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CAC3064 : Dreams and Dreaming in the Ancient World

  • Offered for Year: 2023/24
  • Module Leader(s): Dr Stephanie Holton
  • Owning School: History, Classics and Archaeology
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus

Your programme is made up of credits, the total differs on programme to programme.

Semester 2 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0
European Credit Transfer System


Can we ‘unlock’ the meaning of our dreams and improve our lives? How do we ‘see’ anything while we are asleep? Can dreams be trusted? Do they come from our soul? Our brain? The gods? Is dreaming really a 'universal' human experience?

Dreams and their interpretation posed as many questions in antiquity as they do today, and the dreams themselves took many forms: there was not simply the one standardised ‘ancient dream’. This module, then, examines the multitude of ways dreams and the dream experience appear across a wide variety of texts and sources from the ancient world and beyond, led by two key questions: where do dreams come from, and what – if anything – do they mean?

All materials will be studied in translation; there is no expectation or requirement that students have any knowledge of Ancient Greek or Latin.

Outline Of Syllabus

Texts/works studied during the semester may include:

+ Epic Dreams: Gilgamesh, Homer, Virgil
+ Dream Books: the Ramesside Dream Book, Assyrian Dream Book, Artemidorus' Oneirocritica
+ Dreams on Stage: Aeschylus' Oresteia
+ Perils of Interpretation: Herodotus
+ How Dreams Work: Presocratics, Aristotle, Cicero, Lucretius
+ Dreams and the Body, Dreams and the Soul: Hippocratic Corpus
+ Healing through Dreams: Therapeutic Incubation
+ Anxieties of the Modern Age: Freud, Mass Observation Project
+ Dreams on Screen: 20th/21st century receptions

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion661:0066:00For 3 assessment components (split as needed)
Structured Guided LearningLecture materials21:002:00Assessment-focused - part of student contact hours
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture221:0022:002 hours of lectures p/w
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading331:0033:003 hrs reading p/w (Module reading list)
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching91:009:001 Seminar p/w (except first/last week)
Structured Guided LearningStructured research and reading activities92:0018:00Weekly preparation (reading, tasks) for seminars
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study501:0050:00General consolidation activities
Jointly Taught With
Code Title
CAC2064Dreams and Dreaming in the Ancient World
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

Lectures are used to introduce students to a wide range of authors and texts. The content will be supported by relevant contextual and historical information where necessary. They also introduce methods of interpretation and analysis, and draw attention to comparative models. Elements of group-work and student-teacher interaction will reinforce the delivered material.

Seminars are used to facilitate student-led discussion on a particular text and pre-circulated questions in a small structured environment. It provides the opportunity for students to explore the material for themselves, drawing on weekly lectures, and to enter into a dialogue with each other on the multifaceted nature of meaning and interpretation.

Lecture materials are used to ensure the assessment aims are clearly articulated and understood by students ahead of their submissions, and provide focused instruction and practice in developing specific skills: structuring an argument, finding relevant bibliographical sources, referencing classical texts, etc. They also allow for wider dialogue on expectations, marking criteria, and feedback.

Assessment Methods

The format of resits will be determined by the Board of Examiners

Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Written exercise2A602500-word independent research project
Poster2M401000-word reflective poster
Formative Assessments

Formative Assessment is an assessment which develops your skills in being assessed, allows for you to receive feedback, and prepares you for being assessed. However, it does not count to your final mark.

Description Semester When Set Comment
Written exercise2M500-word research project proposal
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

The poster is an opportunity for students to practice the foundational skills of close reading and reflection with a set passage from the ancient evidence, and apply those skills in a creative output.

The final project supports and encourages independent research, using lecture and seminar content as a foundation on which to build one’s own avenue of investigation and critical analysis. It provides an authentic opportunity to apply skills and knowledge at a level of detail and understanding far beyond what is possible in a written exam, while also allowing engagement with the material over a sustained period of time. The formative assignment provides support during the initial planning period for the final project, giving an opportunity for feedback and guidance in the critical stages of preparation.

Study-abroad, non-Erasmus exchange and Loyola students spending semester 1 only are required to finish their assessment while in Newcastle. Where an exam is present, an alternative form of assessment will be set and where coursework is present, an alternative deadline will be set. Details of the alternative assessment will be provided by the module leader.

Reading Lists