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Unit information: Time, Temporality and Texts in 2015/16

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Unit name Time, Temporality and Texts
Unit code CLASM1012
Credit points 20
Level of study M/7
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Professor. Shane Butler
Open unit status Not open




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


Time is one of the basic categories of human experience, but is peculiarly subject to cultural construction. In particular, our differing senses of time are encapsulated in the stories we tell. In this unit, as well as looking at the ways in which time has been conceptualized, past and present, we shall be examining a variety of texts, visual as well as written, ‘modern’ as well as ‘ancient’, to see how different types of writing and representation at different periods play with notions of time (speeding it up, slowing it down, even reversing it) and with the human experience of time to create different effects (e.g. inevitability, irony, suspense, pathos). Therefore we shall be looking at ancient epic, tragedy, historiography and philosophy and in more recent treatments of time in the novel, film and in ‘counterfactual’ history.

Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of this unit, students should:

  • be familiar with the differing ways in which time has been configured in the texts studied, and the uses to which these have been put.
  • have developed their skills in reading and interpreting different kinds of texts in relation to issues of time and temporality.
  • be able to use the knowledge acquired in seminars and through independent research to construct coherent, relevant and critical arguments concerning the interpretative issues raised by the representation of time in the texts studied.
  • have had the opportunity to develop their skills in oral and written communication, by making seminar presentations, taking part in seminar discussions, and producing an essay.

Teaching details


Assessment Details

1 5000 word essay

Reading and References

  • Homer, Odyssey (Lattimore tr.)
  • Sophocles, Oedipus the King (Fagles tr.)
  • Virgil, Aeneid (Penguin, West tr.)
  • Augustine, Confessions 8 and 11 (Chadwick, tr.)
  • Selections from Aristotle, Livy, Hesiod
  • Saul Morson, G. Narrative and Freedom: The Shadows of Time (New Haven and London, 1994)

A selection of other set texts will be made available via blackboard