Navigation banner for Diotima (6k)

Women and Gender in the Ancient World (A&S 300 006), Fall 1998
Class Meetings: Tuesday - Thursday 9:30-10:45 in Whitehall 346
Office Hours: Tuesday - Thursday 11 - 12:30 in Patterson Tower 1003

Dr. Ross Scaife (, 257-3629)

Description: This class will explore the topic of women in the ancient Greek and Roman worlds from a variety of sources: we shall work with literature primarily (epic, the writings of Sappho and other poets, tragedy, comedy, moral and philosophical essays, medical writings, religious documents) but also with artistic materials (vase paintings, murals, free standing sculpture, sculptural programs associated with temples). Throughout, we will focus on several basic questions: how much of the reality of women's lives can we actually recover, given that our surviving sources were almost entirely produced by men? How did prevailing ideologies of gender in those times affect men's attempts to be "scientific" and "philosophical" about women's bodies and women's natures? What were the prevailing attitudes toward sex and marriage, and how did they vary in different places and times in the ancient world? Finally, how do we juggle our appreciation for the acknowledged artistic excellence of "the classics" with our response to the often unpalatable attitudes toward gender and society embedded in those famous works?

Grades will be assigned on the basis of class participation, midterm, two papers, and final exam (20% each). Review sheets, including possible identifications and possible essays, will be distributed in advance of the tests. Class participation requires careful reading of everything assigned for that day and written answers to any questions handed out in advance. Often the class will be broken into smaller sections for discussion; sometimes you will be asked to write a short paragraph on a question related to the readings in class, to inspire better discussion for that day.

For each of your two papers (due Oct. 13 and Dec. 3) you must select a topic of interest to you such as (to name a few possibilities): some aspect of a literary work relevant to issues of sex and gender, abortion and contraception, physical abuse and rape, the effect of age differences between wives and husbands, the practice of employing wet nurses, curse tablets as a response to sexual strife, widowhood, rituals of maturation for girls, women's role in the rituals of death, or... From the bibliography I provide, select and read at least two articles (or book chapters) concerning the subject you've chosen, and then write out your analysis of the issue in six to ten pages. Your grades will be based on the clarity of your exposition and on your assimilation of the scholarship you have read.

Books to buy:

So, there are three sources for your readings: 1) the books you buy; 2) the primary texts marked web/reserve which are available on the web (linked from the syllabus) and at the reserve desk in the Art Library; finally, you will notice that some days on the schedule are marked RR, which means that there is a scholarly article on reserve (again, in the Art Library) to be read along with that day's readings. You will find the on-line version of this syllabus at the following (case-sensitive) address:

There is also a link to it from Diotima, which in turn is listed at the bottom of the Classics department web site. The on-line version of this syllabus has live links to all of the readings marked web/reserve.