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Study information

Virgil's Georgic Environment

Module titleVirgil's Georgic Environment
Module codeCLA3046
Academic year2021/2
Module staff

Dr Katharine Earnshaw (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Module description

In Virgil’s Georgics, ‘the best poem by the best poet’ (Dryden), the earth is a place of labour and nostalgia, of philosophical reflection and poetic fragmentation. This course reads the ‘middle’ Virgilian poem from a number of different angles: in the context of ancient poetic tradition and politics, including Virgil’s other poetry (EcloguesAeneid); through selected examples of its reception ; and as a focus for reflecting on topics such as climate change, sustainability, race and ethnicity, gender and class. We will read about e.g. Orpheus in the underworld, Octavian, beekeeping, and tree-grafting, and will use the text to think through concepts such as ecocriticism, geophilosophy, human-animal ethics, and the connections between place, mind, and memory.

Module aims - intentions of the module

At the heart of the course is a concern with what mankind’s relationship is with natura, and how it helps to define what it means to be human. There’s also some really great poetry. The module aims to improve close and detailed readings of a poetic text, whilst prompting you to situate them with/alongside bigger concerns of a contextual, philosophical, ecological, and literary sort. In other words, it prompts you to see (and talk about) both the wood and the trees.

This is a research-led course. It is expected that you will engage in plenty of discussion – both synchronously and asynchronously  – and there will be weekly  opportunities to read selections from texts other than the Georgics.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 1. Demonstrate a detailed knowledge of Virgil’s didactic poem, the Georgics, and be able to discuss it in detail
  • 2. Be able to identify key themes and ideas that emerge across the Georgics, including in relation to other texts, and to evaluate any significant intra- and intertextual connections.
  • 3. Demonstrate a good knowledge of generic interplay and literary conventions in the poem.
  • 4. Describe and evaluate what the poem might be able to tell us about ancient and modern cultures, politics, and philosophies
  • 5. Demonstrate a good knowledge of the history and variety of scholarship on the Georgics and an understanding of how this scholarship can inform your own interpretation of the text.
  • 6. Be able to evaluate passages in the poem within the framework of selected ecological and environmental literary criticism, and demonstrate an awareness of the extent to which the poem is shaped by modern concerns.

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 7. Demonstrate an enhanced understanding of the issues involved in reading ancient texts in translation and an ability to use commentaries and secondary literature to enhance your understanding and appreciation of ancient texts.
  • 8. Demonstrate sophisticated critical and analytical skills which can be applied to the analysis of texts from any culture.
  • 9. Demonstrate appreciation of the issues involved in using ancient texts as historical source material and relate texts to their socio-historical context.

ILO: Personal and key skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 10. Through writing assignments and preparing for seminars demonstrate ability to select and organize relevant material to produce an argument.
  • 11. Demonstrate the ability to work independently and in small groups to formulate, construct and defend arguments (both in written form and orally), and the ability to draw on a body of knowledge in order to respond to the arguments of others (both written and oral).
  • 12. Through online forums demonstrate ability to respond to the ideas and suggestions of others in a critical, constructive, and academically grounded way.

Syllabus plan

Whilst the content may vary from year to year,  we will  consider some or all of the following topics:

 labor, mythology, philosophy, didactic tradition, anthropomorphic animals, amor, connections to Virgil’s other poems,  receptions of the poem..

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled learning and teaching activities22Seminars (11 x 2 hours)
Guided independent study128Private study

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Weekly information presentations to class as part of study group and related discussionBrief presentations online or in class1-11Spoken feedback from peers and lecturer
Weekly submissions to the online forumsto include some of between 300-400 words1-12Online feedback
Submission of essay draft ahead of deadline, and anonymous review of peer essay drafts (submitted via Turnitin peer review)Randomly allocated c. 3 essays to review1-11Receive c. 3 sets of comments and critical feedback on your own essay from peers

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Essay703000 words1-11Mark and written feedback from lecturer
Online forum comment (self-selected and submitted from those published in forum)15between 300-400 words1-12Mark and written feedback from lecturer
Online forum comment (self-selected and submitted from those published in forum)15between 300-400 words1-12Mark and written feedback from lecturer

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Online commentsPrepared gobbet1-11Referral/deferral period
EssayEssay1-11Referral/deferral period

Re-assessment notes

Deferral – if you miss an assessment for certificated reasons judged acceptable by the Mitigation Committee, you will normally be either deferred in the assessment or an extension may be granted. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of deferral will not be capped and will be treated as it would be if it were your first attempt at the assessment.

Referral – if you have failed the module overall (i.e. a final overall module mark of less than 40%) you will be required to submit a further assessment as necessary. If you are successful on referral, your overall module mark will be capped at 40%.

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

  • Virgil, The Georgics, translated by Peter Fallon (Oxford World Classics)
  • Mynors (1990) Virgil: Georgics. Edited with a Commentary. Oxford.
  • Thomas R.F. (1988) Virgil: Georgics. 2 vols. Cambridge.
  • Boyle, A.J. (1979) “In Medio Caesar: Paradox and Politics in Virgil's Georgics,” Ramus 8: 65-86.
  • Boyle, A.J. (ed.) (1979) Virgil's Ascraean song. Ramus essays on the Georgics. Berwick, Victoria
  • Briggs, W.W. (1980) Narrative and simile from the Georgics in the Aeneid. Leiden.
  • Catto, B. (1986) “Lucretian labor and Vergil's labor improbus,” CJ 81: 305-18.
  • Clay, J.S. (1976) “The Argument at the End of Vergil's Second Georgic,” Philologus 120: 232-45. Clay, J. S. (1989) “The Old Man in the Garden: Georgic 4.116-48.” In Old Age in Greek and Latin
  • Literature, edd. T. M. Falkner and J. de Luce. Albany: 183-94.
  • Davis, P.J. (1979) “Vergil's Georgics and the Pastoral Ideal.” Ramus 8: 22-33
  • Dominik, W. J. (2009) “Vergil’s Geopolitics.” In Writing Politics in Imperial Rome. W. J. Dominik, J. Garthwaite, and P. A. Roche, eds. Leiden: Brill: 111-32.
  • Gale M.R. (1995) “Virgil's metamorphoses: myth and allusion in the GeorgicsPCPS 41 36-61.
  • -- (2000) Virgil on the nature of things. The Georgics, Lucretius and the didactic tradition. Cambridge.
  • -- (2003) “Poetry and the Backward Glance in Virgil's Georgics and Aeneid”TAPhA 133.2:323-352.
  • Garrard, G. (2011) Ecocriticism, London
  • Griffin, J. (1979) “The Fourth Georgic, Virgil and Rome,” G&R 26: 61-80
  • Hardie P. (1998) Virgil. Greece and Rome New Surveys in the Classics 28. Oxford.
  • Hardie, P. (2004) “Political Education in Virgil's Georgics” SIFC 2.1: 83-111
  • Knox, P. E. (1992) “Love and Horses in Virgil's Georgics,” Eranos 90.1: 43-53
  • Kromer, G. (1979) “The Didactic Tradition in Vergil's Georgics.” Ramus 8: 7-21
  • Miles (1975) “Georgics 3.209-294: Amor and Civilization,” CSCA 8: 177-97.
  • Miles G.B. (1980) Virgil's Georgics: A New Interpretation. Berkeley, Los Angeles & London.
  • Morgan, Llewelyn (1999) Patterns of Redemption in Virgil’s Georgics. Cambridge.
  • Muecke, F. (1979) “Poetic Self-Consciousness in Georgics II” Ramus 8: 87-107
  • Nelson, S. A. (1998) God and the land. The metaphysics of farming in Hesiod and Vergil. New York.
  • Perkell, C. (1989) The Poet’s Truth: A Study of the Poet in Virgil’s “Georgics”. Berkeley/Los Angeles
  • Putnam, M. C. J. (1979) Virgil's Poem of the Earth: Studies in the Georgics. Princeton.
  • Ross, D.O. (1987) Virgil’s Elements: Physics and Poetry in the “Georgics”. Princeton
  • Saunders, T. (2008) Bucolic Ecology: Virgil’s Eclogues and the Environmental Literary Tradition. London: Duckworth.
  • Segal, C. P. (1966) “Orpheus and the Fourth Georgic: Vergil on Nature and Civilization,” AJP 87: 307-25.
  • Spurr, M.S. (1986) “Agriculture and the Georgics” G&R 33: 164-187.
  • Thibodeau, P. (2011) Playing the farmer: Representations of Rural Life in Vergil’s Georgics, Berkeley, Los Angeles, London
  • Volk, K. (2002) The Poetics of Latin Didactic: Lucretius, Vergil, Ovid, Manilius. Oxford.
  • Volk, K. (ed.) (2008) Vergil's Georgics. Oxford
  • Wilkinson L.P. (1969) The Georgics of Virgil: A Critical Survey.

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources


Two online bibliographies


Key words search

Latin poetry, Virgil, Georgics, didactic, Octavian, environment, geocriticism, mythology, ecopoetry, classical reception

Credit value15
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites


Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date