ARTH 245
The Nature of Work Spring 2023
Division I
Cross-listed CLAS 243 / COMP 285 / ARTH 245

Class Details

Work is something that touches the lived experience and historical realities of almost every human being in every time and place. But how did ancient Mediterranean societies and cultures define and deploy the concepts of “work” and “working,” as both an activity and as discourse? This is a question that has received remarkably little attention, in part since modern scholars have all too often followed the lead of elite authors, who obscure the nature of work through their focus on its products: agricultural prosperity, material luxury, urban grandeur, etc. In this course, we will seek to shed light on the world of work in antiquity, to better understand both the experiences of those who worked for a living across an array of spheres and professions, and the value of work as a cultural, aesthetic, and literary concept. Special topics will include: the place of work in conceptions of a “golden age”; the literary topoi of work (like the idle shepherd or the virtuous peasant); representations of “heroic work” (most famously, the Labors of Hercules); the elision or erasure of non-elite labor for elite audiences in art and text; the iconography of work in painting, mosaic, and sculpture; and investigations into specific trades, crafts, and other forms of “making” (from midwifery to shoe making). Readings will be a combination of primary and secondary sources. All readings will be in translation.
The Class: Format: seminar
Limit: 24
Expected: 20
Class#: 3705
Grading: yes pass/fail option, yes fifth course option
Requirements/Evaluation: class participation; several short writing assignments; final paper
Prerequisites: none
Enrollment Preferences: Classics majors, Art History majors, Comp Lit majors, and intending majors
Distributions: Division I
Notes: This course is cross-listed and the prefixes carry the following divisional credit:
CLAS 243 Division I COMP 285 Division I ARTH 245 Division I

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