Classical Worlds: Translation and Reception

Module code: EN3151

Many political, religious, educational and cultural developments in Europe over the last millennium have been influenced by – or have reacted against – classical Greek or Roman precedents. The monastic cultures of the High Middle Ages, the humanistic obsessions of the Renaissance to name a few. So why does the classical world continue to exercise such a fascination over us in such markedly different cultural and political circumstances? To answer this question, we will look at a diverse range of Greek and Latin poetry in English translation, moving from Homer’s primordial epics of war, anger and exile to Virgil’s epic as Imperial propaganda, and Ovid’s witty mythological epic of changing forms. We will look in detail at how our own world responds to ancient Greece and Rome, and will explore how contemporary poets and film-makers have reconstructed the ancient world for contemporary readers and audiences. 

Throughout the course of this module you will gain an understanding of a parallel history of English literature, in which writers from the 16th up until the 21st century have passionately and seriously engaged with the literature of the classical past.  We will read the classical texts in translation, and will consider how later English poets – influenced by these ancient originals – went on to rework both text and theme in very different contexts.

Topics covered: 

  • War and Anger
  • Sirens and Sorceresses
  • Love and Sexuality
  • Pets
  • Empire 
  • The creation of the world
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