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Classics on Film : Syllabus
Introduction Objectives Instructors Films Texts Requirements

Gladiator. Troy. 300. HBO's Rome. These are only the most recent examples of the ancient Greco-Roman world on film.

The relationship between the film industry and antiquity — sometimes vexing, sometimes exhilarating, always fascinating — is the subject of this course.

  Students will explore the cinematic classics of the Classics, not only comparing the original materials with their motion picture counterparts, but also developing their own sense of film literacy. Are we not entertained?

Students in Classics on Film will

-- view and analyze film from both ancient and modern perspectives;
-- compare the sensibilities of ancient and modern audiences.
-- read films on the past as contemporary social commentary; and
-- trace the contributions of Classics as a discipline to the filmmaking process.

Furthermore, students will develop critical reading and thinking skills through class discussion, presentations, and written exercises.

Professor:  Dan Curley
Office: 210 Ladd Hall
Hours: MTuTH 11:15 a.m. - 12:15 p.m.
Telephone: 518.580.5463
email: dcurley@skidmore.edu
Peer Mentor:  Lizzy Kennedy
email: ekennedy@skidmore.edu

Lizzy will offer both formal and informal guidance to students throughout the year.  This term she will lead several discussions in a series entitled "Skidmore 101," with topics ranging from academic integrity to sexual misconduct.  See our Calendar for dates and topics.


We will study twelve films this semester from different periods, countries, and schools.  See our Calendar page for the units these films will comprise and their screening schedule.

In addition, we will sample other films in class to improve our cinematic literacy, both classical and otherwise.



  • Cook, D. A.  2004.  A History of Narrative Film.  Norton.  Fourth edition.
  • Tierno, M. 2002.  Aristotole's Poetics for Screenwriters.  Hyperion.

Recommended for the various assignments of the course:

NOTES:  R = on open reserve in Scribner
NOTES:  W = Companion website (and link)

Other readings will be provided as we proceed.


Class participation (20%)

Class participation involves more than just attendance or coming to class on time.  Students must also, in line with the idea of a seminar, keep up with the readings and assignments, participate actively during all sessions, and maintain an environment that promotes the exchange of ideas.

A weekly screening session, M 7:00 - 10:00 p.m. (LA 206), has been added to this course in order to make time for watching the films.  Attendance at screenings is compulsory, except in cases of illness or conflicts with other classes.  Students may, however, miss one screening for any reason;  in case of absence, it is understood that students will make up the screening on their own time.

As you would (or should) at any movie theater, please refrain from talking and leaving the room (unless it's an absolute emergency).  Silencing your cell phones is a must, and texting will not be tolerated.  Do take notes during the films, whether full sentences or one to two-word notations.  These notes will aid in your recall of the films during our discussions.

Analyses (20%)

Working in pairs or trios, each student will have an opportunity to analyze in class a 10-minute sequence from one of our films, explaining both its structure and its place within the film at large. Students will distill their presentations into individual essays of 1200-1500 words.

Further details here.

Examinations (15% each; 30% total)

Midterm:  Thursday, October 27, in class
Final:  December 16, 9:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.

The final exam, carrying the same weight as the other exam, is essentially a second midterm.  Further details on each exam will be given in advance to aid your study, but you can expect them both to feature:

-- identification of certain kinds of shots from screen captures;
short essays pertaining to our readings and class discussions;  and
written analyses of film clips shown during the exam

Semester project (30%)

The project will be a 4500-6000-word research paper that addresses themes and films explored this semester.  Prof. Curley and your peer mentor will work with you on choosing and developing a topic.

Guidelines and requirements here.

©MMXI Skidmore College Classics Department