Saving The City: Tragedy In Its Civic Context

Saving the city






Do plays written centuries ago have the power to heal modern day traumas, suffering?

“Try to exclude the possibility of suffering,” wrote C.S. Lewis in The Problem of Pain, “and you find that you have excluded life itself.” We have always suffered; we have always tried to cope. That urge to understand suffering is what’s behind one of humanity’s richest literary traditions—tragedy.

It all began in ancient Athens. The comedy and tragedy which developed in Athens and flourished in the fifth and fourth centuries BC are the root of nearly all subsequent Western drama. Opera owes its existence to an attempt to get back to the Greeks; television programs hearken back to the tragic intrigues of mythological families like the House of Atreus and the family of Oedipus at Thebes. Modern theater and film look back to the ancient origins both indirectly and sometimes directly.

In this course, we will be looking at the beginnings of ancient Tragedy from a variety of perspectives, including literary (what do the plays mean for today’s individual and society?), socio-historical (Does their time mirror our own?), and essentialist (why do we like to watch dramas full of pain and suffering?). The central texts will be the plays of ancient writers such as Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides, and Seneca.

We will also look at some developments from Greek tragedy in the modern cinema and several theorists on tragedy (Plato, Aristotle, Nietzsche, Freud etc).

This course will be split into two parts:

Part I: An Introduction to Tragedy

Part II: An analysis of the key plays

Key texts:

Lefkowtiz, M & Romm, J. (2017) The Greek Plays: Sixteen Plays by Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides (Modern Library Classics). Modern Library: New York


Part I

Five Hours

An Introduction to Tragedy

Week I: 6th century Athens & the birth of tragedy

Week II: Aeschylus

Week III: Sophocles

Week IV: Euripides

Week V: What ancient and modern philosophers have said about tragedy.

Part II

Five Hours

An Analysis of the plays

Week I: Aeschylus’ ‘Orestia’ – transgenerational trauma and the city

Week II: Oedipus through the Ages I – psychological entrapment Sophocles’ and Seneca’s versions of the legend

Week III: Oedipus through the Ages II – A myth for freedom Dallas’ modern version of the legend

Week IV: Sophocles’ ‘Antigone’ – the individual vs the state

Week V: Tragedy and the unconscious

All of our classes are delivered in real-time.

Please contact us for more information.

Teacher Bio

Zulfiqar Awan BA Hons, MA, PGCE

British lecturer, Zulfiqar Awan (BA Hons, MA, PGCE and Ph.D. candidate) has 15 years of teaching experience in the U.K and Cape Town, South Africa. Mr. Awan has also worked as an independent senior lecturer in philosophy, history, and politics on behalf of the British Government. He is the founder of Humanitas LifeLong Learning, where he teaches regular evening classes and short courses directly to the public, and online to an international audience. Mr Awan currently resides in Istanbul, Turkey.

“Tame the savageness of man and make gentle

the life of this world.”