Navigate Up
Sign In
home |  mail |  workspaces |  moodle |  intranet |  contact 

 A&H 205 - Classical Literature: Power and Gender in Ancient Culture


After killing her mother, Electra married and lived happily ever after. Or did she? Her fragile position in ancient society -a woman with the male duty of revenge- epitomises the issues of power and gender which are the focus of this course.

Throughout classical antiquity, the great literary authors, almost all male, have dealt with femininity and masculinity, have had their heroes elevate, worship and make love to women; but also have let them patronise, seduce and violate them. By no means is the image of women in ancient literature necessarily a negative one. Penelope matches Odysseus in strength and wit; Electra may be a murderess, she holds her honour high; and women would in an ideal state rule as equals to men. Question that arise, however, are: do these literary heroines reflect a social reality? What role did homosexuality play in society?

Power is not only expressed in the contents of ancient texts, but also lies with contemporary audiences, be they patrons, Athenian theatre crowds or participants in religious festivals. The dual web of gender and power, authors and audiences lies within the literature of classical antiquity, and reaches out to ancient society at large; disentangling it will be the main goal of this course.

NB: this course can be taken towards a minor in gender studies; it may also, under certain circumstances, count towards a literature major.








One of the following courses are required in order to take this course:

  • A&H 105 Classical Mythology

  • A&H 188 Introduction to Gender Studies 

  • Any 100-level course in Literature

  • ACC 220 Stylistics


Required for


This course is required in order to take the following courses: 

  • 300 level courses in Antiquity

 This course is an alternative requirement for the following courses:

  • 300 level courses in Literature