Preparing for the M.A. Greek Literature Exam
Students should be prepared to demonstrate both a broad and keep knowledge of Greek literature on the M.A. Exam. Read widely in the various genres and periods in translations to broaden your repertoire. Know some authors and works well enough to cite examples and discuss details from more than one perspective.
To learn the literary and historical context, use handbooks (listed below) and introductions in commentaries and translations. Some of the recent translations in the Oxford World Classics series have introductions by leading scholars. The Oxford Classical Dictionary (4th ed) should also be consulted.
Cambridge History of Classical Literature: Volume 1, Greek Literature. Edited by P. Easterling and BMW. Knox. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985.
Dover, K. J., ed. Ancient Greek Literature, 2nd ed, with contributions by M.L. West, J. Griffin, E.L. Bowie. Oxford University Press, 1997.
Read something of and be able to discuss the following genres and authors.
Homer (incl. hymns)
Other orators (e.g. Aeschines, Andocides,
Antiphon, Isocrates, Isaeus, Lycurgus)
Format of the Exam
The Exam sets two essay questions and 12 identifications. There will be choice in both categories, but the candidate is reminded to demonstrate breadth and depth overall.
In preparing for the essays, consider the development of the genres and how individual works have shaped the conventions both innovating and responding to literary models. Know the literary arsenal: Be able to talk intelligently about, e.g., oral and written tradition, performance contexts, meters and rhetorical figures, historiography, periodic structure, and dialect. Be as familiar with the historical contexts of authors and works: When and where were they composed? What was happening in the Greek world at the time? In what ways does the work interact with Greek religion, politics, and culture? Think in terms of what you will want to be able to share with your students when you teach these authors.
As with all essay exams, it is useful to prepare outlines in advance. E.g. how would I answer a question on Comedy? Oratory? Marshal your ideas and your examples. Write up some sample thesis statements. Although you may not bring any notes or materials to the exam, this advance work will help you on the day of the exam.
Identifications will be drawn from the lists below. In a sentence or two or three, be able to report the who, when, where, and why for each. For authors, know something about what they composed. Be sure to know why each item is significant for Greek literature, and remember that there may be more than one significant context for each. For example, Pericles is of course important as a statesman, but why is he on a literature exam? Any author on the list above may also appear as an identification (boldface in the list below). In the list of persons, the name commonly used is underlined. N.B. These lists are also something of a study guide . . .
Aristophanes of Byzantium
Daphnis and Chloe
Homeric Hymn to Apollo
Homeric Hymn to Demeter
Oedipus at Colonus
On the Crown
On the Murder of Eratosthenes
On the Mysteries
On the Sublime
Works and Days