History (HIST) 632

Gender, Race, Racism, and the History of Classical Scholarship (Revision 3)

HIST 632
**Note: Students in Group Study courses are advised that this syllabus may vary in key details in each instance of the course. Always refer to the Moodle site for the most up-to-date details on texts, assignment structure, and grading.**


HIST 632: Gender, Race, Racism, and the History of Classical Scholarship addresses the assumptions and biases that have underpinned classical scholarship in modern history. Since the main seats of classical scholarship for the last several hundred years have been Germany and Britain, it is not surprising that there has been a strong Eurocentric element in how modern scholars have approached the ancient past. Given the traditional male dominance in the educational system of these nations, it is also not surprising that scholarship has taken an androcentric position.

The past has long been looked to as a justification for practices of the present, and certainly the white, male, European assumptions of scholars coloured their views of the past and helped, in turn, to reinforce the assumptions they expected to find validated therein. In short, scholars sought evidence for a Eurocentric, male-centred antiquity because they lived in a Eurocentric male-centred present. They often found what they sought at least in part owing to their unconscious and perhaps conscious attitudes towards the evidence the ancient past presented.

This course is designed to explore these issues and to examine the ancient evidence, or lack thereof, that has traditionally been cited in support of these assumptions about ancient society.

This course will fulfill a valuable function in examining issues of race, gender, sexuality, and class in the ancient world, in the classical scholarship undertaken by Europeans in the modern era, and the long-term impact of both on Western society in terms of history, popular culture, and the development of other scholarly disciplines. The very wide-ranging ramifications of the mindsets explored will be amply demonstrated.

Course Structure

  • Unit 1. Introduction to the Material.
  • Unit 2. Constructions of Gender in the Modern Scholarship.
  • Unit 3. Constructions of Gender in the Modern Scholarship, Continued.
  • Unit 4. Constructions of Race in the Ancient World.
  • Unit 5. Constructions of Race in Modern European Scholarship.
  • Unit 6. The Influence of Racism in Classical Scholarship and Modern History.
  • Unit 7. Conclusion.

Student Evaluation

To receive credit for this course, students must participate in the online activities, successfully complete the assignments, and achieve a final mark of at least 60 per cent. Students should be familiar with the Master of Arts—Interdisciplinary Studies grading system. Please note that it is students' responsibility to maintain their program status. Any student who receives a grade of "F" in one course, or a grade of "C" in more than one course, may be required to withdraw from the program.

The following table summarizes the evaluation activities and the credit weights associated with them.

Course Activity Weighting
Online Participation 15%
Discussion paper 20%
Midterm Paper 25%
Final Paper 40%
Total 100%

Course Materials


Martin Bernal. 1987. Black Athena: the Afroasiatic Roots of Classical Civilization Vol. 1: the Fabrication of Ancient Greece 1785-1985. New Brunswick: Rutgers. (online)


Nancy Sorkin Rabinowitz and Amy Richlin, Eds. 1993. Feminist Theory and the Classics. New York: Routledge.

Mary K. Lefkowitz and Guy MacLean Rogers, Eds. 1996. Black Athena Revisited. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press.

Benjamin Isaac. 2004. The Invention of Racism in Classical Antiquity. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Linda Dowling. 1994. Hellenism and Homosexuality in Victorian Oxford. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.

Athabasca University Online Materials

Course Home Page: You will find Course Information (including the Assignment File and other pertinent information) at the top of the course home page. You will also find your Study Guide presented unit by unit online. You will find your assignments and links to submit your work to your professor on the course home page.

Athabasca University Library: Students are encouraged to browse the Library's Web site to review the Library collection of journal databases, electronic journals, and digital reference tools: http://library.athabascau.ca.

Athabasca University reserves the right to amend course outlines occasionally and without notice. Courses offered by other delivery methods may vary from their individualized-study counterparts.

Opened in Revision 3, May 1, 2014.