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Unit information: Approaches to Myth in 2015/16

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Unit name Approaches to Myth
Unit code CLAS22362
Credit points 20
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Dr. Zajko
Open unit status Not open




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

Description including Unit Aims

The aim of this unit will be to explore a number of aspects of Greek and Roman mythology, using texts from a variety of genres and periods. We will explore the significance of the way that the term myth-ology combines both 'muthos' and 'logos' and so can be seen to encode the struggle for mastery between a story and its interpretation. Myth has generally been negatively defined against other forms of discourse, against e.g. history, philosophy, or theology, and it has been claimed that it was the Greeks themselves who invented this kind of taxonomy. In the modern world this kind of negative definition of myth can be seen to structure on-going debates about e.g. the relation of myth to feminism or to science. We shall explore both ancient and modern debates in relation to particular stories and their numerous and various interpretations.


The aim of this unit will be to explore a number of approaches to Greek and Roman mythology, using a variety of texts and images as source material. Myths will be shown to respond to a range of different interpretative strategies.

Intended Learning Outcomes

On successful completion ofthis unit, students should

  • have become familiar with a number of modem strategies for approaching myths
  • have read and analysed several key literary texts in which myths are retold
  • have become familiar with some Greek and Roman iconographical representations of myths
  • have had the opportunity to develop their skills in oral communication

(through discussion and questions) and in written communication (through essay work, informal tests and examinations). The different expectations of work for first-year and second-year students are spelled out in detail in the two respective.

Teaching Information

Lectures (but with use of small-group work, question-sessions, informal presentations by students).

Assessment Information

One 2500 word essay (50%)

One 90 minute written examination (50%)

The coursework and exam will test and assess the:

  • student's familiarity with a number of ancient and modern modem strategies for interpreting myths
  • student's critical knowledge of key Greek and Roman literary texts in which myths are retold
  • student's familiarity with some Greek and Roman iconographical representations of myth
  • student's understanding of some of the modern contexts in which myths reappear

Reading and References

R. Buxton, Imaginary Greece (Cambridge, 1994)

E. Csapo, Theories of Mythology (Malden, 2005)

W. Doty, Mythography. The Study of Myths and Rituals (Tuscaloosa 2000)

L. Edmunds, Approaches to Greek Myth (Baltimore, 1990)

D. Feeney, Literature and Religion at Rome (Cambridge 1998)

R. Woodward, The Cambridge Companion to Greek Myth (Cambridge 2008)

Set Texts: