What is the course about?
In recent years the theatre world, both in London and internationally, has shown great interest in performing ancient Greek plays. Medea, Antigone, Oedipus, The Oresteia, Lysistrata – these are names you may have come across, and productions you may have been to. Come and find out more about the playwrights and the tragedies and comedies which made the fifth century BCE Athenian stage the envy of the ancient world, and an enduring source of inspiration. You don’t need to be an expert in ancient Greek culture or the theatre, just a love of reading and an enquiring mind.
What will we cover?
Each week we will read and discuss passages from key texts by playwrights such as Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides and Aristophanes. We will explore key themes and differing interpretations of their meaning, the historical context in which the texts were written, and why they have continued to resonate across the centuries.
What will I achieve?
By the end of this course you should be able to...
- Locate key texts in the context of the classical Greek world, with a basic knowledge of how they would have been received (understood) when they were first performed.
- Contribute to a discussion on the main themes from key texts, including why they are still performed today.
What level is the course and do I need any particular skills?
This is an introductory reading group, which will set key plays by ancient Athenian dramatists in the context of the 5th century BCE Greek world, and the wider Mediterranean stage beyond, as well as exploring why they still resonate today. However, only a very basic prior knowledge of ancient Greek history or drama is needed: this course is designed to accessible and enjoyable for anyone with an enquiring mind and an interest in the ancient Greek past. Nevertheless, as the course will involve reading plays in English translation and discussing them, a GCSE-level grasp of reading and speaking English is recommended.
How will I be taught, and will there be any work outside the class?
This course will combine in-class, group reading and discussion of selected ancient Greek dramas, plus set ‘homework’ reading each week (all or part of a drama, for discussion the following week). There may also be short tutor presentations (e.g.: on the historical background to a play), plus quizzes and work with related texts and images.
Are there any other costs? Is there anything I need to bring?
In our first session together, we will begin by reading from, and discussing, Sophocles’ Antigone. We will be using the Penguin Classics translation (by Robert Fagles), which is in the collection entitled The Three Theban Plays (ISBN13 9780140444254), and which is freely available via public libraries. If possible, it would be great if you could bring a copy to class.
When I've finished, what course can I do next?
any other City Lit courses offered in Classics history or literature.
General information and advice on courses at City Lit is available from the Student Centre and Library on Monday to Friday from 12:00 – 19:00.
See the course guide for term dates and further details