Skip to main content

Module

CAC2050 : History, Literature and Truth: the case of the ancient historians

  • Offered for Year: 2020/21
  • Module Leader(s): Professor Jakob Wisse
  • Owning School: History, Classics and Archaeology
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus
Semesters
Semester 1 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0

Aims

The Greek and Roman historians, from Herodotus to Tacitus and beyond, are very similar but also very different from modern historians. They are our main sources for ancient history (‘what happened’ etc.) but also great literary writers. What does this mean if we want to use them as historical sources, and if we want to look at them as literary texts? This module looks at about six of the great ancient historians to see what they thought about truth, about the proper way of writing history, etc.; and to see how we must interpret them both as historians and as literary writers.

The aims of this module are:

1. To make students aware of the actual nature of ancient historical writing, and of the ways in which the ancient historians can be best approached.
2. To encourage students to think critically about the nature of historical writing in general.

Outline Of Syllabus

We will study selections from historians, usually the following six – widely different in their personalities and approaches:
•       Herodotus, sometimes called “the father of history” but sometimes “the father of lies”
•       Thucydides, the merciless chronicler of the Peloponnesian War
•       Polybius, who described the rise of the Roman empire and claimed to write the first “global history”
•       Sallust, the pessimistic historian of Rome’s “moral decline”
•       Livy, author of a complete history of Rome from its foundation to his own time in 142 books
•       Tacitus, whose suggestive portraits have shaped our ideas about most early Roman Emperors

Teaching Methods

Please note that module leaders are reviewing the module teaching and assessment methods for Semester 2 modules, in light of the Covid-19 restrictions. There may also be a few further changes to Semester 1 modules. Final information will be available by the end of August 2020 in for Semester 1 modules and the end of October 2020 for Semester 2 modules.

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Structured Guided LearningLecture materials182:0036:0018 hrs recorded lectures, with 1 added student hour each (reflection, re-reading of material, etc.)
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion581:0058:0040% of guided independent study
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading591:0059:0040% of guided independent study
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching41:004:00on-line seminars
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesWorkshops51:005:00on-line, interactive teaching for the whole group
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesDrop-in/surgery91:009:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study291:0029:0020% of guided independent study
Total200:00
Jointly Taught With
Code Title
CAC3050History, Literature and Truth: the case of the ancient historians: Stage 3
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

Lecture materials are used:
1. to introduce the historians to be read and analysed
2. to highlight passages that throw light on the way that these historians saw and executed their task
3. to show in practice how to analyse passages of this kind as well as related passages
4. to discuss the relevance of such analyses for historiography in general
5. to discuss the students' reading and understanding of the historians involved
6. to discuss the students' reading and understanding of the prescribed secondary literature, the ways that this impinges on their understanding of the historians' views and methods, and the methods available to check and evaluate these secondary sources against the primary ones

Seminars are used:
1. to discuss one or two key texts in detail, and to allow students, by contributing to seminar discussion, to test and enhance their ability to analyse such texts for themselves.

Workshops are used:
1. to allow for interactive development of the themes (etc.) discussed in lectures;
2. to discuss the students' essays by way of group feedback and demonstration of skills of analysis.

Private study is supposed to be used:
1. to read the prescribed (primary and secondary) literature
2. to complete the assessed assignments

Assessment Methods

Please note that module leaders are reviewing the module teaching and assessment methods for Semester 2 modules, in light of the Covid-19 restrictions. There may also be a few further changes to Semester 1 modules. Final information will be available by the end of August 2020 in for Semester 1 modules and the end of October 2020 for Semester 2 modules.

The format of resits will be determined by the Board of Examiners

Exams
Description Length Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Written Examination1201A8024-hour take-home exam
Exam Pairings
Module Code Module Title Semester Comment
CAC3050History, Literature and Truth: the case of the ancient historians: Stage 31N/A
Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Essay1M20800 words on a subject chosen from list provided, due mid-Semester
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

Examination (even in a take-home format) is still the best way of testing whether students have come to grips (both in terms of knowledge and of skills) with the texts and with the genre of historiography as such. Specifically, the exam tests:
1. both intended knowledge outcomes
2. of the intended skills outcomes esp. the 1st, but also the 2nd and the 4th

Assessed essay tests (and offers practice relevant to):
1. both intended knowledge outcomes, but esp. the 2nd
2. the 1st, 2nd and 4th intended skills outcomes, but with more emphasis on the 2nd and 4th than in the formal examination.

Submitted work tests intended knowledge and skills outcomes, develops key skills in research, reading and writing.

All Erasmus students at Newcastle University are expected to do the same assessment as students registered for a degree.

Study-abroad, non-Erasmus exchange and Loyola students spending semester 1 only are required to finish their assessment while in Newcastle. This will take the form of an alternative assessment, as outlined in the formats below:

Modules assessed by Coursework and Exam:
The normal alternative form of assessment for all semester 1 non-EU study abroad students will be one essay in addition to the other coursework assessment (the length of the essay should be adjusted in order to comply with the assessment tariff); to be submitted no later than 12pm Friday of week 12. The essays should be set so as to assure coverage of the course content to date.

Modules assessed by Exam only:
The normal alternative form of assessment for all semester 1 non-EU study abroad students will be two 2,000 word written exercises; to be submitted no later than 12pm Friday of week 12. The essays should be set so as to assure coverage of the course content to date.

Modules assessed by Coursework only:
All semester 1 non-EU study abroad students will be expected to complete the standard assessment for the module; to be submitted no later than 12pm Friday of week 12. The essays should be set so as to assure coverage of the course content to date.

Study-abroad, non-Erasmus exchange and Loyola students spending the whole academic year or semester 2 are required to complete the standard assessment as set out in the MOF under all circumstances.

Reading Lists

Timetable