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CLA 78 — The Sophoclean Hero: From Antigone to Oedipus at Colonus

Quarter: Summer
Instructor(s): Barbara Clayton
Duration: 7 weeks
Format/Location: On-campus
Date(s): Jun 26—Aug 7
Class Recording Available: No
Class Meeting Day: Wednesdays
 
Class Meeting Time: 7:00—8:50 pm (PT)
Tuition: $420
   
Refund Deadline: Jun 28
 
Unit(s): 1
   
Status: Open
 
Quarter: Summer
Day: Wednesdays
Duration: 7 weeks
Time: 7:00—8:50 pm (PT)
Date(s): Jun 26—Aug 7
Unit(s): 1
Format/Location: On-campus
 
Tuition: $420
 
Refund Deadline: Jun 28
 
Instructor(s): Barbara Clayton
 
Recording Available: No
 
Status: Open
 
Sophocles is the architect of the tragic hero. From Shakespeare’s Othello to Breaking Bad’s Walter White, the echoes of his work reverberate through centuries, shaping the essence of tragic characters across media. Drawing inspiration from ancient myths, Sophocles offered audiences characters who embodied profound humanity despite their distant worlds. Aristotle himself recognized the ancient Greek playwright’s enduring impact when he turned to Sophocles to craft his own theory on tragic heroes a century later.

In this course, we will read six of Sophocles’s plays: Antigone, Oedipus the King, Ajax, Electra, Philoctetes, and Oedipus at Colonus. In each play, we will meet a magnificent example of the Sophoclean hero. As we work through them together, in addition to enjoying the brilliance of Sophocles’s artistry, our goal will be to identify patterns and similarities that allow us to understand what constitutes a tragic hero. How are the character’s heroic qualities themselves responsible for their tragedy? Sophocles’s heroes are unflinchingly independent and uncompromising. They are also agonizingly alone. And as we will learn, it is their own strong-willed personality that leads to their tragic self-destruction because they must be true to themselves at any cost.

BARBARA CLAYTON
Independent Scholar

Barbara Clayton has taught Classics at Oberlin College, Santa Clara University, and Stanford, where she was a lecturer in a freshman humanities program for many years. Since 2015, she has taught for the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute. She is the author of A Penelopean Poetics: Reweaving the Feminine in Homer’s Odyssey. Clayton received a PhD in Classics from Stanford.

Textbooks for this course:

(Required) Sophocles, Robert Fagles(trans.), The Three Theban Plays: Antigone; Oedipus the King; Oedipus at Colonus (ISBN 978-0140444254)
(Required) Sophocles, Peter Burian(ed.) and Alan Shapiro(ed.), The Complete Sophocles: Volume II: Electra and Other Plays (ISBN 978-0195373301)