2016 — Hellenistic Literature

Course Description

This inter-institutional collaborative course focuses on the evolution of Greek literature during the Hellenistic period, which begins with the conquest of Alexander the Great and the founding of the Museum at Alexandria by Ptolemy I Soter. This course is specifically designed for advanced students and will include a rigorous study of the cultural and historical context during the Hellenistic period in the Mediterranean. Because this course addresses both literature and context, students are expected to synthesize a wide variety of materials. These will include selections of three major authors of the period, Callimachus, Theocritus, and Apollonius of Rhodes, as well as epigrams from other writers including Meleager, Asclepiades, Philodemus, and Posidippus. The principal topics of study will include the concept of Hellenistic aesthetics, the role of women in the Hellenistic world, and the relationship between Hellenistic literature and the empire of Ptolemaic Egypt.

Students will participate in a weekly online interactive common session, an on-line writing forum moderated by faculty members from participating institutions, and weekly tutorials with faculty members at their home institutions.

Course Objectives

Through tutorial instruction at their home institution students will further their skills in the Greek language by reading from selected authors of the Hellenistic period.

By participating in the online common sessions students will further contextualize the primary readings as they relate to the principal themes outlined above.

By composing responses to study questions gradually narrowing their focus to a single topic, students will develop their ability to read critically, write clearly, and contribute productively to an ongoing discussion of these texts and their contexts.

Course Components

Preparation: Assigned readings are listed in the syllabus by week. Students should prepare this material in accordance with their home instructor’s specifications. Weekly writing must be submitted to the forum on this website by 5pm on Friday.

Common Sessions: Thursdays, 7-8:15 PM EST. Students at all participating institutions will meet together online for a common session via multipoint interactive video-conferencing and a chat room. These interactive sessions have different faculty leaders each week and typically combine mini-lectures with discussion, questions, and exercises. Additionally there will be several common sessions for students to present and discuss their own contributions to the writing forum.

Writing forum: All students will submit a 500 word post to the writing forum each week. For the first three weeks, students will write on a different theme each week. Then, students will choose one of the three themes to focus on and contribute writing only to that theme. Finally students will identify a topic within that theme and dedicate their efforts to crafting a paper abstract for submission to the Student Undergraduate Research Symposium.

Abstract: All students will write an abstract for a paper related to the themes of this course. This abstract will be evaluated by contributing faculty for acceptance to the Student Undergraduate Research Symposium held at the Center for Hellenic Studies in March, 2016.

Times, Due Dates, and Evaluation:

Tutorials: Each student will meet for at least one hour every week with an instructor at her or his home institution. The times and locations of these meetings will be determined on each campus. Students are responsible for contacting their home institution faculty instructors and finalizing the details of their weekly meetings. These sessions will focus more closely on issues of language, translation and interpretation of assigned readings. Home campus instructors will be the final authority for all grades. Translation exams and quizzes will be handled by home institutions.

Common Sessions: All common sessions will occur on Thursday evenings at 7:00 EST.

Writing forum: Student submissions to the writing forum are due by Friday at 5pm. Students will receive comments from contributing faculty. Once they have chosen a research topic, students will be paired with a faculty member as they complete their abstract.

Abstract: The deadline for submission of the paper abstract is by 5pm Friday, November 18. For information on the abstracts see the bottom of the SURS page.

Inter-Institutional Course Dates

The inter-institutional phase of the course will begin September 8 and conclude on November 17. Individual campuses may begin before September 8 and conclude after November 17. Students should consult with their faculty instructors for further information.


If you have any questions or concerns you can contact our Sunoikisis Post-Baccalaureate Fellow, Emily Kohut, at ekohut(at)mail.chs.harvard.edu