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Level 5

5AACTL45 Roman Love Elegy

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

Assessment pattern for Study Abroad/Graduate Diploma students

The assessment pattern below applies for Semester 1-only Study Abroad students (when the module runs in Semester 1). Study Abroad students otherwise follow the undergraduate assessment pattern listed above. 

Assessment: 2 x 2,000-word essay (100%, each essay worth 50%)

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.

In this module we will explore Roman love elegies written by Catullus, Propertius, Tibullus, Sulpicia, and Ovid, along with a selection of readings from contemporary scholarship.

We will address the development of love elegy as a genre: its conventions and its innovations, and its general representation of love and loss, men and women, heterosexual and (occasionally) homosexual affairs. Within this framework we will look more closely at love elegy’s specific literary tropes: its characterisations, urban and rural settings, mythic imagery, and its tendency to confuse fiction and reality. We will consider how love elegy deals with recurring themes of violence, slavery, separation, obscenity, male friendship, magic, and death, and we will also pay attention to the way in which the poems reflect (or reject) the Roman and / or Augustan social context in which they were written. 

During the teaching and assessment of this module students will be encouraged to combine close reading of individual poems with an understanding of the broader literary and historical themes running through the genre.

Primary/introductory reading 

Set texts:

  • G. Lee, The Poems of Catullus (Oxford, 1990) [or G. P. Goold, Catullus (Duckworth, 1983)]
  • A. M. Juster, Tibullus: Elegies (Oxford, 2012) [or G. Lee, Tibullus: Elegies (Leeds, 1990)]
  • G. Lee, Propertius: The Poems (Oxford, 1994)
  • A. D. Melville, Ovid: The Love Poems (Oxford World’s Classics, 1990) [or P. Green, Ovid: The Erotic Poems (Penguin, 1982)]

Purchase of a set text is recommended but not compulsory.

Suggested introductory reading 

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

  • For a clear and concise introduction to Roman love elegy see R. Gibson, ‘Love Elegy’ in A Companion to Latin Literature, ed. S. Harrison (Wiley-Blackwell 2005), 159-173.
  • R.O.A.M. Lyne The Latin Love Poets (Oxford, 1980) is a little old-fashioned now, but gives some useful and easy-to-read historical and literary background.
  • There are also many interesting ideas in P. Veyne’s more challenging Roman Erotic Elegy: Love, Poetry, and the West (Chicago, 1988).
  • Several seminal essays can be found in the excellent M. Wyke The Roman Mistress (Oxford, 2002).
  • You may also like to browse the essays in A Companion to Roman Love Elegy, ed. B. K. Gold (Wiley-Blackwell 2012)
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