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Level 5

5AACTL40 Virgil's Aeneid

Credit value: 15
Module convenor/tutor 2018/19: Dr Emily Pillinger
Module convenor/tutor 2019/20: Dr Emily Pillinger
Teaching pattern: 10 x 2-hour seminars (weekly)
Availability: Please see module list for relevant year
Assessment 2019/20: 1 x 2,500 word essay (100%)

Students are reassessed in the failed elements of assessment and by the same methods as the first attempt.

Assessment pattern pre 2019/20
  • 1 x 2 hour examination (100%)

Graduate Diploma/Study Abroad (Semester 1 only) Assessment: 2 x 2,000-word essays (100%, each essay worth 50%)

Students are reassessed in the failed elements of assessment and by the same methods as the first attempt.

The modules offered in each academic year are subject to change in line with staff availability and student demand: there is no guarantee every module will run. Module descriptions and information may vary between years.

Virgil’s Aeneid has been described as a ‘classic’ of western literature for many reasons, and this module is devoted to identifying those reasons and assessing their validity. We will look closely at the epic itself: its story, which bridges myth and history; its literary form, which depends upon an exceptionally wide range of influences; and its various social, political, philosophical and religious viewpoints. We will also study the ways in which later artists, critics, and scholars have read the Aeneid.

The first lectures will establish the Aeneid’s place within a broader literary tradition of Greek and Roman epic. We will then address the way in which other genres such as elegy or tragedy have enriched the characterisation, imagery and narrative structure of the Aeneid.

The central part of the module will be spent exploring some of the major themes running through the Aeneid. Topics may include the poem’s depiction of heroism and the relationship between individual and community; the role of fate, prophecy, and divine will in controlling the epic action; the place of education, entertainment and experience in shaping identity; the portrayal of families, parenthood, and female characters; the construction of Rome as a historical city and a political ideal; the reception of the Aeneid by ancient and modern authors; and the way in which the poem positions itself in relation to Augustan ideology.

Core reading

Set text: Virgil: Aeneid, translated with notes by F. Ahl, with an introduction by E. Fantham (Oxford World’s Classics, 2007)

Purchase of this text is recommended but not compulsory.

Suggested introductory reading

This is suggested reading and purchase of these books is not mandatory.

  • P. Hardie, Virgil, Greece and Rome New Surveys in the Classics (Cambridge 1998) 53-114       
  • C. Martindale (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Virgil (Cambridge 1997)
  • C. Perkell, Reading Vergil’s Aeneid: An Interpretative Guide. (Oklahoma 1999)


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