Stories entertain and discomfit; terrify and liberate. They deliver - and constitute - ideas. To craft the right story is, potentially, to sell a product; shape an identity; define a culture; "make" history. In this course students read (in English translation) and critically assess a range of narratives central to ancient Greek thought and later Western culture. By studying the texts within their original cultural and historical context, students acquire an overarching familiarity with ancient Greek culture and history. The course thus provides a sweeping view of ancient Greece, moving chronologically forward from the Archaic period to the 1st century CE. The course’s reading list spans several major divisions in the humanities: "literature" (Homer, Sappho); "history" (Herodotus, Thucydides); "philosophy" (Plato); "theater studies" (Sophocles); and "religious studies" (the New Testament). Yet the texts themselves predate those disciplinary divisions - and indeed helped to create them, by seeking to carve out new intellectual territory, offering competing ideas as to what a story can or should be about. Through reading, writing, interactive lectures, and in-class discussion, students compare the diverse uses to which story-telling is put by each text. The course thus equips students to recognize and address issues that remain vital today. When does a story become "literature," and on what grounds? How do historians' literary instincts shape the histories they write? How is a philosophical or religious message qualified, amplified, or undermined by the narrative that conveys it to us? In addition, students will assess the political implications of each text's narrative: what it promotes; what avenues it opens or shuts; whom it valorizes or suppresses.




As a ConnCourse, this course makes connections across the liberal arts.

Enrollment Limit

Enrollment limited to 38 students.