Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Undergraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2023-2024 (archived)

Module CLAS3721: Greek & Latin Literature of the Fourth-Sixth Centuries A.D.

Department: Classics and Ancient History

CLAS3721: Greek & Latin Literature of the Fourth-Sixth Centuries A.D.

Type Open Level 3 Credits 20 Availability Not available in 2023/24 Module Cap None. Location Durham


  • CLAS1301 or CLAS1601


  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None


  • To provide an introduction to a variety of Greek and Latin authors and literary genres of the fourth-sixth centuries A.D.
  • To analyse the literary characteristics of the texts discussed and to explore the political and social functions of fourth-sixth century A.D. literature.
  • To consider the change of perspectives caused by the rise of Christianity, and the problematic categories of "classical", "non- classical", "Christian" and"pagan" literature.
  • To investigate the impact of the interface between paganism and Christianity on the literature of this period.
  • To understand the extraordinary, simultaneous continuity and change in late antique literary form.


  • This course will focus on the development of late antique literature from the fourth to the sixth centuries AD, in both Greek and Latin. The aim of the module is to explore and analyse a range of relevant authors, works and themes, in order to understand whether and how genres persisted, changed and merged between the classical tradition and that of late antiquity, A particular focus will be the impact of the rise of Christianity on literary form. Potential poets considered include Palladas, Ausonius, Claudian, Prudentius, Paulinus of Nola, Sidonius Apollinaris, and Nonnus of Panopolis. Among prose authors, potential authors include the Cappadocians (Basil the Great, Gregory of Nazianzus and Gregory of Nyssa), Ambrose, Jerome, Augustine, Ammianus Marcellinus, Boethius, and Cassiodorus. The module aims to introduce students to the challenges presented by studying different kinds of texts, subjects, authors and sources, and the literary richness of a period that balanced an explosion of Christian creativity with a fierce desire to keep traditional classical genres alive. All texts will be studies in translation.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • Knowledge of major examples of Greek and Latin literature of the fourth-sixth centuries A.D.
  • Familiarity with the (changing) literary genres of this period.
  • Knowledge of the political and social functions of the literature of this period.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • The ability to handle a wide range of diverse and complex literary genres.
  • The capacity to place them in their socio-cultural and historical context.
  • The ability to discuss in an informed and sophisticated way the issues raised by different modern approaches.
Key Skills:
  • The ability to engage with various and challenging texts from a complex and neglected period in ancient literature.
  • The ability to compare and assess different interpretative approaches and methodologies.
  • The 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 will introduce the main authors, texts and topics covered in the course.
  • Seminars will enable students to discuss and develop their ideas in an interactive environment. They may include presentations and group work, which will treat topics designed to complement the lecture series, allowing students to explore collectively their own ideas about the courses' major themes. They will each treat a contained case study through prepared portfolios of ancient evidence and select pieces of secondary scholarship (both classic pieces and cutting-edge scholarship).
  • The summative essay will assess the students' familiarity with the evidence and the sophistication of their analyses. It will test the students' 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 20 Weekly, 10 in Michaelmas term, 9 in Epiphany term, 1 in Easter term 1 hour 20
Seminars 6 3 per term in Michaelmas and Epiphany terms 1 hour 6
Preparation and reading 174
Total 200

Summative Assessment

Component: Essay Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Essay 4000-5000 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