3701: Comedy & Tragedy, Laughter & Sorrow

Type Open Level 3 Credits 20 Availability Available in 2023/24 Module Cap None. Location Durham


  • CLAS1601


  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None


  • To study Greek depictions of laughter and sorrow in parallel, and to gain knowledge of a selection of literary works where both play a prominent role using literary critical and comparative approaches.
  • To develop skills in critical thinking in order to analyse how laughter and sorrow shape the generic features of Greek comedy and tragedy, and inform their ancient reception.
  • To gain knowledge of key debates in scholarship and learn how to evaluate these effectively.


  • The lectures explore Greek laughter and sorrow with an emphasis on classical tragedy and comedy and their ancient reception.
  • Seminars provide a forum for closer analysis of different works and an opportunity to discuss and evaluate the relevant scholarship.
  • Tutorials offer feedback on formative work and aid planning and preparation for the summative coursework assignments.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • Detailed knowledge of a selection of Greek works depicting laughter and sorrow, and an understanding of generic differences between comedy and tragedy.
  • An understanding of contemporary debates in the study of Greek representations of laughter and sorrow.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • An ability to engage critically with the representation of laughter and sorrow and to develop a comparative approach to the study of Greek comedy and tragedy and their ancient reception.
  • An ability to evaluate, differentiate and synthesise the arguments from scholarship used in the interpretation of Greek drama and other ancient works.
Key Skills:
  • An ability to analyse a wide range of primary sources and to evaluate the arguments of contemporary scholarship; a capacity to produce clear, well-structured arguments in written form and to develop independent interpretations of the texts; development of oral presentation skills in seminars.

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

  • Lectures introduce texts, topics and approaches in the analysis of Greek tragedy and comedy.
  • Seminars allow students to develop and test their ideas orally and to articulate their views in front of their peers.
  • Tutorials offer group discussion of formative work which connects directly to the planning and preparation for the two summative essays.
  • Summative essay 1 consists of a detailed study of a Greek drama (2,500 words).
  • Summative essay 2 is an essay on one of the drama topics raised in lectures and seminars (3,500 words).

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures 20 1 per week 1 hour 20
Seminars 2 1 in Michaelmas term, 1 in Epiphany term 1 hour 2
Tutorials 5 3 in Michaelmas term, 2 in Epiphany term 1 hour 5
Preparation and reading 173
Total 200

Summative Assessment

Component: Essay Component Weighting: 40%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Summative essay 2,500 words 100% Yes
Component: Essay Component Weighting: 60%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Summative essay 3,500 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