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Study information

Cultures of the Body in the Roman Empire

Module titleCultures of the Body in the Roman Empire
Module codeCLAM079
Academic year2019/0
Module staff

Dr Daniel King (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Module description

The body is often assumed to be a natural, unchanging, biologically and genetically determined thing; this module challenges that view by unpacking the complex history of the body in the Roman Empire. It examines the ways in which different cultural discourses approached the male and female body in the Roman Empire, including medicine, philosophy, sporting activity, artistic representation, rhetorical and fictional literature. You will explore not only how different views of the body emerged in different cultural contexts across the Empire, but how these competing approaches intersected and informed one another to construct the ancient physical habitus.

Module aims - intentions of the module

The module has a number of aims:

  • To give you a grounding in the history of ancient body, thus exposing you to an important but often under-discussed aspect of ancient culture
  • To provide a theoretical grounding in both the practices of critical cultural history and the history of the body which will be relevant to other fields of history generally, but also specifically to the classical world
  • To explore key texts in the history of the body in different ancient fields of activity (such as medicine and philosophy, artistic representation, rhetoric)
  • To combine textual analysis with other techniques for studying ancient culture, such as the analysis of art

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

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

  • 1. Demonstrate an enhanced degree of expertise in interpreting the ancient body and various relevant ancient discourses of the body
  • 2. Demonstrate knowledge and understanding of selected topics and issues in the history of the classical body
  • 3. Evaluate critically and use a range of theoretical approaches to the ancient body

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

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

  • 4. Demonstrate expertise in collating and analysing different types of evidence
  • 5. Demonstrate critical skills in evaluating scholarly approaches to ancient material, and in developing your own readings and interpretations

ILO: Personal and key skills

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

  • 6. Demonstrate an ability to think independently and analytically on the basis of primary sources and secondary literature
  • 7. Demonstrate bibliographical skills and apply the latest forms of information retrieval, word-processing, and oral presentation skills
  • 8. Construct, present, and defend a sustained argument, both in written form and orally
  • 9. Work with others in an independent, constructive and responsive manner

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:

The module is divided into five topics, each comprising an initial 1hr session and then a 2hr intensive session focussed on a particular theme, as identified below. The 1hr session will provide some theoretical reading, outlining a particular methodological approach to the body and introducing a particular theme for the following two hour session. Each two hour session will be based around student presentations and the intense interpretation and analysis of primary material.

Indicative Themes:

  • Imperial medicine – diagnosis, treatment, and the experience of being healthy
  • Perceiving the World – perception and sensory studies of the body
  • Shaping the Body – gymnastics, exercises, and fashioning the body
  • The body and the gaze – viewing the body in art and literature
  • Performing Masculinity – Oratory, performance, and identity

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 Teaching15Intensive seminar and reading group teaching.
Guided Independent Study135Students working independently and in groups in preparation for seminars and essays.

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Close study of primary texts and of secondary material in preparation for class and in class; small group presentations on primary texts under discussion; whole class discussions and debatesOngoing1-9Oral comments from lecturer and 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
Essay804000 words1-8mark; written and oral comments
Oral Presentation (individual)2020 minutes1-9mark; written and oral 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
Oral presentation (individual)Essay (2000 words)1-9Referral/deferral period

Re-assessment notes

For the re-assessment, there will be no oral presentation, instead there will be a ? word essay.

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 50%) you will be required to submit a further assessment as necessary. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of referral will be capped at 50%.

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Basic reading:

  • Arcangeli, A. (2011). Cultural History: A Concise Introduction (Routledge).
  • Burke, P. (2004). What is Cultural History? (Polity Press).
  • Bynum, W & Kalof, L (eds.) (2014-) A Cultural History of the Human Body (vols 1-6; The Cultural Histories Series; Bloomsbury).
  • Ginzburg, C. (1989). Clues, Myths and the Historical Method (Johns Hopkins University Press).
  • Judovitz, D. (2001). The Culture of the Body: Genealogies of Modernity (Ann Arbor).
  • Moore, A. (2016). ‘Historicising Historical Theory’s History of Cultural Historiography’ Cosmos & History: The Journal of Natural and Social Philosophy, 12 (1): 257-291.
  • McCaffery, P., & Marsden, B., (eds.) (2014). The Cultural History Reader (Routledge).
  • Porter, R. (1991). ‘History of the Body’, in P. Burke (ed.) New Perspectives on Historical Writing (Polity), 206-232.
  • Porter, R. (2001). ‘History of the Body Reconsidered’, in P. Burke (ed.) New Perspectives on Historical Writing (Polity), 232-260.

Key words search

Ancient, History, Body, Roman

Credit value15
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites


Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


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Last revision date