CLAS 3026 - Afterlife and Underworld in Antiquity

North Terrace Campus - Semester 1 - 2022

In this course we study the myths and rituals dealing with the process of death and the passage to the afterlife. While reviewing Pharaonic Egypt, Homeric and Classical Greece, Rome and the Christian era, we consider the various approaches to burials (mummification to resurrection), speculations about what happens after we die and consider their cultural and symbolic meanings. We also review popular ideas, stories and philosophical theories about the afterlife and the nature of the underworld, asking what sort of punishments and rewards applied and whether these notions evolved across time. Important works of different genres will illustrate how pervasive afterlife narratives are. An important aim of the course is to explore the universal elements of these beliefs, their evolution and their ongoing relevance. You will be encouraged to make connections between the time periods studied, but also with our own ideas and practices today. To reinforce this notion of continuing relevance, the last written assignment (long essay) invites you to analyse how one ancient mythological theme, "the journey to the underworld" (katabasis) has made a remarkable come-back in modern film.

  • General Course Information
    Course Details
    Course Code CLAS 3026
    Course Afterlife and Underworld in Antiquity
    Coordinating Unit Classics
    Term Semester 1
    Level Undergraduate
    Location/s North Terrace Campus
    Units 3
    Contact Up to 3 hours per week
    Available for Study Abroad and Exchange Y
    Prerequisites At least 6 units of Level II undergraduate study
    Incompatible CLAS 2031
    Course Description In this course we study the myths and rituals dealing with the process of death and the passage to the afterlife. While reviewing Pharaonic Egypt, Homeric and Classical Greece, Rome and the Christian era, we consider the various approaches to burials (mummification to resurrection), speculations about what happens after we die and consider their cultural and symbolic meanings. We also review popular ideas, stories and philosophical theories about the afterlife and the nature of the underworld, asking what sort of punishments and rewards applied and whether these notions evolved across time. Important works of different genres will illustrate how pervasive afterlife narratives are.

    An important aim of the course is to explore the universal elements of these beliefs, their evolution and their ongoing relevance. You will be encouraged to make connections between the time periods studied, but also with our own ideas and practices today. To reinforce this notion of continuing relevance, the last written assignment (long essay) invites you to analyse how one ancient mythological theme, "the journey to the underworld" (katabasis) has made a remarkable come-back in modern film.
    Course Staff

    Course Coordinator: Professor Han Baltussen

    Course Timetable

    The full timetable of all activities for this course can be accessed from Course Planner.

  • Learning Outcomes
    Course Learning Outcomes
    After completing this course, students will be able to

    1. Demonstrate a broad knowledge of the origins, nature and evolution of ideas about the afterlife in ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome and early Christianity;
    2. Show a deeper understanding of the importance of specific themes, in particular descents into the underworld as reflected in modern cinematic treatments;
    3. Demonstrate a critical understanding of the key questions, interpretations and scholarship concerning the literary and historical evidence for the evolution of ancient ideas about the afterlife;
    4. Offer a clear, literate and logical exposition of ideas in independently researched written work, based on suitable primary and secondary sources, reflected in appropriate referencing;
    5. Explore, articulate and debate their views in small-group seminars;
    6. Relate the development of ancient ideas about the afterlife to modern social, cultural and ethical perspectives which express universal notions concerning the human condition.
    University Graduate Attributes

    This course will provide students with an opportunity to develop the Graduate Attribute(s) specified below:

    University Graduate Attribute Course Learning Outcome(s)

    Attribute 1: Deep discipline knowledge and intellectual breadth

    Graduates have comprehensive knowledge and understanding of their subject area, the ability to engage with different traditions of thought, and the ability to apply their knowledge in practice including in multi-disciplinary or multi-professional contexts.

    1,2,3,4,5

    Attribute 2: Creative and critical thinking, and problem solving

    Graduates are effective problems-solvers, able to apply critical, creative and evidence-based thinking to conceive innovative responses to future challenges.

    1,2,4

    Attribute 3: Teamwork and communication skills

    Graduates convey ideas and information effectively to a range of audiences for a variety of purposes and contribute in a positive and collaborative manner to achieving common goals.

    4

    Attribute 4: Professionalism and leadership readiness

    Graduates engage in professional behaviour and have the potential to be entrepreneurial and take leadership roles in their chosen occupations or careers and communities.

    1,4,5

    Attribute 5: Intercultural and ethical competency

    Graduates are responsible and effective global citizens whose personal values and practices are consistent with their roles as responsible members of society.

    6

    Attribute 8: Self-awareness and emotional intelligence

    Graduates are self-aware and reflective; they are flexible and resilient and have the capacity to accept and give constructive feedback; they act with integrity and take responsibility for their actions.

    1,2,4,5,6
  • Learning Resources
    Required Resources
    Course Reader. Online resources.
    Recommended Resources
    Textbook (e-book on library catalogue)

    Almond, P.C. (2016) Afterlife: A History of Life after Death (London, England; New York: I.B.Tauris)

    Recommended Background Readings that can be found in the BSL include:


    Bernstein, A.E. (1993) The Formation of Hell: Death and Retribution in the Ancient and early Christian Worlds.
    Garland,  R. (1985 or later edn) The Greek Way of Death.
    Hope, V. M. (2009) Roman Death: The Dying and the Dead in Ancient Rome.
    Vermeulen, E. (1979) Aspects of Death in Early Greek Art and Poetry.
    Online Learning
    Documentaries and film materials online; MyUni/Blackboard
  • Learning & Teaching Activities
    Learning & Teaching Modes
    Workload
    Load per week                         Total per semester
    1x1 hour lectures --> 12 hours 
    1x2 hour seminar -->  22 hours 
    6 hours reading --> 60 hours
    3.5 hours writing --> 42 hours
    2 hours revision --> 20 hours
    TOTAL WORKLOAD 156 hours

    Modes:
    lectures
    seminar discussions
    oral presentation
    group discussion
    film & documentary
    Workload

    No information currently available.

    Learning Activities Summary
    Theme section Topics Details
    Thanatology (Lecture 1) Defining modern approach to death  What is thanatology?
    Egypt, Mesopotamia “The Resurrection machine”; mythology  Pyramids; pursuit of immortality (Gilgamesh)
    Greece Epic & Comedy; mythology; philosophy  Homer; Aristophanes; shamans; Persephone;
     Tartarus ; Plato & Epicurus
    Rome Gladiators; graves; necropoleis;
    inter-cultural contact (Jews)
     Virgil; Apuleius; funerals
    Christianity Resurrection; immortality; the body  Martyrs; saints; metaphors of the physical body
    Film excerpts screening (weeks 5, 9) Descent (katabasis) in modern film
    (example of analysis)
     (examples only, may change)  Fellowship of the Ring;
     Harry Potter; Alice in Wonderland; Il Fauno
    Documentary (week 3) Artistic representations of death
    across cultures and time
     “Images of Death” (N. Spivey, BBC)
  • Assessment

    The University's policy on Assessment for Coursework Programs is based on the following four principles:

    1. Assessment must encourage and reinforce learning.
    2. Assessment must enable robust and fair judgements about student performance.
    3. Assessment practices must be fair and equitable to students and give them the opportunity to demonstrate what they have learned.
    4. Assessment must maintain academic standards.

    Assessment Summary
    Assessment Task Task Type Due Weighting Learning Outcome
    Seminar presentation & lead discussion  Formative and summative   Individual date (by chosen topic) 10% 2, 3, 4, 5
    Reflective summaries on discussion  Formative and summative   Wk 2-6 10% 1, 3, 4
    Research paper  Formative and summative   Individual date (by chosen topic) 20% 2,4
    Cinematic essay on descents  Summative   Wk 12 20% 1, 2, 3, 4, 6
    Written exam OR Academic Journal  Summative   Formal exam period (AJ week 13) 40% 1,2,3,4,5,6

    The workload is calculated as a semester load according to university policy. The requirements for the Academic Journal will be explained in the Course Guide.

    Due to the current COVID-19 situation modified arrangements have been made to assessments to facilitate remote learning and teaching. Assessment details provided here reflect recent updates.

    Assessment will now include a take-home exam for students choosing the exam as the last assignment. It will become available at the end of week 13 and will need to be posted within 48 hours.
    Assessment Detail

    No information currently available.

    Submission

    No information currently available.

    Course Grading

    Grades for your performance in this course will be awarded in accordance with the following scheme:

    M10 (Coursework Mark Scheme)
    Grade Mark Description
    FNS   Fail No Submission
    F 1-49 Fail
    P 50-64 Pass
    C 65-74 Credit
    D 75-84 Distinction
    HD 85-100 High Distinction
    CN   Continuing
    NFE   No Formal Examination
    RP   Result Pending

    Further details of the grades/results can be obtained from Examinations.

    Grade Descriptors are available which provide a general guide to the standard of work that is expected at each grade level. More information at Assessment for Coursework Programs.

    Final results for this course will be made available through Access Adelaide.

  • Student Feedback

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    SELTs are an important source of information to inform individual teaching practice, decisions about teaching duties, and course and program curriculum design. They enable the University to assess how effectively its learning environments and teaching practices facilitate student engagement and learning outcomes. Under the current SELT Policy (http://www.adelaide.edu.au/policies/101/) course SELTs are mandated and must be conducted at the conclusion of each term/semester/trimester for every course offering. Feedback on issues raised through course SELT surveys is made available to enrolled students through various resources (e.g. MyUni). In addition aggregated course SELT data is available.

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  • Policies & Guidelines
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