ENGLISH 321: Ancient Literature

The Poetics of Irreparable Loss
Course Description
This course considers classic texts from the Greek and Roman periods. Our aim will be to encounter the most influential texts written during these eras—texts that form the foundation of the Western literary tradition. We will ask why these texts in particular became so important for centuries of later writers, even up to the present moment 

Our approach will be primarily literary, with secondary emphases on history, religion, and philosophy. We will organize our readings around a central concern: how do these texts represent loss and mourning in relation to sexuality, gender, sociality, history, and the divine? In Homer, Sophocles, Virgil, and Ovid, characters face the kind of loss from which there can be no return. We see such characters attempt various responses to limitless loss: vengeance, suicide, transformation, inaction, and even heroism.


  • gain fluency in reading, interpreting, and discussing Greek and Roman epics
  • consider the development and influence of early Western literature
  • situate ancient texts in their cultural contexts
  • practice close reading, interpretation skills, and written analysis
  • Homer, Iliad
  • Virgil, Aeneid
  • Ovid, Metamorphoses
  • Sophocles, Oedipus Rex, Antigone
  • Aristotle, Selections
  • Plato, Selections



Fall, 2012                                                                     This course will run again in 

MW, 12:30-1:45                                                             Spring 2017. See you then.

Heide 213