Read the books that the breakers of icons--Rousseau, Nietzche, Derrida--thought were great too.
A course titled "Classical Backgrounds to English Literature" would usually treat the classical paraphernalia most imitated by poets like Spencer, Milton, and Pope--the formulae of epic, pastoral machinery, mythology. The course will NOT concentrate on these matters. Instead, it will focus on the fundamental questions that many classical writers struggled with--how should the gods be talked about, and is literature helpful or harmful in persuading citizens to live the good life? Readings will include Homer, Herodotus (selections), Thucydides (entire), a play each of Aechylus, Sophocles, and Aristophanes, Plato's Republic and five other dialogues of plato. Students are urged to read a good chunk of Homer's Iliad (preferably in the Fitzgerald translation) before the first day of class.