Method and Theory in Classics
Session 10: Classical literature 1
‘Classics is almost entirely literature’ (p115 in the textbook).
It might be added that until relatively recently literature was almost
entirely poetry. This is not obvious to us for two reasons:
the prominence of the prose novel as a literary form (since the mid-
the fact that both literary and non-literary texts can studied
together and in similar ways.
o Note that this latter point makes the question of what is a
literary text and what is not an unimportant one in most
It is also worth recalling in this context that the use of the word
‘literature’ to mean anything more precise than ‘writings’ is also relatively
recent in that it only really starts around 1800.
One of the categories which is used to structure the study of literature is
At the most general level, texts have often been divided into different
genres according to who speaks:
1. Where the narrator speaks in the first person. (lyric)
2. Where the narrator speaks in the first person, but allows characters
in the story to speak in their own voices too. (epic)
3. Where the characters in the story do all the talking. (drama)
The same distinctions can be made by foc