BA Latin and Italian

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Ovid: the Mythological Poems

Course unit fact file
Unit code CAHE21261
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 2
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


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


This course aims :

  • To engage in thorough reading of the core mythological poems of Ovid (Metamorphoses and Fasti), 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,together with their reception by later cultures.
  • To analyse the poetic, generic, and thematic features of the set texts.In the summatively assessed essay, students will be required to address their question taking account of both Metamorphoses and Fasti.


    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.

    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 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 close readings of Ovidian poems and passages, with some degree of independent reading, 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, 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 and Fasti 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

    Method Weight
    Written exam 50%
    Written assignment (inc essay) 50%

    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.

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

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

    • Available online through the library. See particularly Chapters 4, 6, 9, 10, 11, 17, 25.    

    Other introductory reading includes:
    Brown, S. (2005) Ovid: Myth and Metamorphosis. London.
    Fantham, E. (2004) Ovid Metamorphoses. Oxford.

    Study hours

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

    Teaching staff

    Staff member Role
    Alison Sharrock Unit coordinator

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