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LIT 106 C — Reading Antiquity: Historical Fiction Book Club

Quarter: Winter
Day(s): Thursdays
Course Format: Live Online (About Formats)
Duration: 9 weeks
Date(s): Jan 20—Mar 17
Time: 7:00—9:05 pm (PT)
Refund Deadline: Jan 22
Units: 2
Tuition: $495
Instructor(s): Michael Shanks, Gary Devore
Class Recording Available: Yes
Status: Registration opens Nov 29, 8:30 am (PT)
DOWNLOAD THE SYLLABUS » (subject to change)
Live Online(About Formats)
7:00—9:05 pm (PT)
Jan 20—Mar 17
9 weeks
Refund Date
Jan 22
2 Units
Michael Shanks, Gary Devore
Registration opens Nov 29, 8:30 am (PT)
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 the 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.

Each quarter in this ongoing series 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.

Our reading planned for this quarter includes The King Must Die by Mary Renault, a re-imagining of the legend of Theseus rooted in the archaeology of Minoan Crete; David Elliott’s novel-poem Bull, the same story from the point of view of the Minotaur; Shadows in Bronze, a murder mystery by Lindsey Davis, set in the Bay of Naples; and Julian, Gore Vidal’s marvelous fictional biography of the Christian emperor who renounced his faith. Our film will be Anthony Mann’s epic The Fall of the Roman Empire.

This course is the third in the Reading Antiquity series. 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) Mary Renault, The King Must Die: A Novel (ISBN 978-0394751047)
(Required) David Elliott, Bull (ISBN 978-1328596338)
(Required) Lindsey Davis, Shadows in Bronze: A Marcus Didius Falco Mystery (ISBN 978-0312614232)
(Required) Gore Vidal, Julian: A Novel (ISBN 978-0375727061)
(Recommended) Anthony Mann, director, Fall of the Roman Empire (Media: DVD, Blu-Ray, or online streaming)