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2021/22 Undergraduate Module Catalogue

CLAS2460 Subversive Desires: Roman Love Elegy

20 creditsClass Size: 12

Module manager: Dr Paul White

Taught: Semester 1 (Sep to Jan) View Timetable

Year running 2021/22

This module is mutually exclusive with

CLAS3460Subversive Desires: Roman Love Elegy

This module is approved as a discovery module

Module summary

Roman love elegy fundamentally shaped the way we think and talk about love. The Roman elegists wrote about the joys and sufferings of love, and about the social and political complications that may frustrate or pervert desire and make its fulfilment impossible. Their writings are, basically, about love and sex; but dig a little deeper and you will find they are about so much more than this. In making a poetic language to talk about the experience of love, they found that this language could be set to work to talk about other things, too: to question the foundations of socially constructed identities, to complicate gender roles, to express alienation and a sense of being out of synch with the world, to confront literary traditions and find a place for their own voice within them. Focusing primarily on the elegiac collections of Propertius, Tibullus and Ovid, we will explore how Roman elegy could express, with a seriousness tempered by humour and irony, complex ideas about everything from sex to reading, from Roman conceptions of masculinity and militarism to the psychology of desire and loss.


This module aims to give students an understanding of the genre of Roman Love Elegy by introducing, in English translation, the poems of the three canonical Roman elegists whose works substantially survive (Propertius, Tibullus and Ovid), as well as poems by other Latin elegists.
It will give students the ability to engage in close reading and detailed analysis of the poems in English translation, paying attention to how poetic language creates meaning, for example through the use of imagery, verbal and structural patterning, intertextuality and allusion.
Students will become familiar with the conventions and topoi (established themes or devices) of the genre, and the ways in which they are used, ironized and subverted by individual poets.
The module will also explore aspects of the literary, social and cultural context that are relevant to an understanding of the works studied, and encourage students to engage with the secondary literature on Roman Elegy, and to gain an understanding of the main ideas that have characterized different phases of the criticism on elegy (e.g. formalist, socio-cultural, psychoanalytical, feminist critique)
The course will reflect on the importance and influence of the genre of Roman Love Elegy in the post-classical world.

Learning outcomes
On completion of this module, students should be able to:
- demonstrate a broad understanding of the genre of Roman Love Elegy, and apply this understanding to close analysis of the set texts (in English translation);
- use their knowledge of historical, cultural and literary contexts to formulate interpretations of the set texts;
- think about Roman Love Elegy in wider terms, paying attention to issues such as gender and sexuality, the lyric voice and persona, the subversion or endorsement of social norms, literary tradition and reception;
- gather, evaluate and use information from secondary sources;
- communicate ideas and interpretations effectively, both orally and in writing.


The module counts for 20 credits and runs over one semester, with two lectures per week and a total of five seminars. Our main set texts will be selected poems from the works of Propertius (Propertius, The Poems, trans. by Guy Lee (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009), Tibullus (Tibullus, Elegies, trans. by A. M Juster (Oxford: OUP, 2012) and Ovid’s Amores (Ovid, The Love Poems, trans. by A. D Melville (Oxford: OUP, 2008). We will also look at poems or fragments by other elegiac poets. Lectures will introduce you to the genre’s themes and conventions; furnish you with an understanding of the literary background (Greek models, Alexandrianism, Catullus and the neoterics, Cornelius Gallus); discuss aspects of the social and political context; cover the main trends in the secondary criticism; and give a sense of the genre’s postclassical survival and influence. Seminars will give you the opportunity to study in detail specific poems taken from the set texts.

Teaching methods

Delivery typeNumberLength hoursStudent hours
Private study hours175.00
Total Contact hours25.00
Total hours (100hr per 10 credits)200.00

Private study

Students will be expected to prepare for, and follow up on, lectures and seminars by (a) reading set text selections: 40 hours
(b) reflecting on specific research questions: 65 hours
(c) carrying out bibliographical research: 10 hours
(d) specific preparation for assessments: 60 hours

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

Student progress will be monitored through attendance at and participation in teaching sessions (lectures and seminars), group discussion, and through a detailed module questionnaire.

Methods of assessment

Assessment typeNotes% of formal assessment
Essay2000 words40.00
Total percentage (Assessment Coursework)40.00

Normally resits will be assessed by the same methodology as the first attempt, unless otherwise stated

Exam typeExam duration% of formal assessment
Online Time-Limited assessment48 hr 00 mins60.00
Total percentage (Assessment Exams)60.00

Normally resits will be assessed by the same methodology as the first attempt, unless otherwise stated

Reading list

The reading list is available from the Library website

Last updated: 07/07/2021 10:01:28


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