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Study information

Ovid and the Erotic Passions

Module titleOvid and the Erotic Passions
Module codeCLA3056
Academic year2023/4
Module staff

Professor Rebecca Langlands (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Module description

This module explores a group of witty and controversial poems by the Roman poet Ovid which are thought to have been the reason for his banishment in AD 8; they appear to advocate adultery and promiscuity, and to pose a satirical challenge to the emperor Augustus’ programme of moral reform. His playful sex manual,  The Art of Love , advises his readers on the arts of pick-up and seduction, his follow-up,  Cures for Love , teaches unhappy lovers how to get over erotic obsession, while  On Make Up  advises women how to use cosmetic treatments to make themselves more attractive.

Module aims - intentions of the module

A close and detailed study of the three poems (in translation)  Art of Love,  Cures for Love  and  On Make Up , will combine literary critical approaches to the poetry with an investigation of the poems as evidence for ancient Roman attitudes towards sex, desire, love, lust and the erotic passions. This module will explore the poems’ cynical and instrumental attitude to erotic relationships, which seems in many ways at odds with the modern Western tradition of romantic love, and investigate whether, on closer examination, many of their central themes – such as manipulation, objectification and self-objectification, the pleasures, pains, frustrations and gratifications of erotic passions – may resonate strongly today.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

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

  • 1. Demonstrate a detailed knowledge of Ovid’s didactic poetry, and evaluate and discuss its significance
  • 2. Identify and explain the various theoretical approaches to ancient Latin poetry, and demonstrate awareness of the subject’s central themes and issues.
  • 3. Demonstrate awareness of the extent to which interpretations of Ovid’s poetry are shaped by changing modern concerns.
  • 4. Demonstrate a good knowledge of the history and variety of scholarship on Ovid’s poetry and an understanding of how this scholarship can inform your own interpretation of the texts.

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

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

  • 5. Identify, appreciate and engage effectively with different theoretical approaches to ancient texts.
  • 6. Demonstrate sophisticated critical and analytical skills which can be applied to the analysis of texts from any culture
  • 7. 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...

  • 8. Through research for seminars and written assignments demonstrate advanced independent and group study skills in research, critical analysis, and presentation of findings.
  • 9. Through writing essays, delivering informal presentations and preparing for seminars, demonstrate advanced ability to select and organise relevant material to produce an argument.
  • 10. Through written assignments, informal seminar presentations and discussion, demonstrate advanced ability to present a strong, coherent argument in both oral and written forms.
  • 11. Through submission of final essay and research journal demonstrate enhanced ability to reflect on your own work, to respond constructively to feedback, and to implement suggestions and improve work on the basis of feedback

Syllabus plan

Through close reading of the set texts supported by relevant scholarship and comparative material, we will discuss themes such as: the representation in the poems of erotic passion and sexual behaviour, of the relationship between men and women and of the differences between the sexes; the poetry’s relationship to the political and social context of the Augustan age; the position of the poems within the literary tradition, e.g. their relation to the genres of love elegy and didactic; a comparison of the poems with other ancient material such as erotic painting from Pompeii, and with modern trends such as Pick Up Artists. The module will include scope for students to focus on specific themes and case studies depending on their particular interests.

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 teaching221 x 2 hour seminar per week
Guided independent study128Private study

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Close study of key primary and texts and scholarship in class, with broader discussions of issues1-11Verbal feedback from peers and lecturer
Written assignment1000 words1-11Written peer and lecturer feedback
Essay plan1000 words1-11Tutorial feedback with lecturer
First draft of essay3000 words1-11Peer feedback

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
Assessment 1251000 words1-11Mark and written feedback from lecturer
Essay753000 words1-11Mark 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
Blog post (1000 words)Blog post (1000 words)1-11Referral/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

  • Ovid The Erotic Poems translated by Peter Green (Penguin).
  • Roy Gibson, Steven Green and Alison Sharrock (eds) The Art of Love: bimillenial essays on Ovid’s Ars Amatoria and Remedia Amoris 2006.
  • Roy Gibson, Ars Amatoria III 2003.
  • Roy Gibson “The Ars Amatoria” in Peter Knox (ed.) A Companion to Ovid: 90-103.
  • Alison Sharrock, Seduction and Repetition in Ovid Ars Amatoria (1994).
  • Giulia Sissa, (2008) Sex and Sensuality in the Ancient World (pages 133-149).
  • Maurizio Bettini (1989) The Portrait of the Lover (pages 81-93).
  • Molly Myerowitz (1985) Ovid’s Games of Love.
  • Marguerite Johnson   (2016) Ovid on Cosmetics: Medicamina Faciei Femineae and Related Texts.
  • Rebecca Armstrong (2015) Ovid and his Love Poetry.

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Key words search

Ovid, Ancient Rome, Love, Passion

Credit value15
Module ECTS


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NQF level (module)


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Last revision date