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LIT 106 B — Reading Antiquity: Historical Fiction Book Club

Quarter: Fall
Day(s): Mondays
Course Format: Live Online (About Formats)
Duration: 9 weeks
Date(s): Sep 20—Nov 15
Time: 7:00—9:05 pm (PT)
Refund Deadline: Sep 22
Units: 2
Tuition: $495
Instructor(s): Michael Shanks, Gary Devore
Class Recording Available: Yes
Status: Closed
DOWNLOAD THE SYLLABUS » (subject to change)
Live Online(About Formats)
7:00—9:05 pm (PT)
Sep 20—Nov 15
9 weeks
Refund Date
Sep 22
2 Units
Michael Shanks, Gary Devore
DOWNLOAD THE SYLLABUS » (subject to change)
All history requires creative reconstruction, and we never possess a full picture from the sources. Today we are in a golden age of historical novels and films that return us to ancient Greece and Rome. Those who write fictionalized accounts of any period in history work with the remains of the past and can deliver extraordinary insights into the way things were or even could have been. In the best fiction, reader and viewer are drawn into a revived past. Creative works make the past live again, forging personal links through human experience.

Our reading planned for this quarter includes Circe by Madeline Miller, a reimagining of the life of alchemist and sorcerer Circe from Homer's Odyssey; Anthony Burgess’s The Kingdom of the Wicked, a literary novel about the formation of early Christianity; and The Last World, by Christoph Ransmayr, a surrealist dream-like reworking of figures from the Roman poet Ovid's Metamorphoses. Our scheduled film will be Federico Fellini’s poetic, multifaceted metaphor for how we should engage with the ancient past, Fellini Satyricon.

This course is the second in a series titled “Reading Antiquity.” Each quarter, we will read works of fiction and watch a film, all set in antiquity. We will range far and wide in our discussions both in our definition of antiquity and the themes covered, including the shape of history, the deep movements and structures of change, sexual representations, violence and politics, famous and marginalized voices, constructed realities, and the agendas that drive the writings of history. While these courses build upon one another, each course can be taken independently as well.

Professor of Classics; Professor of Archaeology, Stanford

Michael Shanks is a specialist in long-term humanistic views of social change, design, and innovation. He is a senior faculty member in the Archaeology Center; the Program in Writing and Rhetoric; Science, Technology and Society; Urban Studies; and the Center for Design Research at Stanford. He pursues fieldwork into the Roman borders of Scotland, and he also advises businesses and organizations on managing change.


Gary Devore has excavated in the ancient ruins of Pompeii and also at sites near Hadrian’s Wall in the north of England. He was one of the directors and principal investigators of Binchester Roman Excavations, and is a former director of the Pompeii Archaeological Research Project, Porta Stabia. Devore received a PhD from the University of Bradford (UK) and taught at Stanford for a decade.

Textbooks for this course:

(Required) Madeline Miller, Circe (ISBN 978-0316556323)
(Required) Anthony Burgess, Kingdom of the Wicked (ISBN 978-0749079649)
(Required) Christoph Ransmayr, The Last World (ISBN 9780802134585)