University Homepage
DRPS Homepage
DRPS Search
DRPS Contact
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
SummaryThe Greek and Roman texts studied in this course (in translation) are referred to as 'didactic' poems because they set out ostensibly to teach a specific skill or branch of knowledge, e.g., justice (Hesiod), Epicurean philosophy (Lucretius), farming (Virgil), and techniques in courtship and seduction (Ovid). The course will situate these poems in their literary, philosophical and socio-political contexts. Attention will be given to how each successive poet handles a range of themes, including myth and religion, the origins and development of mankind, and the human propensity for love and war.
Course description The didactic poems studied in this course will typically include Hesiod's Works and Days, Lucretius' On the Nature of the Universe, Virgil's Georgics, and Ovid's Art of Love. The teaching programme will approach these texts 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 aim to understand didactic as a genre and to practise certain critical methodologies of use in its study, with close analysis of selected texts and tutorial-style discussion of wider themes and contexts. The following eleven-week schedule (which may change according to the interests of the lecturer) will indicate the shape of the course in any given year:

1. Introduction: didactic and epic
2. Hesiod's Works and Days: structure and themes
3. Hesiodic myth
4. Hellenistic Didactic (Aratus, Nicander, Callimachus): more than a jeu d'esprit?
5. Lucretius' De Rerum Natura: philosophical and literary sources
6. Lucretius: atoms and void; the soul and death; epistemology; love; civilization and the world,
7. Virgil's Georgics: 'labor' and Italy
8. Virgil: 'amor' and politics
9. Ovid's Ars Amatoria: elegiac and didactic traditions
10. Ovid's lessons on politics and society
11. Overview and conclusion
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements A pass in Classical Literature 2: Greek and Roman Epic (CLTR08008), or equivalent experience at the discretion of the course organiser.
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.
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Not being delivered
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. demonstrate a command 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);
  2. demonstrate the ability to comment critically and incisively on passages of ancient didactic poetry selected with a degree of unpredictability, and to relate these to their wider literary and historical framework;
  3. demonstrate a command of the principal approaches and methodologies in the study of ancient didactic poetry, and knowledge of how these have developed over time (e.g., literary-critical, 'new historical', gendered, intertextual);
  4. demonstrate a detailed knowledge of how didactic poetry reflects the contexts (especially literary, philosophical, social and political) in which it was produced;
  5. demonstrate the ability to evolve coherent and well-researched written and oral interpretations on topics chosen with a degree of unpredictability.
Reading List
Clay, D. (1983) Lucretius and Epicurus. Cornell.
Gale, M.R. (1994) Myth and Poetry in Lucretius. Cambridge.
Gale, M. R. (2000) Virgil on the Nature of Things: The Georgics, Lucretius and the didactic tradition. Cambridge.
Gibson, R.K. (2009) 'Ars Amatoria', in P.E. Knox (ed.) A Companion to Ovid. Malden, MA and Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell. Pp. 90-103.
Gillespie, S. and Hardie, P.R. (eds.) (2007) The Cambridge Companion to Lucretius. Cambridge.
Hardie, P. R. (1998) 'The Georgics', in Virgil. Greece and Rome New Surveys in the Classics. Oxford. Pp. 28-52.
Myerowitz, M. (1985) Ovid's Games of Love. Detroit.
Nappa, C. (2005) Reading after Actium. Vergil's Georgics, Octavian, and Rome. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.
Nelson, S. (1998) God and the Land: The metaphysics of farming in Hesiod and Vergil. New York.
Strauss-Clay, J. (2003) Hesiod's Cosmos. Cambridge.
Toohey, P. (1996) Epic Lessons. An Introduction to Ancient Didactic Poetry. London.
Volk, K. (2002) The Poetics of Latin Didactic: Lucretius, Vergil, Ovid, Manilius. Oxford.
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
KeywordsAncient Didactic Poetry
Course organiserDr Donncha O'Rourke
Tel: (0131 6)50 3771
Course secretaryMiss Alexandra Adam
Tel: (0131 6)50 3767
Help & Information
Search DPTs and Courses
Degree Programmes
Browse DPTs
Humanities and Social Science
Science and Engineering
Medicine and Veterinary Medicine
Other Information
Combined Course Timetable
Important Information