Why Read Ancient Literature
General Catalog Course Title:
Why Read Ancient Literature
Terms Offered:
Fall 2014

What can twenty-first century readers get out of reading works that were written in Greek and Latin 

thousands of years ago? Is the primary goal historical understanding? the pleasure of an engaging story? a 

meditation on human emotions that transcend vast shifts in culture and time? In this class we will read 

some central texts from Greco-Roman antiquity, with the goal of exploring different notions of why this 

practice makes sense and what we can do with it. Rather than start from the assumption that reading 

ancient texts is worth doing, this class will ask students to think critically about why and how such reading 

might matter or not matter. In fact, the questions we will ask are relevant for reading in general – what do 

we get out of texts that intersect with our own experience and what do we get from those very foreign 

to our own experience? 


Kathleen McCarthy is an Associate Professor of Classics and Comparative Literature. Her own research 

and writing focuses on Latin poetry, but she enjoys teaching a wide variety of classical and post-classical 


For more detailed information about classes, please visit the UC Berkeley Online Schedule of Classes.