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Courses in Classics and Letters

Here is the current course list for Fall 2017 Courses in Classics and Letters. Please refer to ClassNav or One for locations and enrollment.


Do you consider paint-by-numbers an art form? Is your knowledge of classical mythology limited to playing God of War or watching Disney’s Hercules? If so, this course is designed for you! From simple drawings on cave walls to ornate stained glass in churches, art has been used throughout history to tell beautiful stories. As every artist has a story to tell, it is peculiar that so many artists, both ancient and modern, have chosen the bizarre world of Greek and Roman mythology as their playground. By focusing on the fascinating and complex ways mythology has influenced art throughout time, this course will teach students to see sculptures as more than lifeless rocks, paintings as more than motionless pictures, and movies as more than mind-numbing entertainment. (IV-a)

Heroes! Demigods! Gods and Goddesses! Monsters! Adventure! Love! War! Everything you could ever want in a course! Mythology! (IV-b)

Prerequisite: sophomore standing. Designed to be of special use to students planning a career in the Allied Health professions. Study of the basic Greek and Latin elements of medical terminology through the analysis of select vocabularies and word lists.

This class is part mythology, part history, part literature, part art — it is an introduction to the world of the Ancient Greeks. We will study not only Greece, but also ourselves, and the many ways our modern world has been influenced by these ancient people and ideas. Many words in English are derived from the Greek language: history, philosophy, geometry, democracy, politics, rhetoric, mythology, drama, tragedy, comedy, epic, and many others. In this class we will observe how the Greeks both gave us these words, and began the conversation about these concepts in Western society. The readings will come mostly from the writings of the Greeks themselves, allowing us to observe how they lived their daily lives and how they built empires; how they entertained themselves and how they sought the meaning of life and the truth about religion. (IV-b)

In this course we will explore examples of classical Greek tragedy as literary texts and as theatre. We will read plays by Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides, and juxtapose the search for their literary and historical significance with a study of their interpretation on stage. To supplement our discussions of the readings, we will watch performances of stage and film versions of the plays and discuss how text is translated into performance, and how those productions seek to make ancient drama come alive for modern audience. (IV-b)

Prerequisite: Sophomore standing. Continuation of 3213. Survey of Hellenistic art with particular attention to the individuality of style and diversity of matter. Early Etruscan and Roman art. The development of Roman art in native and assimilated forms; studies in domestic and national monuments. (IV-a)

What makes a law just? Is a law just because it was made through a fair process, for instance by majority vote? Or is a law just because of its substance, because it respects human rights, promotes the greatest good for the greatest number, or establishes a fair system for the interaction of voluntary agents? This course explores these questions in the context of Greek and Roman law. The Greeks and Romans were the first western societies to confront these questions directly, and more importantly they tried to implement their ideas through political institutions. The focus of this course is on law, because law is the meeting point between the theory and practice of justice. With Aristotle’s Politics as our principal guide, this course will follow the development of justice throughout the Greco-Roman experience. (IV-b)

Entertainment in ancient Rome comprised non-violent forms of entertainment, but the most famed forms of Roman entertainment had a very pronounced violent component. The "games" (ludi) of ancient Rome were presentations that involved extreme violence. These "entertainment" forms included gladiatorial fights, staged animal hunts (venationes), the executions of prisoners of war and convicted criminals, and the most popular entertainment of them all, the chariot races. The games, however, went beyond their entertainment value and served as a message of Roman power and reminded audiences of the wars that Rome fought to conquer and keep the vast territories that comprised their empire. The varied games served to remind all of the inevitability of Roman justice for anyone who challenged Roman power. The destruction of animals in the venationes and death of men in gladiatorial contests particularly served as a graphic reminder of what would be the result for transgressors of Roman power. The games were also especially helpful as types of educational tools useful in teaching about the Roman value system of the time. While descriptions of the games undoubtedly offend modern sensibilities, this course will consider the contemporary standards of the Roman world and what was actually acceptable or rejected as too much violence for entertainment. The topics considered in this course include gladiators and their origins and types, the venues in which the games of violent entertainment were offered (Colosseum, Circus, Theaters), multiple types of "ludi," production and advertising of games, the importance of animals in the games, the experiences of the games in the Roman provinces, the psychological and metaphorical significance of the games, and portrayals of gladiatorial violence in film.

One of the most basic and universal aspects of being human is laughter and comedy. This course is a survey of various types of comedy (e.g., physical comedy; satire; puns and language games; mistaken identity; and stand-up) as they arise in literature from antiquity through the middle ages and into the 21st Century. Students will experience the serious hilarity of Plautus, Aristophanes, Juvenal, Shakespeare, Sherman Alexie, The Simpsons, and Tina Fey. (IV-b)


Introductory study of the vocabulary and grammar of the Latin language, with practice in the reading of sentences and connected prose from selected Latin authors. (I-b1)

Prerequisite: 1115, or the equivalent, with a grade of C or better.

Introductory study of the vocabulary and grammar of the Latin language, with practice in the reading of sentences and connected prose from selected Latin authors.

Prerequisites: Any foreign language background of 1 to 2 years.

This is an accelerated course covering the material presented in Latin 1115 and 1215 in one semester. This course was specifically created for the exceptional student with a foreign language background (not Latin) who wishes to move rapidly through both introductory Latin courses in a single semester. It is also appropriate for those students who have had two years of mid-high or high school Latin but feel they need an intensive grammar review before proceeding to an intermediate reading course. *Students of the latter category should have an interview with the instructor before enrolling in the course.

Hours of Credit: Successful completion of the course will allow the student to obtain credit for ten semester hours of Latin (five hours letter graded that count as Honors credit, five hours S/U credit).

Required Text: Latin Alive and Well, An Introductory Text OU Press by Peggy Chambers

Course Requirements: There will be daily homework and weekly testing; grades will be based on homework, quizzes and exams.

Recommendations: Because of the intensity of this course and the amount of material that is covered and assigned, it is recommended that the student carry a total course load (including Latin 1315) of no more than 14-16 hours, especially if the student is also working.

This course focuses on the reading and understanding of continuous prose passages of Latin. It begins with a review of word forms, and then moves on to further practice with more complicated sentence constructions. Through this class, the student will begin to read Latin prose with increased proficiency, and acquire a more thorough knowledge of Latin vocabulary and grammar. In the fall, the readings include selections from the Vulgate, Caesar, and Livy; in the spring, the selections are from Eutropius, Caesar, and Cicero. Roman history and culture will be an important component of both semesters. This class may be repeated, with a change of reading material, for a maximum of six hours credit.

The Noctes Atticae (Attic Nights) is a collection of stories Aulus Gellius (ca. A.D. 123-170) had heard or read. The subjects are widely varied and include fables, philosophy, history, biography, antiquities, law, literary criticism, and grammar. From this collection, we will translate selected excerpts or complete stories that are especially enjoyable and/or revealing of Roman customs, beliefs, character, and codes of conduct. The text and class requirements include grammar review and text translations in addition to a report (in English) from a list of topics drawn from the assigned translation material.

Required Course Materials:

  1. Text: The Attic Nights of Aulus Gellius, An Intermediate Text and Grammar Review, OU Press, P.L. Chambers
  2. Workbook of the Sentences and Text Translations (Available at the Crimson and Cream Copy Shop in the Union)

The Intermediate Latin Poetry course centers on transitioning students from “textbook” Latin to translating authentic Latin poetry. Ovid, one of classical Rome’s most creative and controversial poets, provided excellent examples of Latin grammar and classical poetic techniques. Often shrouded in religious, social, and political controversy, Ovid’s poems still entertain modern translators of all skill levels. By focusing on a selection from Ovid’s major works, students will develop a deeper understanding of Latin grammar, Roman poetry, and classical culture. This course contains rotating material from Ovid’s poems; therefore, the course may be repeated for a maximum of 6 hours. (I-b3)

The fall of Troy, the wanderings of a hero, the strains of love and duty, the founding of the Roman race — all in this: the most influential and controversial poem of all time. In this course, we will read and discuss Vergil’s Aeneid in the original language, and pay close attention to its place in the epic tradition and analyze its status as a work of Augustan literature. Join us and learn what makes this perhaps the greatest poem ever written.


When choosing a secondary language to study, students often make their decisions based on two criteria: the path of least resistance and the false assumption that fluency will be accomplished in 3 semesters. Instead of investing over 13 hours of course credit into classes that provide little future benefit, enroll in a language that creates a more logical student and a more marketable job candidate.

In the first semester, students will be introduced to the fundamentals of the classical Greek language. At the same time, students will learn vocabulary essential for modern technical vocations and many of the core concepts of western civilization. After gaining the ability to translate works ranging from Homer to the New Testament by the third semesters, students quickly realize that one of the primary benefits of learning classical Greek is an increased proficiency in English. Even after one semester of Greek, students see a remarkable improvement in English composition and gain an expansive vocabulary from Greek derivatives. Learning Greek requires effort (as does learning any foreign language); however, the final result will provide lasting benefits in a student’s future courses and help to set a graduate apart in a competitive job market. (I-b1)

Friedrich Nietzsche famously said “It is notable that God learned Greek when he wanted to become a writer, but also that he did not learn it well.” This class will engage Nietzsche’s challenge head-on and investigate the New Testament as a preeminent example of Greek writing from the Roman Empire. The koine (or “common”) Greek of the New Testament and Early Christianity represents the linguistic successor to the diplomatic language of the court of Alexander the Great, while also drawing on the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament. More than any other single book, the New Testament exerted a key influence in perpetuating the Greek language of Athens and Alexandria into the Roman and Byzantine worlds. We will discuss the cultural setting of classical, Jewish, and Christian elements in the New Testament, while paying close attention to lexical and syntactic changes in the fabric of the Greek language. We will study the manuscript history of the New Testament and learn how textual critics have reconstructed the original Greek of this book from a complicated legacy of surviving witnesses. For students of Greek, the Postclassical world offers a much larger body of literature than the Classical, and the New Testament stands at the very beginning of that revolution. This class presents a rare opportunity to read, at an advanced level, the foundational document of Christian Greek. (I-b3)

Romance, travel, adventure! The Greek Novel has been an active literary genre for two thousand years, extending through the entire history of the classical, Byzantine, and modern Greek language. We will be reading in Greek a classic of western literature, Longus’ *Daphnis and Chloe*, a Greek novel written under the Roman empire. This incredibly rich work is one of the five canonical “ideal” Greek novels, all of which we will read in English translation to gain a sense of the larger structure of the Greek novel and an appreciation of the whole tradition. Among many other literary topics, we will discuss narrative voice and perspective, the role of travel, archaizing tendencies, focalization techniques, and the interplay between local and universal religion. Intertextuality and the formation of canon will also be discussed, since the later novels often allude to the earlier ones. Finally, the entire concept of the “novel” will be questioned throughout the course, as we take the opportunity to read a handful of scholarly articles debating the appropriateness of such a designation. We will also have an opportunity to engage the reception of Longus’ novel, especially in modern literature, dance, and visual art.


This course serves as an introduction to the Letters major, OU’s interdisciplinary humanities degree. This semester’s section will address reason and passion. Over the course of the term, we will study seminal writings about reason and emotion from Classical Greece through the nineteenth-century and explore how the reason/emotion dichotomy has helped shape Western accounts of what it means to be human. We will be discussing the changing values accorded to rationality and passion over time by focusing on the terminology and imagery used to represent them in canonical works of literature and philosophy, including Aristotle’s Ethics, Robert Burton’s The Anatomy of Melancholy, and Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights. This course contains a variety of short writing assignments intended to familiarize incoming students with the requirements of essay writing, as well as a mid-term and final exam. Class format is based on lecture and discussion. No prerequisites. Approved for Gen-Ed credit. (IV-b)

This course serves as a broad introduction to the theory and history of constitutional governance. The student who completes the course will acquire, first, a conceptual vocabulary that enables her or him to think critically about the nature of constitutional problems. The student will learn what liberty, justice, natural law, natural rights, civil rights, legitimacy, monarchy, democracy, majoritarianism, classical liberalism, republicanism, executive power, legislative power, judicial power, and judicial review mean. Secondly, the student will acquire a framework of core knowledge about the history of constitutionalism. This includes the classical roots of constitutional thought, the contribution of the English common law tradition, the origins and structure of the U.S. Constitution, and the development of American constitutionalism during the civil war and civil rights movement. Finally, the student will leave the course with a deeper sense of the constitutional basis of contemporary political controversies. (IV-b)

This course presents a survey of the history, literature, and philosophy of the Enlightenment through reading and discussion of the great books of the time, with particular emphasis onunderstanding the impact of these texts on modern day thought.  Readings include selections from Leibniz, Voltaire, Rousseau, Mary Wollstonecraft, Hume, and Kant.  This course will count towards the history, literature, or philosophy requirement of the Letters major. (IV-d)

The revenge tragedy, one of the most fiercely enduring forms of entertainment, is as popular nowadays in revenge-obsessed films like The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo as it was when Shakespeare first staged Hamlet in 1600. This course sets out to investigate the Classical origins of the revenge tragedy, and traces its evolution through the Renaissance and onto the silver screen. Over the sixteen-week semester, we will be examining the revenge tragedy’s preoccupation with violence, social non-conformity, and heroism, along with the genre’s persistent, even obsessive interest in theatrical and filmic spectatorship. The second half of the course will feature weekly film screenings with selected action, horror, and mobster movies that offer distinctively modern cinematic adaptations of the revenge tragedy. (IV-d)

In this course, we will examine secret societies in American history, from the Revolution through the twentieth century. This will include some more myth than reality as well as groups such as the Freemasons, Odd Fellows, Ku Klux Klan, and collegiate secret societies that could claim the membership of millions. A better understanding of the societies themselves, why people joined, and the nature of their secrecy and ritual can reveal a great deal about American culture. The course will also give equal attention to the fears and anxieties that such groups generated at particular moments in American history.

What is justice? Few concepts are more vitally important to our moral and political life, and yet few are more elusive to define. This course examines some of the principal rival visions of justice and their relation to equally contested understandings of equality and liberty. It seeks to introduce you to the wide-ranging political and moral debate concerning the character of a free, equal and just society, and to develop your capacity to think critically about the moral and institutional foundations of our way of life.

Our readings will include influential (and conflicting) accounts of the concept of justice, including a close reading of what is perhaps the greatest and most enduringly influential of all studies of justice: Plato’s Republic. We shall also discuss and debate a number of contemporary issues in which rival theoretical perspectives are implicated. You will discover time and again in this course that confronting practical political questions always drives us to reflect upon what we mean when we invoke the idea of justice, and after we so reflect, the questions themselves may shift and evolve for us. The capstone paper, an extended study of a topic chosen by students in consultation with the instructor, is the chief objective of the course, but shorter papers or examinations will also be included. (V)

In 1941 W. H. Auden taught a course at the University of Michigan entitled “Fate and the Individual in European Literature.” In 2012 the course syllabus resurfaced and was circulated online. It provoked excitement, first because it allows us to see the list of texts that Auden, one of the greatest poets and critics of the twentieth century, considered central to the Western tradition. Second, because people were astonished by the immensity of the reading list. Auden had proposed nearly six thousand pages of reading for a one semester, two credit-hour class.

We wish to rekindle the spirit—a mingling of seriousness towards and delight in the Western canon—that Auden’s syllabus reflects. Over two sequential classes we are going to explore some of the literature that has proven indispensible to understanding the set of intertwined traditions that gave birth to America and the modern world. The fall semester will run from the ancient Greeks, through the Roman Empire, the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. In the spring, we will focus on modernity, beginning in the Enlightenment and ending in the mid-twentieth century. Throughout we will be wrestling with the big questions conjured up by the course title: what is the role of destiny in human affairs? What is the role of God or the gods? What is the meaning of human freedom? What is the value of an individual person and what constitutes a meaningful life? How should we relate to those who surround us and to those in authority?

We’ve omitted a few of Auden’s texts and added some others we think are important. While our reading list is perhaps not quite so daunting as his was, we nevertheless recognize that it demands a lot of you. We are asking you to read a good deal more than you would in most humanities classes. We hope you will see this as a valuable intellectual challenge and rise to it. Your professors believe that wrestling with Homer and Augustine, Dante and Milton, Goethe and Melville is essential to a true liberal education. We are looking for students – regardless of major – who are excited by the challenge.

The class will be a mixture of lecture and discussion. Your three professors will all take turns leading the class on different days. When they aren’t scheduled to teach, they will be sitting alongside you as your fellow students, each of them eager to better grasp the books and ideas that have shaped our collective story.