GRS 260: Syllabus (2019)

General Information

Instructors: Caroline Stark (Howard)
Kenny Morrell (Rhodes)
Meeting Times: Howard: 9:40 am-11:00 am EST
Rhodes: Tuesdays and Thursdays at 9:30-10:45 am CST
Meeting Place: Howard: Wonders Plaza Breakout Room
Rhodes: Language Learning Center
Office Hours: Stark: Tuesdays and Thursdays from 8:00-9:30 am and by appointment.
Morrell: Mondays from 9:00 to 10:00 am; Tuesdays from 11:00 to 12:00 pm; and Wednesdays from 11:00 am to 12:00 pm and by appointment.
Office Locations: Stark: Locke Hall 268
Morrell: Haliburton 403
Telephone: Stark: 202-806-5220
Morrell: 202-257-6269
Email: Stark:


Within the Discipline of Greek and Roman Studies or Classics

This course seeks to enhance your familiarity with the culture of ancient Greece and the reception of literary works among the artists of the African Diaspora. Within that overall goal, GRS 260 will pursue four corollary objectives:

1. To explore parallels and identify contrasts between events and ideas in different historical and cultural contexts, for example between the context of the choral performances in the festivals of Dionysus in Athens during the 5th century and between Medea of Euripides and County Cullen’s Medea.

2. To examine how the culture of the ancient Greeks has influenced subsequent behaviors and ideas and contributed to the formation of contemporary Western culture, for example, in the evolution of drama from a ritual associated with the worship of Dionysus to forms we encounter on a daily basis in live theatre, television, movies, and even opera.

3. To develop a sense of caution toward generalizations and categorical explanations given the nature of the material that has survived from antiquity, the vastly different cultural perspectives of people who lived 2500 years ago and contemporary American and European society, and the diverse approaches and views we all bring to an engagement with Athenian drama.

4. To situate this particular study of Athenian drama in its curricular context here at Rhodes, for example, by highlighting the way we will work with these texts in contrast with other approaches to the material in other courses, for example in Art 318: Greek Art and Architecture, which might look at the Theatre of Dionysus as an element in the complex of structures associated with the Acropolis, or in History 311: The Rise and Fall of Athens, which might address Sophocles’ role as a general and political figure in 5th century Athens, or in Humanities 101 and 102, which will examine some of these plays in terms of what they tell us about the human condition.

Within the Context of Ancient Greek Culture

GRS 260 will focus on the nature of Greek poetry with an emphasis on the forms we encounter in selected dramas of Sophocles and Euripides. At the conclusion of this course, you should have developed an understanding of these poetic forms and be able to describe and discuss the following:

1. How the playwright uses language to articulate his ideas

2. How he situated himself in a creative tradition by appropriating and transforming traditional narratives and the work of earlier poets

3. How the poet made his compositions available to specific audiences and responded to the various performative contexts

4. How the poet addressed artistic expectations and worked within the political and social frameworks of their patrons and audiences

This course will not require you to work extensively with the Greek language, although you will have to learn the Greek alphabet and become familiar with the vocabulary associated with the composition and performance of Greek drama and its political and social context.

Students interested in developing the ability to read the texts in Greek should enroll in the ancient Greek sequence (Greek 101, 102, 201, and 265). Periodically, Greek 265 focuses on one or more Greek tragedies.

This study of Athenian drama will involve an exploration of some interpretative approaches. Typically, Greek 265, 291-295, and 391-395 also include additional work on literary criticism. Finally, this course will only briefly mention the manuscript tradition and the development of resources associated with the study of surviving textual materials. Those topics are the focus of GRS 275: Introduction to Classical Studies.


Daily Preparation and Attendance

You will be expected to work through the assigned reading for each class and actively participate in the discussion and interpretation of the plays both during our meetings here on campus and during our inter-institutional common sessions. Coming unprepared or missing classes will adversely affect your grade in this course. Included in this measure of your performance, which will account for twenty percent of your final grade, are the scores on the quizzes.


In collaboration with other students you will create a dramatic scene. The steps involved in this process are:

1. Adapting a scene. You will adapt a scene from one of the Greek dramas. Your adaptation should reflect issues and ideas of importance to you. As other playwrights have done, you could choose a scene and reimagine it from a different perspective, for example, through the persona of a particular character or external observer. You might also explore alternative outcomes, add or change the characters, setting, and time. The script for this scene should be approximately 1000-1500 words in length. You should also provide a written commentary about your scene, providing the necessary information for your audience to understand what happens in your scene (e.g., the characters, setting, etc.) and describing the rationale behind your adaptation, in other words, provide a brief explanation about the changes you made.

2. Analytical essay. You will choose a play or a passage from a play, ancient or modern  (or even your adaptation), and write an analytical essay. This essay might offer an interpretation, discuss connections between works, or explore a particular theme. This essay should also be approximately 1000-1500 words in length.

3. Peer review.You will work in teams of two and provide each other with editorial support. You are to imagine yourself as an editor, producer, or director and help your partner refine the script and commentary to make them as well-reasoned, compelling, clear, and articulate as possible. Your partner will do the same for you. From these scripts we will select a set for production by members of the New Ballet Ensemble.

4. Final version.This step of the project will allow you to choose either the script and commentary or the analytical essay (or both if appropriate) and revise it to share with the entire class, developing and expanding your ideas and refining their presentation with the idea of participating in a research symposium, for example URCAS.


There will be one examination during the course of the semester and a final examination. Your success on the examinations will depend on your mastery of the texts, a familiarity with the cultural context of the plays, and an awareness of the major interpretive issues for each work. Each examination will account for fifteen percent of your final grade.


Your grade will be based on the following components:

Component Percentage of Final Grade
Attendance, participation, quizzes 20%
Project: First draft of your script and commentary 10%
Project: First draft of your analytical essay 10%
Project: Peer review 10%
Project: Revised, final project 20%
Midterm Examination 15%
Final Examination 15%