CLASSICS 365
TRUE CONFESSIONS—THE (AUTO)BIOGRAPHICAL TRADITION
 
TTh 11:10 a.m. -12:30 p.m.    •    442 Scribner Library
 
Instructor
Overview
Objectives
Texts
Requirements
Timetable
 
 Instructor:  Professor Dan Curley
    Office: 208b Harder Hall
    Hours: MWF 11:10 a.m. - 12:05 p.m., and by appointment
    Phone: (580-)5463
    Email: dcurley@scott.skidmore.edu


Overview.  The story of biography is a short one—or so it seems.  Most retrospectives on the genre single out Suetonius and Plutarch, the two core authors for this course, as the originators of life-writing.  Yet, as we shall see, the origins of biography (and its sibling, autobiography) are far more complex and far more varied than mainstream scholarship allows.  Our objective in this semester is to trace out those origins and their continuation in later literature.  Along the way we shall consider how each work asks to be seen, whether as history, propaganda, moral exemplar, philosophy, literature, and fantasy.


Objectives.  The specific goals for this course are as follows:
  Furthermore, students will obtain and exercise the following skills:

Texts.  All are required.
    Plutarch. The Age of Alexander (tr. Scott-Kilvert).  Viking Penguin.
        The Fall of the Roman Republic (tr. Warner).  Viking Penguin.
        Makers of Rome (tr. Scott-Kilvert).  Viking Penguin.
        The Rise and Fall of Athens (tr. Scott-Kilvert).  Viking Penguin.
    Suetonius.  The Twelve Caesars (tr. Graves).  Viking Penguin.
    Xenophon.  Conversations of Socrates (tr. Tredennick).  Viking Penguin.

Requirements, Grading, Expectations, and Policies.
 
Research Paper
Exams
Assignments
Biography Project 
Participation
 Timetable
Blank space
Research paper (17 December):  20%
I have assigned a research paper of substantial length for this semester, due 17 December.  You will receive the topics in advance, along with recommended bibliography from the reserve desk.  Because it is a research paper, I will hold you to the standards advocated and outlined on the Skidmore Classics homepage, in the section on Writing Essays and Research Papers.  The paper itself must be 12-15 pages, typed, double-spaced, and free of mechanical and grammatical errors.
Midterm examination (29 October):  20%
Final examination (17 December):  20%
There are two examinations:  a midterm and a final.  The final is essentially a second midterm, although it will have some cumulative aspects.  More information on each test as its date approaches.
Short assignments:  5%
A short assignment—such as a problem to solve, a topic to consider, additional reading, and the like—will be given every other class or so.  Some must be handed in (in which case they should be prepared like the paper, above);  others are designed to facilitate discussion.  Whatever the case, all assignments are due at or before the following class meeting.
  • Suetonius, Life of Augustus (21 September)
  • Suetonius, Life of Julius Caesar (28 September)
  • Suetonius, The Lost Preface (5 October)
  • Plutarch, Life of Pericles (12 October)
  • Biography writing project:  15%
    In order to appreciate the form and substance of ancient biographical writing, you will write an ancient biographical work of your own.  Key dates are listed in the Timetable.
    Class participation:  20%
    Class participation involves more than just attendance.  You must also keep up with the readings and assignments, and participate actively in class discussion.  Furthermore, I expect that you will come to class on time and that you will maintain an environment that promotes the exchange of ideas.  From time to time, I may ask individual students to prepare a short presentation for the next class;  such presentations will count toward the class participation grade.

     My attendance/late work policy is as follows.  Attendance is taken each class.  You are allowed two "free" unexcused absences from class over the course of the semester.  Further unexcused absences will lower your class participation grade at the rate of one grade per absence.  Two late arrivals to class will count as one absence.  Unexcused absences from an exam or presentation will incur the grade of F, as will unexcused late papers, assignments, or projects.  To excuse absences or late work you must furnish documentation from a credible authority—doctor, clergy member, professor, dean, and so on—who can testify to the nature of your emergency.  I shall also appreciate advance notification whenever possible.

    If you have any questions or comments regarding these requirements and policies, please let me know.


    Timetable.  I anticipate at least seven different units for this course:  historical biography, moral biography, philosophical biography, poetic biography, religious biography, and autobiography.  Note that all readings and assignments must be completed by the specified date.
     
    SEPT
    OCT
    NOV
    DEC
     
    SEPTEMBER 
    DATE
    READING
    TURN IN
    SPECIAL
    10
        Introduction
    15
    Suetonius, Augustus 1-50    
    17
    Suetonius, Augustus 51-end    
    22
    Suetonius, Julius Caesar 1-44    
    24
    Suetonius, Julius Caesar 45-end    
    28
      Suetonius, Julius Caesar assignment  
    29
    Suetonius, Caligula    
     
    OCTOBER
    DATE
    READING
    TURN IN
    SPECIAL
    1
    Suetonius, Nero   Life of Suetonius
    5
      Suetonius Preface assignment
    6
    Plutarch, Theseus   Life of Plutarch
    8
    Plutarch, Pericles Project Phase I  
    13
    Plutarch, Alcibiades    
    12
      Plutarch, Pericles assignment  
    15
    Plutarch, Alexander 1-34    
    20
    Plutarch, Alexander 35-end    
    22
    Plutarch, Demosthenes    
    27
    Plutarch, Cicero    
    29
    Plutarch, Mark Antony 1-42 Project Phase II  
     
    NOVEMBER
    DATE
    READING
    TURN IN
    SPECIAL
    3
    Plutarch, Mark Antony 43-end Paper Phase I  
    5
        Midterm exam
    10
    Herodotus and Thucydides (handout)    
    12
    Isocrates, Evagoras;  Xenophon, Cyropedia    
    17
    Xenophon, Conversations of Socrates (TBA)    
    19
    Plato (handout) Project Phase III  
    24
    Philostratus, Lives of the Sophists (handout)  
    26
        Thanksgiving Break
     
    DECEMBER
    DATE
    READING
    TURN IN
    SPECIAL
    1
    Perpetua, Hildegaard, Gospels (handout)  Paper Phase II  
    3
    Greek and Latin poets (handout)    
    8
    Prose Autobiography (handout)    
    10
    Poetic Autobiography (handout)
    17
       Paper Phase III Final exam, 6:00 p.m.