GRC30080 The Oedipus Myth

Academic Year 2020/2021

This module studies the myth of the family of Oedipus from Homer to 400 B.C., with particular reference to five tragedies: Aeschylus' Seven Against Thebes; Sophocles' Antigone, Oedipus the King, and Oedipus at Colonus; and Euripides' The Phoenician Women. The module studies the ways in which Greek tragedians used myth, and focuses on the meaning of the Oedipus myth in particular. Recurrent themes in the Oedipus story are: the significance of his crimes, the role of women in Greek life, and the relationship between the family and the state. All the plays are studied in translation.

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Curricular information is subject to change

Learning Outcomes:

On completion of this module students should be able to:
* synthesize information about the various versions of the Oedipus myth;
* demonstrate critical understanding of the prescribed plays as works of literature;
* evaluate modern interpretations of the prescribed plays;
* contribute constructively to group discussion;
* construct relevant and analytical written work on the prescribed plays.

Indicative Module Content:



1. Introduction
2. Early versions of the Oedipus story
3. Aeschylus, Seven Against Thebes (Eteocles and the women)
4. Aeschylus, Seven Against Thebes (shield scene)
5. Sophocles, Antigone (Creon)
6. Sophocles, Antigone (Antigone)
7. Sophocles, Oedipus the King (myth)
8. Sophocles, Oedipus the King (Oedipus; fate)
9. Sophocles, Oedipus at Colonus
10. Euripides, The Phoenician Women
11. No lecture
12. No lecture



1. No tutorial
2. No tutorial
3. The social and political context of Greek tragedy
4. Aeschylus, Seven Against Thebes
5. Aeschylus, Seven Against Thebes
6. Sophocles, Antigone
7. Sophocles, Oedipus the King
8. Discussion of essay topics
9. Sophocles, Oedipus at Colonus
10. Euripides, The Phoenician Women
11. No tutorial
12. No tutorial

Prescribed texts

Early Versions of the Oedipus Story (handout)
Aeschylus, Seven Against Thebes (in Persians and Other Plays tr. C. Collard, Oxford World’s Classics)
Sophocles, Antigone, Oedipus the King, Oedipus at Colonus (in The Three Theban Plays tr. R. Fagles)
Euripides, The Phoenician Women (tr. P. Burian & B. Swann, Oxford University Press)

Indicative secondary reading

J. Griffin, ‘The social function of Attic tragedy’, Classical Quarterly 48 (1998), 39–61
H.C. Baldry, ‘The dramatization of the Theban legend’, Greece and Rome 3 (1956), 24–37
R. Buxton, Myths and Tragedies in their Ancient Greek Contexts (Oxford, 2013)
M. Lloyd (ed.), Oxford Readings in Aeschylus (Oxford, 2007)
C. Sourvinou-Inwood, ‘Assumptions and the creation of meaning: reading Sophocles’ Antigone’, Journal of Hellenic Studies 109 (1989), 134–48
H.P. Foley, ‘Tragedy and democratic ideology: the case of Sophocles’ Antigone’, in B. Goff (ed.), History, Tragedy, Theory: Dialogues on Athenian Drama (Austin, 1995), 131–50
E.R. Dodds, ‘On misunderstanding Oedipus Rex’, Greece and Rome 13 (1966), 37–49
P. Burian, ‘Suppliant and saviour: Oedipus at Colonus’, Phoenix 28 (1974), 408–29
L.A. Swift, ‘Sexual and familial distortion in Euripides’ Phoenissae’, Transactions of the American Philological Association 139 (2009), 53–87

Student Effort Hours: 
Student Effort Type Hours




Specified Learning Activities


Autonomous Student Learning




Approaches to Teaching and Learning:
This module is taught through a combination of lectures and tutorials. The lectures give basic information about the subject, and outline the main issues of interpretation of the five plays. The tutorials discuss the plays in more in detail in small groups, typically 8-10 students. The module is assessed by two pieces of coursework, and also by a learning journal which enables students to develop their ideas through the semester and receive continuous feedback from the lecturer. 
Requirements, Exclusions and Recommendations
Learning Recommendations:

The module presupposes some knowledge of the social and theatrical context of Greek tragedy, e.g. from taking the module GRC20040 Greek Tragedy.

Module Requisites and Incompatibles
GRC3006E - Myth & Tragedy in Ancient Gree, GRC30200 - Greek Tragedy and Myth

Assessment Strategy  
Description Timing Open Book Exam Component Scale Must Pass Component % of Final Grade
Continuous Assessment: Tutorial attendance and participation Throughout the Trimester n/a Graded No


Essay: 2,000-word essay Coursework (End of Trimester) n/a Graded No


Assignment: 1,000-word commentary on a passage from one of the plays Week 7 n/a Graded No


Carry forward of passed components
Resit In Terminal Exam
Summer No
Please see Student Jargon Buster for more information about remediation types and timing. 
Feedback Strategy/Strategies

• Feedback individually to students, on an activity or draft prior to summative assessment
• Feedback individually to students, post-assessment

How will my Feedback be Delivered?

Feedback on the two written assignments will be entered on the standard School of Classics feedback sheet and sent to the students through Brightspace as soon as possible after submission, which will typically be within one week for this module. The lecturer will be available to give further individual feedback on request. The lecturer will be comment on request on draft learning journal entries.