What is the course about?
This course introduces students to the epic genre in Latin literature. We will focus in particular on two poems: Lucretius’ On the Nature of the Universe and Virgil’s Aeneid. Lucretius’ On the Nature of the Universe presents philosophical teachings about what makes up the world around us. His thought-provoking poem has been influential throughout the ages, including as part of the history of science and the Enlightenment. Virgil’s Aeneid was supposedly commissioned by the Emperor Augustus as a celebration of the Roman race. It tells of Aeneas’ journey from Troy to Italy and the hardships he faced in a new land. Between them, these two authors give us two very different pictures of how Latin literature shaped the course of Western aesthetics and thought.
What will we cover?
We will read the poems in their social and political context. We will also consider the influence of earlier writers on the poems and their influence on later literature.
What will I achieve?
By the end of this course you should be able to...
- appreciate the background and context of Latin epic poetry
- understand the poems in their social and political context
- contribute to a discussion of the major themes in the poem.
What level is the course and do I need any particular skills?
This is an introductory course. No previous knowledge or experience of Latin literature is necessary. Learners will need an enthusiasm for the ancient world, willingness to work in groups to discuss the poems, and an intrepid curiosity.
How will I be taught, and will there be any work outside the class?
The course will combine lectures and group discussion. Students will be expected to read sections of the poems in advance of class and to take part in some discussions of particular passages. Any extra reading will be provided by the tutor.
Are there any other costs? Is there anything I need to bring?
Suggested editions of the core texts:
Lucretius On the Nature of the Universe translated by Ronald Melville (Oxford World Classics 2008) — ISBN 10: 0199555141
Virgil Aeneid translated by David West (Penguin Classics) — ISBN 10: 0140449329.
When I've finished, what course can I do next?
A companion module, called Latin Epic: the Later Period, will be starting in term 2.