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Athletics and Literature in Ancient Greece
/ CLAS 214
The modern Olympic games are one of the most visible traces of ancient Greek influence on contemporary culture. Less well-known, however, are the complex and challenging poems (originally songs) of Pindar and Bacchylides that celebrated the victors of the archaic Greek games. These victory odes are a rich source for the study of Greek culture, from their vivid descriptions of heroic feats to their philosophical claims about human life and divine favor. Athletic competition provides the impetus for these songs and constitutes one of their major themes, yet their significance extends far beyond a single athlete or festival. In this course, we will interrogate the relationship between athletics and literary production in the ancient Greek world. We will use both primary and secondary sources to develop familiarity with major festivals, games, events, and figures, and use that knowledge to contextualize our analysis of Greek literature. Ancient Greek athletic discourse will thus provide an entry point to broader reflections on the literary construction and representation of the body and its movement, as well as the interplay between literature and its cultural contexts.
Grading: no pass/fail option,
no fifth course option
brief writing assignments, essays, class participation
majors, first-years, sophomores
This course is cross-listed and the prefixes carry the following divisional credit:
Weekly (pass/fail) writing assignments (1-2 pages), five graded essays (two of which will be revisions and expansions of previous work, 4-5 pages each), regular in-class workshops on writing style and essay structure. Students will receive from the instructor timely comments on their writing skills, with suggestions for improvement.