Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Undergraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2023-2024 (archived)

Module CLAS3811: ‘Sing Me o Muse’: Poetic Initiation, Inspiration and Heroism

Department: Classics and Ancient History

CLAS3811: ‘Sing Me o Muse’: Poetic Initiation, Inspiration and Heroism

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


  • CLAS2151


  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None


  • To study scenes of poetic initiation and inspiration as a key to understanding the rationale of literary genres in such different areas as epic, lyric, theatre and philosophy
  • To develop skills in critical thinking about authorship and inspiration, with an emphasis on the specificity of Greek ‘oral literature’
  • To gain knowledge of key debates in scholarship about the phenomenon of inspiration in its literary, religious and anthropological dimension.


  • The lectures explore initiation and inspiration scenes with an emphasis on the development of literary genres and on the mindset that made the Muses integral to classical literature
  • Seminars provide a forum for closer analysis of different texts 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 initiation scenes, and an understanding of differences between genres in terms of performance, ideology and contents.
  • An awareness of the multi-faceted ways in which the Muses’ inspiration distinguishes Greek epic from its near-eastern counterparts and colours most poetic genres in the Greek and Roman world.
  • An understanding of contemporary debates in the study of Greek and Roman notions of inspiration in a comparative perspective.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • An ability to analyse and compare inspiration scenes in classical literature with a view to exploring how they express defining features of each genre against the background of epic poetry.
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 a range of works belonging to different genres.
  • 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 an initiation scene (2,500 words).
  • Summative essay 2 is an essay on one inspiration-related topic raised in lectures and seminars (3,500 words).

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

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

Summative Assessment

Component: Summative Essay Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Summative Essay 1 2500 words 40% Yes
Summative Essay 2 3500 words 60% 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