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BA Latin and Spanish / Course details

Year of entry: 2020

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Course unit details:
Imagined Worlds: Fiction and Desire in Latin and Greek Poetry

Unit code CLAH30362
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 3
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Offered by Classics & Ancient History
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


This course will examine two key genres in ancient poetry, bucolic and lyric, and some of antiquity’s most important poets, including Sappho, Theocritus, Virgil, and Horace. Particular attention will be paid to how these poets transform everyday experiences of love and loss, and create worlds of the imagination. The course will focus on interpreting and understanding the primary texts through close reading. All students will read a selection of the poets’ works in translation, while those with an appropriate level of Latin language will read portions of Horace and Virgil in the original.


To introduce students to the bucolic and lyric genres.

To enable students to engage with the most important critical debates pertaining to these genres.

To enable students to understand the different literary strategies employed by the poets under discussion.


A selection of lyric and bucolic texts to be read in translation:


Sappho fr. 1, 2, 16, 31, 44

Selected poems by Anacreon and Ibycus 

Pindar fr. 123

Theocritus Id. 1, 6, 7, 10 and 11

Virgil Eclogues

Horace Odes 1 and 2


For linguists:

Selected poems from Virgil Eclogues, Horace Odes 1

Teaching and learning methods

·          2 x 1 hour lectures per week;

·         1 x 1 hour seminar per week;

·         Blackboard: course material, handouts and other supporting materials.


Teaching and learning take place through plenary lectures and small-group tutorials. The lectures provide a broad framework by introducing students to major themes and problems and showing how they can be further investigated.

The tutorials require students to prepare selected topics in advance for concentrated and detailed discussion, to which they are all expected to contribute. Tutorial tasks, which may be prepared individually or in groups, will be formatively but not summatively assessed.

Knowledge and understanding

By the end of the course all students should be able to

  • show a knowledge and critical understanding of the content, form, conventions, and aims of the two genres
  • demonstrate an appreciation of the influence of cultural contexts on how the poems were composed
  • demonstrate understanding of the influence of Sappho on Horace, and of Theocritus on Virgil, and to understand the differences between their poetic achievements 

Intellectual skills

By the end of this course students should be able to:

  • demonstrate subject-specific skills, including the ability to respond thoughtfully to difficult and complex texts
  • demonstrate the ability to comment critically upon the texts they have read.

Practical skills

By the end of this course students will be able to:

  • Manage time and resources
  • Discuss complex texts clearly in writing and conversation

Transferable skills and personal qualities

By the end of this course students will be able to:

  • construct an argument in written and oral form;
  • pose questions about complex issues;
  • assimilate and summarise large quantities of evidence;
  • locate and retrieve relevant information from primary sources;
  • conduct bibliographic searches;
  • present the results in a professional manner with appropriate reference to sources and modern published scholarship;
  • use e-resources and gain knowledge of research methods and resources;
  • engage in critical discussion.

Employability skills

The course involves a large number of skills that can be deployed in different form outside the classroom. These include the ability to analyse and respond in a sophisticated way to large amounts of information, to assess the merits of opposed or differing critical positions, to produce cogent syntheses of arguments, and to retrieve information from complex sources and present it as part of cogent arguments.

Assessment methods

Assessment task

Formative or Summative


Weighting within unit (if summative)

Short essays, commentaries


1,000 words


Extended Essay


2,500 words




2.5 hrs



Feedback methods

Feedback method

Formative or Summative

Oral feedback


Written feedback

Formative and summative

Examination marking



Recommended reading

F. Budelmann (ed.) The Cambridge Companion to Greek Lyric (Cambridge, 2009)

F. Budelmann and T. Phillips ‘Introduction’ in Textual Events: Performance and the Lyric in Early Greece (Oxford, 2018).

M. Lowrie (ed.) Oxford Readings: Horace: Odes and Epodes (Oxford, 2009)

R. Hunter, Theocritus: A Selection (Cambridge, 1999): Introduction.

K. Volk (ed.) Oxford Readings: Virgil’s Eclogues (Oxford, 2008).

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 22
Seminars 11
Independent study hours
Independent study 153

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