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Classical Literature Portal

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Advanced Latin: Silius Italicus' 'Punica'

Vergil gets all the credit for Epic Poetry in Latin, but the prize for the longest and grandest Epic Poem in the language actually belongs to Silius Italicus' treatment of Rome's most legendary struggle: the Second Punic War. Join in the triumph and tragedy and the tales of Fabius, Scipio, and Hannibal as we explore the Epic treatment of the most epic of ancient encounters.
Precepted by Patrick Lyon

Advanced Latin: Vergil's Aeneid in a Year

Vergil's Roman Epic is one of the most important and influential works of literature in Latin. Following in the style and partially in response to Homer's Greek Epics in The Iliad and The Odyssey, Vergil's work follows the story of the aftermath of the Trojan War, tracing the tale of Aeneas as he embarks upon his divinely-sanctioned quest to find a new homeland and found his people anew. This class will explore the poetic and literary aspects of this Roman Epic while focusing on a month-by-month, book-by-book translation from the Latin.
Precepted by Patrick Lyon

A Sip of Tea and Tea Culture

In this module we will explore the cultural history of tea production, tea consumption, and tea-related cultural forms and practices. Primary focus will be on Asia, with side-expeditions to other parts of the world. White, green, Oolong, red (black), the Silk Road, tea bricks, tea ceremonies, tea-and-Zen, tea as world commodity, tea as entheogen---we can explore all of this and more!
Precepted by Robert Steed

Bible as Literature: The Gospels in the Their Contexts

This module considers the gospels in their contexts; addressing their genre, the communities to whom they are addressed, their origins, early tradition and legend about how they came to be, comparisons of their literatures to other Hellenistic and Near Eastern ones, the synoptic problem, and related issues.
Precepted by Larry Swain

Book Club: Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, Ha! Ha! You’re Mine!

Considered the first sci-fi novel, Frankenstein is much more than the famous monster who has entered pop culture. From philosophy to science, this novel deals with many issues, confuses the reader, and makes us wonder who the real hero is. We will discuss the themes, imagery, character development, and the many different allusions to other texts mentioned in the book in a relaxed and interactive way.
Precepted by Pilar Barrera

Chinese History for Fans of Chinese Media

If you are a fan of any form of Chinese popular media such as CDramas, films, wuxia pian (martial arts films and novels) and so on, you will almost certainly find yourself exposed to a wide array of different historical settings and contexts. In this module we will explore those moments and periods in the history of China that often appear as settings or references in Chinese popular media as a way to broaden and deepen our understanding and enjoyment of it.
Precepted by Robert Steed

Christian and Pagan: Tertullian's Apologetic

How did early Christians respond to persecution? In this module, we will explore Tertullian's masterwork, The Apology. One of the first major Christian works composed in Latin, Tertullian drew upon his education in law and rhetoric to produce this supremely eloquent and passionate defence of Christianity in response to an outbreak of violence. Over four weeks, we will closely read The Apology, discussing its fascinating insights into the world of the early Christians and the challenges they faced.
Precepted by Julian Barr

Creative Writing: Aristotle's Poetics for Story-Tellers

What makes a good story? How can we make our characters feel like real people?

Using a combination of recorded lectures, in-class discussion and exercises, you will find out how to employ Aristotle’s precepts on character, theme and emotional catharsis to enrich your creative practice. You will also discover how Aristotle’s teleological understanding of causality can help you discover the final design of your creative work. This module will be a must for fiction authors, screenwriters and directors, RPG game masters, or anyone who wants to weave a dynamic tale!

The module will follow an 8-lesson structure as follows:
• Lecture 1: Introduction to the Poetics
• Workshop 1: Your Narrative's Purpose
• Lecture 2: Character and Theme
• Workshop 2: Discovering Your Character and Theme
• Lecture 3: Structure
• Workshop 3: Unfolding Your Story's Structure
• Lecture 4: Catharsis
• Workshop 4: Sticking the Landing
Precepted by Julian Barr

C.S. Lewis' The Four Loves and Greek Philosophy

What is love? This is the question C.S. Lewis explored in his classic book, The Four Loves. Over four weeks, we will read and discuss The Four Loves as a class, exploring his four classifications and their philosophical underpinnings. Comparing and contrasting Lewis with short excerpts from Plato's Symposium and Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics, we will explore the themes of affection, friendship, eros and charity.
Precepted by Julian Barr

Early Modern Europe (1500-1800): Philosophy and Literature

This module examines the cultural and philosophical phenomena which emerged during the Renaissance (e.g. humanism, utopianism, skepticism) (15th to early 17th century) and the Enlightenment (e.g. reason, individuality, satire, etc.) (17th to late 18th century); the changing attitudes to religion (the Reformation) and science (the Scientific Revolution) will also be tackled. Lastly, receptions of the Renaissance and Enlightenment in modern, popular culture will be explored.
Precepted by Hamish Williams

Exploring Romance of the Three Kingdoms 三國演義

Considered to be one the major classics of pre-modern Chinese literature, Romance of the Three Kingdoms focuses on a story of political and military struggle featuring an impressive array of characters, many of whom have become touchstones of Chinese cultural heritage and artistic interest. This novel has spawned a wide arrange of operas, stories, video game series, musical compositions, television and web series, as well as garnering much academic attention since it was first published in the 14th century. Join us as we read, discuss, analyze, and place in its cultural and historical contexts this major work of Chinese historical fiction.
Precepted by Robert Steed

Exploring Sei Shonagon's The Pillow Book 枕草子

Sei Shōnagon 清少納言 is a major writer of the Heian period (794-1185) whose Makura no Sōshi 枕草子 (The Pillow Book) has intrigued and delighted reading audiences for centuries. Colorful, witty, incisive, charming, thoughtful, melancholy, poetic---these qualities and more characterize this diary of the famous lady of the court. Join us as we read this text in-depth and place it within the frame of the flow of Japanese culture and history.
Precepted by Robert Steed

Exploring The Analects 論語 of Confucius

In western internet memes, lots of sayings are attributed to Confucius. He did not say most of them. In this module we will engage in a slow reading and interpretation of The Analects , our primary source for Confucius's discourses and dialogues. Your preceptor will also situate this text in currents of historical thought from Warring States China and larger Confucian tradition. Once we are done, you will have gained many skills, including a decent ability to distinguish "Confucius" the meme-able quote machine from the Confucius of the Analects and Chinese historical tradition.
Precepted by Robert Steed

Intermediate Latin: Gesta Romanorum

The Gesta Romanorum is a collection of tales covering all genres made in the 13th or early 14th century. The title means "Deeds of the Romans." Most of the tales have some kind of moral to the story and so are akin to Aesop's Fables; some are comedic, some dramatic. The Latin and the prose is straightforward for the most part. The collection was very influential through the rest of the Medieval period and well into the Modern. It was a source-book for preachers, dramatists (including that Shakespeare chap you may have heard tell of), poets, and even early novelists.
Precepted by Larry Swain

Intermediate Latin: Horace

Test your Latin skills by reading a great poet! Horace was a contemporary of Cicero, Vergil, Ovid and other classical poets of name. In this module we will translate and consider some of this poet's early satires, and some of his odes. The latter form influenced poets ever since including down into the modern period.
Precepted by Larry Swain

Intermediate Latin Translation: Caesar’s Gallic Wars

Designed for students who have completed an introductory Latin textbook and wish to explore real Latin texts at a gentle pace, this class will cover the translation of selected passages from Caesar’s Gallic Wars. We will parse passages and read Caesar’s prose slowly to allow ample time for grammatical review as students try new translation techniques, and familiarise themselves with Caesar’s prose.
Precepted by Faith Acker

Intermediate Latin Translation: Martial’s Epigrammata

Designed for students who have completed an introductory Latin textbook and wish to explore real Latin texts at a gentle pace, this class will walk students through a selection of Martial’s Latin epigrams, adapting the quantity of texts and homework to meet the needs of the enrolled students. We will parse passages, review grammar and vocabulary, and translate these poems, moving somewhat slowly to allow ample time for grammatical review as students test different translation techniques and absorb new and irregular forms and devices.
Precepted by Faith Acker

Japanese History for Fans of Japanese Media

In this module we will cover a general overview of major periods, events, and personages that often crop up in Japanese films, dramas, anime, and manga. For example, are you a fan of the manga and drama series Jin? When Dr. Jin finds himself in the Edo period, do you want to know more about that historical context? This module should help with that and much more! Join us for a light and fun overview of Japanese history useful for engaging with Japanese media more deeply.
Precepted by Robert Steed

Latin: Augustine's Confessions

Augustine of Hippo is one of the most important thinkers and writers not only of his age but all subsequent ages as well. The Confessions was the first of its kind as an examination of a human being's interior life and thoughts. On the surface level it is a text about Augustine's journey to Christianity. On a deeper level it is an examination in psychology. And we get to read it in Latin!!
Precepted by Larry Swain

Latin: Plautus' Miles Gloriosus (the Braggart Soldier)

Plautus is one of the great playwrights of the ancient world; his surviving works influenced later drama, Medieval drama, and Shakespeare to name a few. In this play readers see the set up for many a modern situation comedy (both in TV short form and movie long form) complete with overbearing fathers, earnest and yearning young lovers, and wily but "heart-of gold" servants. 'Tis a hoot!
Precepted by Larry Swain

Latin Readings for Advanced Beginners 2 Continuing Series

This module offers a series of Latin readings that review material covered in many traditional Latin courses (a little more than Latin I but not the full span of Latin II). Students will read selections from selected textbooks and Latin readers and attempt two short literary passages. All readings will be provided, though access to a Latin grammar book and a basic Latin dictionary may be beneficial.

Latin grammar assumed:
- Understanding of stems, endings, cases, agreement, and parts of speech
- Knowledge of 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th, and 5th declension endings for nouns and adjectives
- Familiarity with comparative and superlative forms of regular adjectives
- Knowledge of regular Latin verb conjugations in the subjunctive, indicative, imperative, and infinitive moods, in all relevant tenses, both active and passive
- Ability to recognize conjugations of of “sum” and “possum”
- Familiarity with ego, tu, is, hic, ille, iste, idem, qui, and reflexives
- Awareness of Latin numerals
- Familiarity with Latin participles
- Acquaintance with ablatives of means, accompaniment, manner, time, agent, separation, and place from which, as well as genitive of the whole, use of genitive and ablative with cardinal numerals, and ablative absolute.
Precepted by Faith Acker

Latin: The Vulgate Gospel of Matthew

The Gospel of Matthew through most of Church History was the most cited and the most commented on. This module reads that gospel in Latin and discusses important points of influence that various periods of Christian thought pondered. Along the way students will be introduced to other issues such as the history of the Bible in Latin, textual criticism and transmission, classical and medieval book culture, and artistic representations of important scenes.
Precepted by Larry Swain

Parallel Lives: Plutarch's Alexander and Julius Caesar

Virtue and vice: these are the chief interests of the 2nd century biographer, Plutarch. In this module, we will closely examine Plutarch's linked biographies comparing Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar, identifying the continuity between the two works. Over four weeks, we will read and discuss Plutarch's depiction of these two pivotal figures of world history, and how it was influenced by Plutarch's struggle to reconcile his Greek identity with Roman supremacy. From the mysterious death of Alexander's father Philip II to the Ides of March, this is a module you won't want to miss!
Precepted by Julian Barr

Representing Utopia through the Ages

While the idea of establishing an ‘actual’ utopia has been disparaged since the first half of the twentieth century from socio-political perspectives (e.g. the failed age of ideology from 1917-1945), literary and related cultural narratives have a long history of imagining and representing utopia (also paradise, the golden age, etc.). These utopias often function to criticize the problematic social norms and climates of their times as well as providing progressive imaginings for a better future, often based on certain ideals or virtues. In this module, we go on a chronological tour of different representations of utopia, including: the paleolithic utopia of hunter-gatherers (e.g. as discussed in Harari’s Homo Sapiens) (before 10,000 BC), the Bronze Age utopia of Minoan Crete (4000-1400 BCE), Plato’s mythical island of Atlantis (ca 400 BC), the pastoral utopia of the Roman poet Virgil (ca 40 BC), the New World utopia of Sir Thomas More (1516), the Enlightened, reasoned utopia of Robinson Crusoe (1719), Tolkien’s fantasy utopia of Númenor (ca 1940), and more.
Precepted by Hamish Williams

Shakespeare’s Forgotten Plays: The “Problem” Comedies

This module looks at two of Shakespeare’s darkest comedies (often described as “Problem Plays” and frequently overlooked in Shakespeare studies): Troilus and Cressida and Measure for Measure. Half an adaptation of Chaucer’s tragic romance, and half a reworking of Homer’s Iliad, Shakespeare’s Troilus and Cressida presents both the lovers and the warriors with a mixture of biting satire, comic buffoonery, and genuine pathos. Likely never staged in Shakespeare’s lifetime, this comedy-history-tragedy has puzzled readers since its first appearance in print. In Measure for Measure, a duke’s attempt to clean up his city’s seedy night-life quickly leads to the attempted sexual blackmail of a nun by duke’s chief deputy. In the chaos of bed-swapping and (threatened) head-chopping that follows, the play narrowly avoids outright tragedy, but whether the final ending could be called “happy” has been debated for centuries. These may actually be the strangest two play Shakespeare ever wrote.
Precepted by Liam Daley

Shakespeare’s Forgotten Plays: The Tragedies

This module looks at two tragedies frequently overlooked in Shakespeare studies: Titus Andronicus and Timon of Athens. Shakespeare’s earliest tragedy, Titus Andronicus, is also his bloodiest—a rollicking schoolboy burlesque of Roman history, Ovidian poetry, and Elizabethan revenge tragedy that eventually devolves into gory slapstick. Shakespeare’s late tragedy, Timon of Athens, by contrast, offers a scathingly misanthropic view of humanity in the financial and psychological ruin of Timon—an eccentric socialite turned embittered philosopher-hermit. With the first a box-office hit in its own day and the second never staged in Shakespeare lifetime, both plays have stood as two of the bard’s most challenging and provocative works to editors, directors, and readers ever since.
Precepted by Liam Daley

Stoicism and the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius

This course will be structured as a guided reading of Aurelius' "Meditations". We will explore the life of Marcus Aurelius and then spend the bulk of the class reading/discussing his Meditations Books I-XII.

The goal of the course is to get the novice reading of ancient literature comfortable with the text and introduced to an exemplar of stoicism. For the more seasoned student it will serve to deepen their engagement with such an influential and deep thinker in the Western philosophical tradition.
Precepted by John Soden

Such an Odyssey! Series

This 6-module series will work slowly through the 24 books of Homer’s Odyssey. Each week we will read one book of the Odyssey aloud together, comparing editions and language and then discussing translation choices, plot development, character and setting descriptions, and overall themes. With two hours to spend on each book, students can enjoy a slow reading pace, little to no homework, and lots of class discussion.
Precepted by Faith Acker

Such an Odyssey 1 First in the Series

This 6-module series will work slowly through the 24 books of Homer’s Odyssey. Each week we will read one book of the Odyssey aloud together, comparing editions and language and then discussing translation choices, plot development, character and setting descriptions, and overall themes. With two hours to spend on each book, students can enjoy a slow reading pace, little to no homework, and lots of class discussion.
Precepted by Faith Acker

Such an Odyssey 2 Continuing Series

This 6-module series will work slowly through the 24 books of Homer’s Odyssey. Each week we will read one book of the Odyssey aloud together, comparing editions and language and then discussing translation choices, plot development, character and setting descriptions, and overall themes. With two hours to spend on each book, students can enjoy a slow reading pace, little to no homework, and lots of class discussion.
Precepted by Faith Acker

Such an Odyssey 3 Continuing Series

This 6-module series will work slowly through the 24 books of Homer’s Odyssey. Each week we will read one book of the Odyssey aloud together, comparing editions and language and then discussing translation choices, plot development, character and setting descriptions, and overall themes. With two hours to spend on each book, students can enjoy a slow reading pace, little to no homework, and lots of class discussion.
Precepted by Faith Acker

Such an Odyssey 4 Continuing Series

This 6-module series will work slowly through the 24 books of Homer’s Odyssey. Each week we will read one book of the Odyssey aloud together, comparing editions and language and then discussing translation choices, plot development, character and setting descriptions, and overall themes. With two hours to spend on each book, students can enjoy a slow reading pace, little to no homework, and lots of class discussion.
Precepted by Faith Acker

The Argonauts: Apollonius of Rhodes

The journey awaits! In this standalone module, we will read Apollonius of Rhodes' epic Argonautica from start to finish. Guided by a twisted prophecy, our hero Jason embarks on a journey across the roaring waves. His goal: the golden fleece. Jason cannot do it alone, and must assemble the greatest team the Greek world has ever seen-- the fighter Hercules, the seer Idmon, the bard Orpheus, and many more. Their quest will lead them to ancient tombs, magical intrigues and battle with the ravening harpies. Each week, we will read one book of the Argonautica, following our heroes' adventures in a world of gods and magic. Packed with fascinating detail, this module is a perfect introduction to classical myth and epic!
Precepted by Julian Barr

The Iliad in Translation, Part 1

Homer's Iliad is the foundational text of Western Literature, focusing on powerful perpetual problems of human life and experience: the desire for glory, the destructiveness of war, the struggle against overwhelming fate, the complex and powerful bonds of family, and the unexpected value of pity. Its impact can hardly be underestimated, as the list of its direct descendants stretches from "The Aeneid" to Milton's "Paradise Lost" and beyond, and the works that it has inspired are too many to count. Whether you are a newcomer or an old friend of the text, there is always something new, arresting, strange, and poignant to be found in the story that started it all. Come join in the exploration!
Precepted by Patrick Lyon

The Life and Legend of St Nicholas

Who was the real historical figure behind Santa Claus? In this module, we will read aloud the earliest biographical sources about fourth century bishop, St Nicholas of Myra. Your preceptor will facilitate discussions of Nicholas' historical context and examine the development of his legend. Together, we will examine Byzantine stories of Nicholas' benefaction and miracles, his role as patron saint of seafarers, students and merchants (among others), and how he came to embody the tradition of gift-giving in Christendom. A wonderful end-of-year treat!
Precepted by Julian Barr

The Minoans and Modernity: Minotaurs, Labyrinths, and Other Myths

When one thinks of ancient, pre-classical civilisations, one thinks of Sumerians, Egyptians, Hittites, and, not least, Minoans. The Minoan civilisation, discovered around 1900 by English archaeologist Sir Arthur Evans, has often been styled as the first major European civilisation, equally proficient in technology and the arts, with a sea empire spanning across the Eastern Aegean. But how much of what we imagine about the Minoans is truthful and how much is modern mythmaking?

In this module, we will examine the immense impact which the discovery of Minoan Crete and its integration with the classical myths of the Minotaur and the Labyrinth has had on literature, movies, the arts, and even computer games. We will examine the works of Sir Arthur Evans, Pablo Picasso, Nikos Kazantzakis, Robert Graves, Mary Renault, Poul Anderson, and Stephen King, among others. In so doing, we will explore such key 'Minoan' concepts and phenomena as: the sublime, utopianism, feminism, irrationality and the unconscious, mythmaking, and European identity.
Precepted by Hamish Williams

The Trojan Quest: Aeneid 1

Troy has fallen, but the journey has just begun... This 3-module series will work steadily through the 12 books of Virgil's epic Aeneid, whose influence in the medieval period eclipsed even Homer. Each week we will read one book of the Aeneid in translation, focusing on Virgil's approach to characterisation, plot structure and themes. With two hours to spend on each book, students can enjoy a relaxed reading pace and friendly class discussion.
Precepted by Julian Barr

Tolkien and the Classical World

Based on the preceptor's edited volume, Tolkien and the Classical World, this module takes students on a tour of the classical influences and ideas on the life, writings, and thought of English fantasy writer J.R.R. Tolkien, while also introducing seminal Greco-Roman texts to those without any classical background.
Precepted by Hamish Williams

Tolkien and the Romantics: Dark Romanticism and the Gothic Literary Tradition

The Gothic genre has inspired many creative minds to explore the darker realms of human psychology and the wider world, sparking fear, terror, horror and repulsion in its audience. J.R.R. Tolkien's Middle-earth is as much a ruined Gothic wasteland as it is an idyllic utopia. From Shelob's cave and the hypnotic Mirkwood to the Paths of the Dead and the Barrow-Downs, this module will examine Tolkien's use of Dark Romantic and Gothic techniques that were used by writers such as Horace Walpole, Mary Shelley, Edgar Allan Poe, Bram Stoker, and E.T.A. Hoffman to strike terror in the heart of their readers.

The module will follow an 8-lesson structure as follows:
• Lecture 1: The Funk of Forty Thousand Years: A Literary History of the Gothic
• Workshop 1: Chilly Echoes in Tolkien's Middle-earth
• Lecture 2: Bottomless Supernatural: Terror, Horror, Abject
• Workshop 2: Conjuring Creepy Creatures
• Lecture 3: The Weird, the Eerie, and the Dark Side of the Mind
• Workshop 3: Defamiliarising Middle-earth
• Lecture 4: Ruined Landscapes
• Workshop 4: What is left? Can the Gothic recover Middle-earth?

Note: The hybrid 8-lesson structure above is the new format for this module moving forward.
Precepted by Will Sherwood

Tolkien and the Romantics: Forging Myth and History

J.R.R. Tolkien famously 'found' his legendarium, translating and editing The Red Book of Westmarch for his twentieth century readers. This is not the first time an author has 'forged' a 'lost' literary history as James Macpherson's 'Ossian' documents from the 1760s started a craze for forgeries. Thomas Chatterton's Rowley and Turgot manuscripts similarly fed off the Ossian controversy while questioning what it really meant to 'forge' a document.

The module will follow an 8-lesson structure as follows:
• Lecture 1: The 1760s, the Age of Forgery
• Workshop 1: Which Red Book are we reading?
• Lecture 2: The Growth of Romantic Nationalism
• Workshop 2: The Book of Lost Tales: a mythology for which England?
• Lecture 3: Oral Traditions: Immortality and Youth
• Workshop 3: Vocalising Myth and History
• Lecture 4: Textual Traditions: Mortal Anxiety and Tangible History
• Workshop 4: Writing myth and history

Note: The hybrid 8-lesson structure above is the new format for this module moving forward.
Precepted by Will Sherwood

Tolkien and the Romantics: Imagining and Dreaming

The imagination and dreams are essential parts of J.R.R. Tolkien's world building which he explored across many stories from 'The Lord of the Rings' and 'On Fairy-stories' to 'The Notion Club Papers'. The same can be said of the Romantics who saw an important connection between the two. In works such as Samuel Taylor Coleridge's 'The Rime of the Ancient Mariner' and 'Kubla Khan', Lord Byron's 'The Dream' and 'Darkness', and Mary Shelley's 'Frankenstein', the imaginary and dream-like meet with awe-inspiring, melancholy or blood-chilling results.

The module sessions are structured as follows:
• Class 1: The Realms of (Childhood) Faery (60m)
• Class 2: Faery’s Enchantment (60m)
• Class 3: The Terror of the Night (60m)
• Class 4: The Past is an Imagined Dreamworld (90m)
• Class 5: Visions of the Apocalypse (60m)
• Class 6: Senses and Sensation (60m)
• Class 7: Glimpses, mere Fragments (90m)
Precepted by Will Sherwood
If you have any questions about the SPACE program, please reach out to [email protected].