CLAS 1110

Tyranny, Democracy, and Empire: Classical Cultures

Spring 2020

3 hours; 3 credits



Class Meetings: Mondays and Wednesdays, 11:00 a.m. – 12:15 p.m.

Location: Boylan Hall 4129

Instructor: Mary Jean McNamara

Email: maryjean.mcnamara@brooklyn.cuny.edu OR


Office: Boylan 2408

Office Hours: Wednesdays, 12:30 p.m. – 1:30 p.m. and by appointment



Course Description


Introductory study of ancient cultures through close reading of a variety of texts; most sections

will focus on Greece and Rome, but some may explore other classical traditions such as those of

England, France, and the United States. Attention to such questions as literary genre, material

and performance contexts, gender, political institutions, religion, philosophy, models of culture

and the creation of a classical tradition. Practice in close reading and communication by means

of critical writing, class discussion and other methods, such as collaborative group work. (Not

open to students who have completed Core Studies 1, 1.1, 1.2, or CORC 1110.)  Prerequisite:



This course fulfills the World Cultures and Global Issues requirement of the Flexible Common

Core of the CUNY Pathways General Education Requirements.


In this course, students will engage with some of the major works in Western literature that

portray the tension between the ruled and the rulers. This relationship between the people and the

king, queen, emperor, sovereign, or president is one that dominates Western political and cultural

history. Over the course of the semester, students will read and analyze Greek tragedy and epic

poetry along with works from the early Renaissance up to the modern era. The selection of

readings is organized around the theme of the individual’s ability to exercise free will under a

tyranny, democracy, or empire. The focus of the reading and writing assignments will be on the

interaction between the ruled and the rulers and the ways in which these interactions bolster or

challenge hierarchy.



Course Objectives


  • to identify basic terms of literary analysis relevant to the texts read in class
  • to identify traditions and practices specific to ancient cultures and describe how they

influence later authors including Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and John Stuart Mill

  • to write interpretive prose which is clear and cogent
  • to make articulate contributions to classroom discussion of texts



Optional Texts (Selections from these texts will be made available to all registered students on the course website. Students are not required to purchase these texts.)

Homer, The Iliad. Translated by Robert Fagles with Introduction by Bernard Knox.

Sophocles, The Three Theban Plays: Antigone; Oedipus the King; Oedipus at Colonus.

Translated by Robert Fagles with Introduction by Bernard Knox. Published by Penguin Classics,

(1984, Reprint 2000). ISBN-10: 0140444254; ISBN-13: 978-0140444254.


Course Requirements

Students are required to read the texts that are published on the website. Students are encouraged to attend the online class sessions. Those who are not able to attend the class sessions may listen to the recordings of the class before the next class meeting. Recordings of the class will be made available under the “Resources” tab of the website.



Students will take four tests and one final exam. The final exam will be cumulative and will  be administered on Blackboard. (The third and fourth test along with the final exam will be “open book.”)


Email and Communication Policies

Please check your Brooklyn College email and Blackboard a day or two days before class meets and on the day of class. Announcements regarding discussion questions and study guides will be sent via Blackboard and will be available on the course website.


Grading Policy  

Your grade is based on the following formula:

Attendance and class participation: 20%

Quiz average:  50%

Final exam: 30%


Guidelines for Online Instruction

Students participate in group discussions facilitated by the WebEx group chat feature as well as by asking questions regarding the class  and answering questions posed by the Instructor.



You will have four tests over the course of the semester. The questions will be based on the reading and classroom discussions. The tests on Blackboard will be timed, you will be allotted 45 minutes for each test. I will provide a study guide in advance of each quiz. No make-up quizzes will be given unless documentation of an extenuating circumstance is provided.


Final Exam

The final exam is cumulative. There will be multiple choice, fill-in-the-blank, identification, and short essay questions. I will provide a study guide and will arrange an optional review session before the exam.


Course Schedule (subject to change at instructor’s discretion)


WEEK 1 (Jan 27 and 29) Introduction to Homer and ancient Greek epic

Reading: Homer, the Iliad, Introduction and Book 1, First reading – Introduction to Iliad,



WEEK 2 (Feb 3 and 5) Leaders at War

Reading: Homer, the Iliad, Book 2 (See previous week’s schedule for links to the reading)


WEEK 3 (Feb 10 and 12) Debate and Violence

Reading: Homer, the Iliad, Books 9 and 18, Book-9; Iliad book 18



WEEK 4 (Feb 17  and 19) Death of a Trojan Hero



FIRST TEST: WEDNESDAY, February 19 on Iliad books 1, 2, and 9

WEEK 5 (Feb 23 and 25) War’s End

Reading: Homer, Reading: Homer, the Iliad, Book 22, Iliad book 22; Book 24,  book 24


WEEK 6 (March 2 and 4) Rule of Law

Reading: Sophocles, Antigone, Antigone by Sophocles, Fitzgerald-Murray translation


WEEK 7 (Mar 9 and 11) Sophocles, Antigone: Democracy or Tyranny?

March 9th, Second Test: Iliad Books 18, 22, and 24


WEEK 8 (Mar 16 and 18) No Class due to COVID-19 outbreak


WEEK 9 (Mar 23 and 25) Antigone: Opposition to Tyranny


WEEK 10 (Mar 30 and Apr 1) No class due to “Recalibration Period”


WEEK 11 (Apr 6 and 8) Antigone and Electra

Introduction to Electra, Interpreting Sophocles’ Electra, article by Charles Segal

Reading, lines 1-385, Electra, by Sophocles, translated by G. Theodoridis, (2006)


WEEK 12 (April 13 and 15)

Wednesday, April 15th: Test on Antigone and Electra, (lines 1-369) (See Blackboard for details)

WEEK 13 (Apr 20 and 22) Conclusion of Electra; begin Aristophanes, The Clouds

Perseus edition of The Clouds by Aristophanes, in ancient Greek and English


WEEK 14 (Apr 27 and 29) Aristophanes, The Clouds.

Monday, April 27th: Introduction to Aristophanes, read lines 1-510

Wednesday, April 29th: Read lines 510 to  the end of Aristophanes’s, The Clouds.


WEEK 15 (May 4 and 6) Euripides, Bacchae

Monday, May 4th: Introduction to Euripides, Bacchae; Euripides’s Bacchae, trans. I. Johnston read lines 1-328

Wednesday, May 6th: Read Bacchae lines 329-775

Assignment guidelines for short presentations online

WEEK 16 (May 11 and 13) Euripides, Bacchae and Student Presentations on Heroes in Course Readings

Monday, May 11th: Conclude Bacchae, read lines 776-end

Student five-minute presentations from Group A

Student five-minute presentations from Group B


FINAL EXAM: TUESDAY, Monday, May 18th, 10:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.


Academic Integrity

The following excerpt is taken from Brooklyn College’s Undergraduate Bulletin:


“The faculty and administration of Brooklyn College support an environment free from cheating

and plagiarism. Each student is responsible for being aware of what constitutes cheating and

plagiarism and for avoiding both. The complete text of the CUNY Academic Integrity Policy and

the Brooklyn College procedure for policy implementation can be found at

www.brooklyn.cuny.edu/bc/policies. If a faculty member suspects a violation of academic

integrity and, upon investigation, confirms that violation, or if the student admits the violation,

the faculty member must report the violation.”



The following excerpt is taken from Brooklyn College’s Undergraduate Bulletin:


“In order to receive disability-related academic accommodations students must first be registered

with the Center for Student Disability Services. Students who have a documented disability or

suspect they may have a disability are invited to set up an appointment with the Director of the

Center for Student Disability Services, Ms. Valerie Stewart-Lovell at (718) 951-5538. If you have

already registered with the Center for Student Disability Services, please provide your professor

with the course accommodation form and discuss your specific accommodations with him/her”.

(Please refer to page 66 in the Undergraduate Bulletin for more information on disability-related

academic accommodations, http://www.brooklyn.cuny.edu/web/off_registrar/2017-2018_Undergraduate_Bulletin.pdf).



Observation of Religious Duties

The following excerpt is taken from Brooklyn College’s Undergraduate Bulletin:


“The New York State Education Law provides that no student shall be expelled or refused

admission to an institution of higher education because he or she is unable to attend classes or

participate in examinations or study or work requirements on any particular day or days because of religious beliefs.” (For more information on Brooklyn College’s policy of religious

observance, please refer to page 66 in the Undergraduate Bulletin, http://