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Unit information: Philosophies of Eros: Ancient and Modern in 2021/22

Unit name Philosophies of Eros: Ancient and Modern
Unit code CLAS30043
Credit points 20
Level of study H/6
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Dr. Laura Jansen
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of Classics & Ancient History
Faculty Faculty of Arts

Description including Unit Aims

What is eros and how has it been conceived across antiquity and modernity? For both ancients and moderns, eros is a concept charged with paradox, often escaping definition and categorisation. Is eros a romantic, sexual or Platonic idea? Is it a psychological, spiritual or physiological phenomenon? Should we regard eros as a single event or a long-lasting experience? Does eros unite or divide individuals? And is eros only the province of lovers? In this unit, we will survey some of the great classical and modernist writings on love, from Sappho, Plato and Ovid, to Pablo Neruda, Roland Barthes and Anne Carson. While these authors also speak of eros as an emotion, our focus will be instead on how they explore it as the object of philosophical enquiry. As we follow their works, we will concentrate on three intersecting themes: first, what sort of wisdom do their writings, emerging within their own cultures and traditions, attribute to the experience of eros? Second, how do their oeuvres contribute to eros as the history of an idea? Third, what interpretive principles and tools do we use, or have poets, philosophers, and scholars used, in trying to map out the nature and workings of love?

Unit aims:

  1. To survey a range of texts and genres, classical and modern, dealing with the topic of eros/love.
  2. To map out a series of narratives on eros within and across antiquity and modernity.
  3. To explore eros as a central theme in the history of (Western) ideas.
  4. To develop a series of interpretative principles and tools to analyse the concept of eros as a cultural and philosophical enquiry.

Intended Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this unit, students will be able to:

  1. explain conceptions of eros/love in their broader contexts, and how these changed over time;
  2. compare modes of thinking about eros across ancient and modern literature and thought;
  3. describe and analyse an appropriate range of primary sources (material and literary) for the study of eros as the history of an idea, making connections between these sources, and situating them within their wider historical and cultural contexts.
  4. explain, evaluate, and apply a range of different theoretical and methodological approaches to the material.
  5. construct coherent, relevant and persuasive arguments on different aspects of the subject.
  6. communicate in writing at a level appropriate to level H

Teaching Information

This unit will involve a combination of independent investigative activities, long- and short-form lectures, and discussion. Students will be expected to engage with materials and participate on a weekly basis. Feedback will be provided for both formative and summative assessments, and this will be supported by meetings with tutors.

Assessment Information

3,000 word essay (100%).


If this unit has a Resource List, you will normally find a link to it in the Blackboard area for the unit. Sometimes there will be a separate link for each weekly topic.

If you are unable to access a list through Blackboard, you can also find it via the Resource Lists homepage. Search for the list by the unit name or code (e.g. CLAS30043).

How much time the unit requires
Each credit equates to 10 hours of total student input. For example a 20 credit unit will take you 200 hours of study to complete. Your total learning time is made up of contact time, directed learning tasks, independent learning and assessment activity.

See the Faculty workload statement relating to this unit for more information.

The Board of Examiners will consider all cases where students have failed or not completed the assessments required for credit. The Board considers each student's outcomes across all the units which contribute to each year's programme of study. If you have self-certificated your absence from an assessment, you will normally be required to complete it the next time it runs (this is usually in the next assessment period).
The Board of Examiners will take into account any extenuating circumstances and operates within the Regulations and Code of Practice for Taught Programmes.