GREEK LITERATURE IN TRANSLATION traces the development of literary genres throughout the millennium that begins with the first alphabetic writing in Greek (Homer’s songs of Bronze Age warfare and wandering) up to late classical literature from the Eastern Mediterranean under the control of Rome (where authors still wrote in Greek). They used epic poetry to preserve tales of heroes and gods, they used lyric poetry to venerate love and valor, epinician poetry to exalt athletic victory, history to determine the causes of wars, tragedies to speak human struggles, comedy and satire to bring laughter to cultural critique, philosophy to understand, rhetoric to convince, bucolic poetry and novels to escape. We will read just a small selection from each of these genres, which will suffice to demonstrate the variety, richness and import of Greek literature.
Out of this array of literature, we select narratives that privilege Greek identity and that legitimize power. Regarding identity, we study how they defined themselves as both civilized and Greek, and how such identities were continuously formed and reformed in contact and conflict with other societies. We focus on those identities formed in relation to key ethnic groups that they identified in Africa, three indigenous—Libyans north of the Sahara, Ethiopians to the South, and Egyptians in the Nile Valley—and two colonizers—Phoenicians and Greeks. Regarding power, we focus on how they consolidated and maintained political, military, ideological and economic control, and how unequal power relations played out within society, namely relations between women and men, between upper and lower classes, between free and slave, between adults and children, and between citizens and foreigners.
The core goals of the class are:
- to acquire factual and conceptual knowledge of Greek literature, encompassing diverse genres, with a particular sensitivity to their context
- to appreciate the study of antiquity with the analytical skills that scholars use to research, recover and write about the past
- to develop habits of critical thinking in order to appreciate change and continuity over time, across diverse regions and in contact with diverse cultures
- to become competent and confident in the skills necessary to write about ancient cultures
- to become an independent, intellectual inquirer into the past and a lifelong learner
This course will treat reading and writing as critical thinking processes; we will remove the mystery and emphasize the mechanics of active reading and persuasive writing. You will learn how:
- to read ancient literature critically
- to refute and/or accommodate opposing viewpoints
- to write with clarity, brevity, and specificity
- to avoid logical fallacies
- to collect, synthesize, and access data systematically, and
- to use this data to reinforce an effective argument