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Study information

The World(s) of Didactic Poetry

Module titleThe World(s) of Didactic Poetry
Module codeCLA3118
Academic year2019/0
Module staff

Dr Katharine Earnshaw (Lecturer)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks



Number students taking module (anticipated)


Module description

This module will explore a diverse range of ancient poetic texts which all purport to ‘teach’ something to the reader, whether that be the origins of the universe, when to gather honey from bees, or how to put on the right amount of make-up. It will take in various texts and subject matters, from Hesiod’s Theogony and Works and Days, through Hellenistic didactic, to Lucretius’ De rerum natura, Virgil’s Georgics, Manilius’ Astronomica, and Ovid’s Ars Amatoria . There will also be the opportunity to consider more fragmentary didactic texts in context. The course will focus on the poems individually, as well as on themes and ideas they have in common, and will present passages on topics as diverse as myth, plague, star constellations, farming, death, love and seduction, the cosmos, animals, and the ages of man. The relationship between didactic and other types of poetry (especially epic) will also be examined, in order to give consideration to didactic as a genre that evolved over hundreds of years of literature.

Module aims - intentions of the module

This module aims to:

  • Explore an exciting range of didactic poetry against, with, and through the relevant literary, socio-cultural, philosophical and political contexts
  • Consider whether there is any thematic unity to the genre known as ‘didactic’
  • Discuss a range of topics generated from the material, from the deep and meaningful (what is the nature of reality?) to the seemingly lighter (just where would one pick up a partner in ancient Rome?)
  • Learn about a wide range of mythology, including the birth of the Olympians, the Golden Age, Orpheus and Eurydice, and Daedalus
  • Assess the juxtaposition of ‘scientific’ explanations with ‘mythological’ explanations

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

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

  • 1. Demonstrate knowledge of a wide range of didactic poetic texts, and discuss them in detail
  • 2. Identify key themes and ideas that emerge across the various texts, and evaluate the intra- and intertextual significance
  • 3. Demonstrate a good knowledge of generic interplay and literary conventions in didactic, and offer arguments as to whether ‘didactic’ has unifying features
  • 4. Describe and evaluate what the texts can tell us about ancient culture, politics, and philosophy

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

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

  • 5. Demonstrate an enhanced understanding of the issues involved in reading ancient texts in translation and use commentaries and secondary literature to enhance your understanding and appreciation of ancient texts
  • 6. Engage with and debate the relationship between the composition of literature and the society within which it is created

ILO: Personal and key skills

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

  • 7. Select and organise relevant material to produce an argument
  • 8. Work independently and in small groups to formulate, construct and defend arguments (both in written form and orally), and draw on a body of knowledge in order to respond to the arguments of others
  • 9. 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, it is envisioned that it will cover some or all of the following topics:

  • Semester 1: Hesiod, Aratus, Nicander, Lucretius
  • Semester 2: Virgil, Manilius, Ovid

(Order of texts may alter)

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 teaching441 x 2 hour seminar per week
Guided independent study256Independent study

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
2 x best comments (self-assessed) from online forum20250-350 words each1-9Mark and written feedback
Essay303000 words1-8Mark and written feedback
Examination503 hours1-8Mark and written feedback

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

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
EssayEssay1-8Referral/Deferral period
ExaminationExamination1-8Referral/Deferral period
Online commentsPrepared gobbet1-9Referral/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

To be confirmed.

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Key words search

Classics, Latin, Nero, Literature

Credit value30
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites

The successful completion of at least 90 credits at Level 2, 30 credits of which must be in Classics and Ancient History.

Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date