This course is available through clearing

If you already have your exam results, meet the entry requirements and hold no offers, then you can apply to this course now.

Contact the admissions team

If you're waiting for your results, then sign up to our clearing alerts to get all the information you need ahead of results day.

Sign up now

BA Latin and Spanish / Course details

Year of entry: 2020

Coronavirus information for applicants and offer-holders

For the latest updates on how coronavirus will affect applicants and offer-holders, you can visit our FAQs.

Read our latest coronavirus information

Holding an offer for 2020 entry? Visit our dedicated offer-holders page.

Information for offer-holders

Course unit details:
The Poetry of Ovid

Unit code CLAH31261
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 3
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Offered by Classics & Ancient History
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


This course concentrates on the mythological poems of the Augustan poet, Ovid.


Available on which programme(s)?

Available on all UG programmes administered by Classics and Ancient History, History (Hons), Ancient History and Archaeology (Hons), Joint Honours programmes.

Available as Free Choice (UG) or to other programmes (PG)?


Pre-requisite units



for those reading the poems only in translation: none;

for those reading some parts of the poems in Latin: (at least) Advanced Latin 1 or equivalent (higher is fine); student must be at L3

Co-requisite units


Anti-requisite: this course cannot be combined with CLAH 21261 Ovid.



This course aims :

  • To engage in thorough reading of the core mythological poems of Ovid (Metamorphoses, Fasti and (for non-linguists) Heroides), leading to knowledge of and critical thought about the texts and analyses of them.
  • To explore the intertextual background to the set texts, especially focusing on the Greek and Roman epic tradition, and Greek and Roman epigrams
  • To analyse the poetic, generic, and thematic features of the set texts  

Learning outcomes

See specific outcomes listed below


In Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose, an older monk responds to the question of his junior as to whether he has ever been in love by saying "many times -- Virgil, Ovid...". Many ages have been in love with Ovid, who is currently the darling of the post-modern critical world, as he was of the mediaeval troubadours and monastic scribes, while in between such giants of early modern English literature at Shakespeare would have subscribed to the view that "Ovid was master" (from Ovid's own Art of Love 2.744). This course will concentrate on the Ovidian poems whose subject matter is broadly mythological: his great, but incorrigibly playful, epic of the world of change, the Metamorphoses; and his elegiac poem on the Roman calendar, where myth explains religion, the Fasti. In addition, the non-linguists will study selected poems from Ovid's Heroides, imaginary letters from abandoned mythic women, such as Penelope, Medea, and Dido, to their lovers.

The lectures will be broadly thematic, although concentrating at different times on different poems. Themes to be addressed include:

  • Ovid’s place in the intertextual tradition, particularly with regard to Virgil and to Callimachus
  • The Romanness of Greek mythology, and vice versa
  • Genre
  • Narratology
  • Art and artistry
  • Gender and transgression
  • The place of violence in Roman myths and aesthetics
  • Fantasy and realism
  • Psychology and the uses of mythology
  • Poetry and politics in the later Augustan period

Teaching and learning methods

  • 2 x 1 hour lectures per week;
  • 1 x 1 hour seminar per week;
  • 1 dedicated consultation hour per week.
  • Blackboard: course material, handouts and other supporting materials.

Knowledge and understanding

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

  • demonstrate sound knowledge of these central texts of Ovidian poetry, and of their relations to other elements in the Graeco-Roman literary tradition, as well as the cultural politics of their reception in Augustan Rome
  • offer informed and critically sophisticated close readings of Ovidian poems and passages, as well as to consider larger issues and make wide-ranging connections both within the Ovidian corpus and beyond it

Intellectual skills

By the end of this course students will have:

  • For linguists: the ability to translate, scan, and critically analyse the passages set from the Metamorphoses and Fasti, within the context of knowledge of the whole of the Metamorphoses and Fasti.
  • For non-linguists: the ability to engage directly with the text of the poems Metamorphoses, Fasti and Heroides in translation.

Practical skills

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

  • manage time and resources

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
  • engage in critical discussion

Employability skills

The course involves a large number of important employment skills, most notably an ability to analyse and examine a large amount of often difficult information, an ability to see both sides of an argument, the ability to synthesise an argument in a cogent form, the ability to retrieve information from complex sources and present it in a compelling and cogent fashion.

Assessment methods

Assessment task


Weighting within unit

Formative written assessment (practice for summative assignment)




3500 words



2 hours



Feedback methods

  • Written feedback on formative and summative coursework; all coursework feedback is designed to contribute formatively towards improvement in subsequent assignments.
  • Additional one-to-one feedback (during the consultation hour or by making an appointment).

Recommended reading

Set texts:

Students are expected to acquire copies of the following, and to read them before the course begins.

  1. Ovid ‘Metamorphoses’, translated by David Raeburn (introduction by Denis Feeney). Penguin books, 2004. ISNB: 9780140447897.
  2. Ovid ‘Fasti’, translated and edited by Anthony Boyle and Roger Woodward. Penguin books, 2000. ISBN: 9780140446906.
  3. For linguists only: Linguists will make use of online resources to access the prescribed Latin texts, which will be explained at the beginning of the semester. In advance of the course, you are strongly advised to read the poems in English translation.


Other indicative reading:

Students are strongly advised to read some of the following before the course begins.

Boyd, B. W. (2002) Brill’s Companion to Ovid. Leiden.

Not online, but three copies on one night loan. Particularly recommended are Chapter 6 on Fasti , Chapter 7 on politics history and religion, Chapter 9 on narrative techniques, Chapter 10 on Roman history and Augustan politics in 11-15.

Hardie, P. R. (2002) The Cambridge Companion to Ovid. Cambridge.

Available online. Particularly recommended are Chapters 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 10, 11, 12, 13.

Knox, P. E. (ed.) (2009) A Companion to Ovid. Oxford.

Available as e-book at:

See particularly Chapters 4, 6, 9, 10, 11, 17, 25.      

Other indicative reading includes:

Holzberg, N. (2002) Ovid: The Poet and his Work. Ithaca, NY.

Good general introduction.

Mack, S. (1988) Ovid. New Haven, CT.

An introductory book, now slightly dated but very worthwhile.

Barkan, L. (1986) The Gods Made Flesh: Metamorphosis and the Pursuit of Paganism.  New Haven, CT and London.

Brown, S. (2005) Ovid: Myth and Metamorphosis. London.

Daphne, Actaeon, Philomela, Arachne, Pygmalion. A good introduction.

Fantham, E. (2004) Ovid Metamorphoses. Oxford, Oxford University Press. A very good model introduction to the poem.

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 22
Seminars 11
Tutorials 11
Independent study hours
Independent study 156

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Alison Sharrock Unit coordinator

Return to course details