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Study information

The World(s) of Didactic Poetry

Module titleThe World(s) of Didactic Poetry
Module codeCLA3118
Academic year2022/3
Module staff

Dr Irene Salvo ()

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 agricultural (e.g. Hesiod’s Works and Days, Virgil’s Georgics), cosmological (e.g. Aratus’ Phaenomena, Manilius’ Astronomica) and others such as Nicander’s Theriaca Lucretius’ De rerum natura, and selections from Ovid.

The course will consider the poems individually, as well as themes and ideas they have in common; 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 contextualise didactic as a ‘genre’ that evolved over hundreds of years of literature.

This course has a philosophical focus throughout (given the subject matter of the texts), and time will be dedicated to the consideration of broader topics, such as what knowledge is, how we learn, and the presentation of space and time. In addition, the course will encourage participants to engage with the texts as a way of reflecting on modern concerns (e.g. environment and sustainability, race and ethnicity, animal ethics, the nature of the individual). It also includes a creative/reflective component, which prompts the participants to explore the idea that we might be the didactic addressees.

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,  such as the birth of the Olympians, the Golden Age, Orpheus and Eurydice
  • Assess the juxtaposition of ‘scientific’ explanations with ‘mythological’ explanations
  •  Offer a way of reflecting on modern concerns against and alongside ancient material
  • Provide an opportunity to produce a creative, reflective, and critical piece which explores non-traditional academic form

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
  • 5. Demonstrate a subjective and critical response to selections from the texts

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

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

  • 6. 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
  • 7. 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...

  • 8. Select and organise relevant material to produce an argument
  • 9. Respond to the ideas and suggestions of others in a critical, constructive, and academically grounded way
  • 10. 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

Syllabus plan

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

  • Hesiod
  • Aratus
  • Nicander
  • Lucretius
  • Virgil
  • Manilius
  • Ovid

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

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Participation in discussion online or in personRegular group presentations online or in class1-10Oral feedback from lecturer and peers
Online forum comments350-450 words each, regular contributions throughout year1-10Written and oral comments from lecturer and peers
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 review9-10Receive c. 3 sets of comments and critical feedback on your own essay from peers
Outline of creative/reflective piece (to be submitted in first week of term 2)250 words1-8Written feedback from lecturer

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
Online forum comment (self-selected and submitted from those published in forum). Submitted in term 1.10350-450 words1-10Mark and written feedback
Online forum comment (self-selected and submitted from those published in forum). Submitted in term 110350-450 words1-10Mark and written feedback
Essay403000 words1-9Mark and written feedback
Reflective/creative piece40Equivalent of 3000 words, depending on medium1-8Mark and written comments

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

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
EssayEssay1-9Referral/Deferral period
Reflective/creative pieceReflective/creative piece1-8Referral/Deferral period
Online forum commentsOnline forum comments1-10Referral/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

Basic reading:

  • Atherton, C. (ed.). (1997) Form and Content in Didactic Poetry, Bari.
  • Kenney, E.J. "The typology of didactic," CR 29 (1979) 71-73.
  • Gale, M. (ed.). (2004) Latin Epic and Didactic Poetry, Swansea.
  • Hutchinson, G. O. (2008) Talking Books. Readings in Hellenistic and Roman Books of Poetry, Oxford
  • Sider, D. (2014) ‘Didactic poetry: The Hellenistic invention of a pre-existing genre’, in Hunter,
  • R., Rengakos, A., and Sistakou, E. (2014) (eds) Hellenistic Studies at a Crossroads:
  • Exploring Texts, Contexts and Metatexts, Berlin and New York, 13–29
  • Toohey, P. (1996) Epic Lessons. An Introduction to Ancient Didactic Poetry, London.
  • Volk, K. (2002) The Poetics of Latin Didactic: Lucretius, Vergil, Ovid, Manilius, Oxford.

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Key words search

Classics, Latin, Didactic, 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