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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of History, Classics and Archaeology : Classical Literature in Translation

Undergraduate Course: Ancient Didactic Poetry (CLTR10018)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of History, Classics and Archaeology CollegeCollege of Humanities and Social Science
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 10 (Year 3 Undergraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryWhat distinguishes the texts prescribed for this course as a distinct genre (or, perhaps more accurately, sub-genre of epic) is that they each set out to impart a specific skill or branch of knowledge, namely justice (Hesiod), Epicureanism (Lucretius), farming (Virgil), and techniques in courtship and seduction (Ovid). However, it is characteristic of didactic poetry that the lessons it offers are other, or more, than the ones it purports to impart: for example, Virgil's great achievement in the Georgics is that agriculture emerges as a most appropriate means of exploring the fundamentals of human nature and contemporary politics. This tension between what didactic poems ostensibly teach and what they actually teach will be at issue throughout the course. The didactic tradition is also highly self-referential, and attention will be given to how each successive poet reacts to his precursors┐ handling of a range of subjects, including myth and religion, the origins and development of mankind, and the human propensity for love and war. As well as situating these poems in their literary and philosophical contexts, the course will seek to view them in their contemporary socio-political environment: if the poems of Lucretius and Virgil yearn for peace amid the horrors of civil discord, then it is ironic that Ovid's celebration of the 'game of love' brought him into an apparent conflict with a conservative emperor that contributed to his social annihilation and exile to the Black Sea in AD 8. The course arises from its organiser's research on late-republican and Augustan Latin poetry, including Lucretius and Ovid.
Course description The teaching programme will approach the prescribed texts for this course in chronological order (for the reason that the didactic tradition is a cumulative one in which each author engages closely with his predecessors). Within this structure, lectures and tutorials will be organized in such a way as to communicate information in relation to ancient didactic poetry and the critical methodologies applicable thereto, analysis of selected texts, and tutorial-style discussion of major themes. The following schedule emerges:
1. Introduction: didactic and epic / Hesiod: approaches to the Works & Days
2. Themes in Hesiod and other archaic didactic poets
3. Hellenistic Didactic (Aratus, Nicander, Callimachus): more than a jeu d'esprit?
4. Lucretius: structure and content of the De rerum natura; philosophical and literary sources
5. Lucretius: atoms and void; the soul and death; epistemology; 'amor'
6. Lucretius: the world, human civilization, and meteorological phenomena
7. Virgil: the structure of the Georgics; 'labor' and Italy
8. Virgil: 'amor' and political allegory
9. Ovid: the Ars Amatoria and the elegiac and didactic traditions;
10. Ovid: lessons for men and women; lessons about politics and society
11. Overview and conclusion
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Information for Visiting Students
Pre-requisitesVisiting students should usually have at least 3 courses in Classics related subject matter (at least 2 of which should be in Classical Literature) at grade B or above (or be predicted to obtain this) for entry to this course. We will only consider University/College level courses.
Course Delivery Information
Not being delivered
Learning Outcomes
Students who complete the course successfully will have demonstrated the following Learning Outcomes through written coursework assignments, oral presentation and tutorial discussion, and written examination:

- knowledge of the principal features of didactic poetry (specifically its authors and texts; origins and development; conventions and themes; generic identity; literary, philosophical and historical contexts)
- the ability to comment critically and incisively on passages selected with a degree of unpredictability, and to relate these to the wider literary and historical framework
- a critical understanding of the principal approaches to ancient didactic poetry, and how these have changed and developed over time (e.g., literary-critical, 'new historical', gendered, intertextual)
- a detailed knowledge of how didactic poetry reflects the contexts (especially literary, philosophical, social and political) in which it was produced
- the ability to apply suitable specialist methodologies to reading ancient didactic poetry, and to evolve coherent and well-researched written and oral interpretations of the text on topics chosen with a degree of upredictability

Reading List
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Further to the ILOs identified above, students who complete the course successfully will have demonstrated a number of transferable skills, including:

- the ability to review critically and to consolidate knowledge and skills in a given area
- the ability to identify, define and analyse complex concepts
- written and verbal communication skills
- the ability to digest large quantities of textual material
- time-management skills
Special Arrangements In order for a student from outwith Classics to be enrolled on this course, contact must be made with a Course Secretary on 50 3580/3582 in order for approval to be obtained.
KeywordsAncient Didactic Poetry
Course organiserDr Donncha O'Rourke
Tel: (0131 6)50 3771
Course secretaryMs Elaine Hutchison
Tel: (0131 6)50 3582
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