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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of History, Classics and Archaeology : Postgraduate (History, Classics and Archaeology)

Postgraduate Course: Martyrdom and Voluntary Death in the Ancient World (PGHC11135)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of History, Classics and Archaeology CollegeCollege of Humanities and Social Science
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 11 (Postgraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThis course looks at the subject of voluntary death in the ancient world, analysing 'pagan', Jewish and Christian discourses in order to arrive at a wide-ranging approach. It focuses on the lively ancient source material and later scholarly debates. The students will learn to place the ever controversial subject of voluntary death in its broader ancient religious, political, philosophical and social contexts. Most crucially students will learn to read texts produced in honour (or condemnation) of ancient 'martyrs' critically, with a keen eye for issues of ideology, theology, sexual and textual politics. This course should appeal to students with a range of interests, from ancient to medieval history, and from politics to philosophy to theology.
Course description The course covers the subject of ancient voluntary death and martyrdom through a series of topical seminars, arranged both chronologically and thematically. In this way it leads students through the foundations of ideas of voluntary death in the Greek philosophical tradition through to Christian martyrdom and its legacy. Topics covered also include political martyrdom, Jewish martyrdom, the Christian martyr act, martyrdom and gender, and martyrdom and violence. Each session is focused around the reading of ancient texts as well as modern scholarly literature and thus provides an in-depth look at a subject rich in social, cultural and political as well as religious resonances.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Information for Visiting Students
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Not being delivered
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Demonstrate in a written essay a detailed and critical command of the body of knowledge concerning martyrdom and voluntary death, including the religious, political and philosophical contexts
  2. Demonstrate in a written essay an ability to analyse and reflect critically upon relevant scholarship concerning the key issues pertaining to ancient voluntary death and martyrdom and reflecting a wide variety of academic and theological positions
  3. Demonstrate in seminar participation, presentations and a written essay an ability to analyse critically a range of ancient texts dealing with voluntary death and martyrdom
  4. Demonstrate the ability to develop and sustain original scholarly arguments in oral and written form in seminar discussions and presentation by independently formulating appropriate questions and utilising relevant evidence considered in the course
  5. Demonstrate in seminar discussions and presentations originality and independence of mind and initiative; intellectual integrity and maturity; an ability to evaluate the work of others, including peers; and a considerable degree of autonomy
Reading List
Barnes, T.D. (2010) Early Christian Hagiography and Roman History. Tubingen

Boyarin, D. (1999) Dying for God: Martyrdom and the Making of Christianity and Judaism. Stanford

Castelli, E. (2004) Martyrdom and Memorry: Early Christian Culture Making. New York

Cooper, J.M. (1989) 'Greek Philosophers on Euthanasia and Suicide' in B.A.

Brody (ed.) Suicide and Euthanasia: Historical and Contemporary Themes, Philosophy and Medicine, no. 35 (London), pp. 19-23

Edwards, C. (2007) Death in Ancient Rome. London

Grig, L. (2004) Making Martyrs in Late Antiquity. London

Harker, A. (2008) Loyalty and Dissidence in Roman Egypt: The Case of the Acta Alexandrinorum. Cambridge

Henten, J.W. van and Avemarie, F. (2002) Martyrdom and Noble Death: Selected Texts from Graeco-Roman, Jewish and Christian Antiquity

Moss, C. (2012) Ancient Christian Martyrdom: Diverse practices, theologies, and traditions. London

Musurillo, H. (ed. and trans) Acts of the Christian Martyrs. Oxford

Perkins, J. (1995) The Suffering Self: Pain and Narrative Representation in the Early Christian Era. London

Shaw, B. (1996) 'Body/Power/Identity: Passions of the martyrs', JECS 4: 269-
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Not entered
Additional Class Delivery Information This option will be taught by weekly seminar (more than 5 students) or by weekly supervision (less than 5 students).
Course organiserDr Lucy Grig
Tel: (0131 6)50 3579
Course secretaryMr Gordon Littlejohn
Tel: (0131 6)50 3782
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