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CLASSICS 2E03 AncntWrldInFilm

Academic Year: Winter 2017

Term: Fall

Day/Evening: D

Instructor: Dr. Jonathan Reeves


Office: Togo Salmon Hall 703

Phone: 905-525-9140 x 23379

Office Hours: Fridays 12:00-2:00

Course Objectives:

This class is an exploration of classical Greek and Latin literature transposed onto film. Over the course of the term, students will study cinematic adaptations of Greek and Roman epic poetry, drama, historiography and biography. The films selected for study do not simply reflect these literary genres but also have been chosen to expose students to a broad range of cinematic genres with the goal of developing a sense of film literacy.

Textbooks, Materials & Fees:

  • Reeves, J. et al. (eds.), The Ancient World in Film (Radix Antiqua, 2017)
  • i-clicker 

Method of Assessment:

Attendance                 10 %

I-clicker                       25 %

Midterm                      20 %

Final Exam                 45 %

Attendance and etiquette:

Regular attendance of lectures is critical to success in this course. Basic attendance is worth 10% of the course grade. You are allowed to miss two classes, after which you will lose 2 points for every subsequent missed class. Since I am already granting you two missed classes, MSAF forms will not be accepted for missed classes. (That is, your MSAF form will count as your allowable missed class.)

Beyond mere attendance, a further 25% of the grade is from i-clicker quizzes taken in class. Questions asked using the i-clicker system will normally concern the assigned readings of classical literature and their relation to the film being viewed.

Moreover, careful attention to lecture material and film presented in class is critical to your success on the midterm and final examinations, so remember to take notes during class. I encourage you to think yourselves back into the days of the classical cinema and take these notes using pen and paper. In order to minimize distractions and to encourage critical and engaged viewing of films, please do not walk out early, during a film, or make noises and disturb others who are trying to pay attention. Some of the films may be available for a second viewing through the main circulation desk in Mills library or from other sources after they have been shown in class, but the only guaranteed opportunity to view the material presented in this course is in class meetings. Therefore, your attendance and respectful theatre etiquette are absolutely essential.

There will be a midterm and final examination, the particulars of which will be discussed in class.

Policy on Missed Work, Extensions, and Late Penalties:

See above on in-class assessments and participation. 

Please Note the Following Policies and Statements:

Academic Dishonesty

You are expected to exhibit honesty and use ethical behaviour in all aspects of the learning process. Academic credentials you earn are rooted in principles of honesty and academic integrity.

Academic dishonesty is to knowingly act or fail to act in a way that results or could result in unearned academic credit or advantage. This behaviour can result in serious consequences, e.g. the grade of zero on an assignment, loss of credit with a notation on the transcript (notation reads: "Grade of F assigned for academic dishonesty"), and/or suspension or expulsion from the university.

It is your responsibility to understand what constitutes academic dishonesty. For information on the various types of academic dishonesty please refer to the Academic Integrity Policy, located at

The following illustrates only three forms of academic dishonesty:

  1. Plagiarism, e.g. the submission of work that is not one’s own or for which other credit has been obtained.
  2. Improper collaboration in group work.
  3. Copying or using unauthorized aids in tests and examinations.

Email correspondence policy

It is the policy of the Faculty of Humanities that all email communication sent from students to instructors (including TAs), and from students to staff, must originate from each student’s own McMaster University email account. This policy protects confidentiality and confirms the identity of the student.  Instructors will delete emails that do not originate from a McMaster email account.

Modification of course outlines

The University reserves the right to change dates and/or deadlines etc. for any or all courses in the case of an emergency situation or labour disruption or civil unrest/disobedience, etc. If a modification becomes necessary, reasonable notice and communication with the students will be given with an explanation and the opportunity to comment on changes. Any significant changes should be made in consultation with the Department Chair.

McMaster Student Absence Form (MSAF)

In the event of an absence for medical or other reasons, students should review and follow the Academic Regulation in the Undergraduate Calendar Requests for Relief for Missed Academic Term Work. Please note these regulations have changed beginning Fall 2015. You can find information at If you have any questions about the MSAF, please contact your Associate Dean's office.

Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities

Students who require academic accommodation must contact Student Accessibility Services (SAS) to make arrangements with a Program Coordinator. Academic accommodations must be arranged for each term of study. Student Accessibility Services can be contacted by phone 905-525-9140 ext. 28652 or e-mail For further information, consult McMaster University's Policy for Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities.

Academic Accommodation for Religious, Indigenous and Spiritual Observances

Students requiring academic accommodation based on religion and spiritual observances should follow the procedures set out in the Course Calendar or by their respective Faculty. In most cases, the student should contact his or her professor or academic advisor as soon as possible to arrange accommodations for classes, assignments, tests and examinations that might be affected by a religious holiday or spiritual observance.

Topics and Readings:

1. Jan. 5


2. Jan. 9

Theme: Beginnings and Origins


Film: Ex Machina (2015 – dir: Alex Garland)


Assigned Reading: Chapter 1

Hesiod – Works and Days and Theogony; Aeschylus – Prometheus Bound


3. Jan. 16

Theme: Epic I


Film: Troy (2004 – dir: Wolfgang Peterson); selections from Helen of Troy (1956 – dir: 1956)


Assigned Reading: Chapter 2

Selections from Homer’s Iliad


4. Jan. 23

Theme: Epic II


Film: Oh Brother Where art Thou? (2000 – dirs: Joel and Ethan Coen)


Assigned Reading: Chapter 3

Selections from Homer’s Odyssey


5. Jan. 30

Theme: Greek Tragedy


Film: Trojan Women (1971 – dir: Michael Cacoyannis)


Assigned Reading: Chapter 4

Euripides – Trojan Women


6. Feb. 6

Theme: History on Film


Film: 300 (2007 – dir: Zack Snyder); plus clips from 300 Spartans (1962 – dir: Rudolph Maté)


Assigned Reading: Chapter 5

Selections from Herodotus


7. Feb. 13






Feb. 16

Theme: Athenian Comedy


Film: Chi-Raq (2015 – dir: Spike Lee)


Assigned Reading: Chapter 6

Aristophanes – Lysistrata



8. Feb. 20

No Class – Mid-Term Recess

9. Feb. 27

Theme: Historical Biography I


Film: Alexander (2004 – dir: Oliver Stone)


Assigned Reading: Selection of sources to be posted on ATL


10. Mar. 6

Theme: History on Film II


Film: Spartacus (1960 – dir: Stanley Kubrick)


Assigned Reading: Chapter 7

Selection of ancient sources on Spartacus


11. Mar. 13

Theme:  New Comedy


Film: A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (1966 – dir: Richard Lester)


Assigned Reading: Chapter 8

Plautus – Pseudolus


Theme: Historical Biography II

Film: Selections of I, Claudius (1976 – episodes 11 and 12); Rome (2005); Caligula (1979 – dir: Tinto Brass, Bob Guccione, and Gioncarlo Lui); Quo Vadis (1951 – dir: Mervin LeRoy)


Assigned Reading: Chapter 9

Tacitus – The Story of Messalina

Plutarch – The Demise of Antony and Cleopatra

Tacitus – Some Stories about Nero

Suetonius – Caligula


12. Mar. 20

Theme: Sword and Sandal for the 21st century


Film: Gladiator (2000 – dir: Ridley Scott)


Assigned Reading: Chapter 10

Historia Augusta – Life of Commodus


13. Mar. 27

Theme: Adaptation and Reception I


Film: Coriolanus (2011 – dir: Ralph Fiennes)


Assigned Reading: Chapter 11

Plutarch – Life of Coriolanus

Suggested Reading: Shakespeare – Coriolanus (posted on ATL)


14. Apr. 3








Apr. 4

Theme: Adaptation and Reception II


Film: The Hunger Games (2012 – dir: Gary Ross); plus scenes from Apocalypse Now (1979 – dir: Francis Ford Coppola)


Assigned Reading: Chapter 12

Ancient sources on Theseus


Discussion of Final Exam