BA Ancient History / Course details

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Ekphrasis in Latin texts

Course unit fact file
Unit code CAHE20292
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 2
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Available as a free choice unit? No


This course unit will explore a theme in Latin literature which was not only enormously popular in its own day, but also had a huge influence over the development of European art and poetry. Ekphrasis, the poetic representation of a work of art, is a site in which verbal and visual art interact. While reading passages from important and canonical texts, together with some lesser-known works, students will not only develop their ability to read the Latin language but also gain a deeper appreciation of the role of language in aesthetics.


1. Explore the theme of ekphrasis through close reading of a selection of Latin texts in the original.

2. Improve reading of Latin language.

3. Develop students’ understanding of ancient aesthetics.

Knowledge and understanding

  • Have increased knowledge of the Latin language
  • Link together but also differentiate instantiations of a theme through different periods

Intellectual skills

  • Have increased ability to read and translate Latin
  • Develop critical reflection on and evaluation of literature
  • Be able to make a reasoned argument for a particular point of view regarding literary interpretation
  • Developed a basic understanding of how scansion and other technical aspects learned in Advanced Language courses can enhance interpretation

Practical skills

  • Have increased ability to use library, electronic and online resources to enhance the study of Latin texts
  • Engage with other members of the class in order to develop literary reading as a communal activity

Transferable skills and personal qualities

  • Attention to detail
  • Self-organisation and time-management
  • Teamwork

Assessment methods

Commentaries (25%)

Commentaries 2 (25%)

Online exam (50%)

Feedback methods

Written feedback via Turnitin within three weeks

Recommended reading

Dinter, M. (2013) ‘Intermediality in Latin Epic: en video quaecumque audita’, Lovatt, H. and Vout, C. (edd). Epic Visions: Visuality in Greek and Latin Epic and Its Reception. Cambridge: 122–138 

Elsner, J. (2002), ed., The Verbal and the Visual: Cultures of Ekphrasis in Antiquity, Ramus special issue. 

Faber R.A. (2018) ‘Intermediality and ekphrasis in Latin epic poetry’, Greece and Rome 65:1-14 

Fowler, D.P. (1991) ‘Narrate and describe: the problem of ekphrasis’, JRS 81:25-35

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 11
Seminars 22
Independent study hours
Independent study 167

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Julene Abad Unit coordinator

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