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Language Module

CX 911-30 (Masters Language training: all levels except Advanced Ancient Language)
CX 908-30 (Advanced Ancient Language)

As part of the taught element of the MA students study an ancient or modern language for one of their four modules. This can be used either to further your skills in ancient Greek or Latin, or to develop the knowledge of modern language which will be necessary for further research.

Languages available:

Other languages may be available, subject to individual student research needs

Students studying these modules [except Advanced Ancient Language] are also required to complete a language dossier. Assessment of all language modules [except Advanced Ancient Language] consists of 50% examination (spread across termly tests and the summer examination) and 50% dossier of coursework relating to the language chosen.

Language Dossier

The aim of the language dossier is to show that you can apply the linguistic skills you have acquired to the study of ancient visual and material culture. It is worth 50% of the final mark for the language module (the examination makes up the other 50%) and is due in by Friday 7th June 2024, 12 noon. The contents of your dossier must first be approved by the Taught M.A. co-ordinator, Prof Suzanne Frey-Kupper, by Thursday 14th March 2024, 12 noon. The Advanced Language module (CX 908) does not require a language dossier; all other language options do.


What a Dossier should contain

Cover page: please specify which level the dossier relates to.

For Ancient Greek/Latin:

3 passages in the language you have been learning together with you own translation AND a commentary setting them in the context of the course. The total length of each commentary will be min. 500 words to max.750 words. Transcriptions, translations, footnotes and bibliography are not included in the word count. The tests chosen should be properly researched, and consideration given to other views of their interpretation, fully supported by footnotes and bibliography.

Some examples of suitable material for students undertaking one of the MA in Ancient Visual and Material Culture courses are given below. It will be best to try to achieve a cross-section of different types of evidence. If you think of other possible examples, do ask to see if they are suitable.


  • An inscription (or 2 or 3 similar ones if very short). You should include the following:
    1. edition(s) consulted - both online and printed
    2. majuscule transcription
    3. minuscule transcription, showing how abbreviations should be expanded
    4. your own translation
    5. short commentary (500-750 words): this may consider its text (have readings of it changed over time/ how secure is the transcription/ are there alternative ways to expand abbreviations?); it must set it into context, explaining where it was found or is likely to have been set up, discussion of how to date it, and its relevance to the study of ancient material culture (how typical/atypical is it; does it show regional characteristics?). Comments could consider its dimensions and physical appearance (if possible, include a photograph/ drawing of the inscription to help with this); topographical context; historical significance (social - cultural - political - economic); linguistic features (including discussion of onomastics). Not every inscription will result in a commentary covering all of these points; this list is simply to offer guidance as to the sort of questions you may like to address.
  • An object where text and image are combined, with your own transcription and translation of the text and an appraisal of the effect of this combination of text and image (eg a series of coins with legends, a funerary or votive relief, a statue dedication). You should offer majuscule and minuscule transcriptions, your own translation, discussion (up to 750 words) of both its legend and image (see above for further details)
  • A passage from an ancient author which gives an account of an artist, statue, monument or site (eg from Vitruvius, Pliny NH, Pausanias) along with your own translation and a commentary (500-750 words), drawing out the important elements of the passage and commenting on any difficulties in translating terms. Also a brief account of the author’s date, context etc. You should state which edition you have used. Consult scholarly commentaries in order to help you consider literary context, stye, historical context.

Your choice of passages will depend on your levels of attainment in the language: beginners may select simple inscriptions, coins, or short combinations of text and image; those studying at higher levels should choose more complex/longer passages and discuss their problems of translation and interpretation more.

In brief, this exercise involves you selecting gobbets of the sort you might find on an exam paper, and writing an account of them.
NB Full references and bibliography are expected.

Example of dossier selections

Latin Language & Literature:

Res Gestae 20; CIL VI 960 (Trajan's column); Pliny the Elder, NH 34.65

For Modern Languages:

Language dossier should include for modern languages (Italian):

***Please note***
- Marking criteria are available by clicking on the link below (at the bottom of this page)
- The word count for the different components of the language dossier is +/- 10% as for any other written work.

1. A formal letter written in Italian introducing yourself to a museum curator or superintendent of an archaeological site or area (along with correct address of museum/archaeological site available on the web). The letter should outline your motivations for wishing to visit this museum or site, e.g. explain what your research interests are and what the specific research purpose of the visit is, identify which particular material/site you wish to see and why, and (if relevant) request to photograph the material for research purposes. Please provide a list of inventory numbers for the objects you would like to study or, if unknown, provide a list of relevant publications (suggested word count: 200 words for beginners in Italian; 500 words for intermediate and advanced in Italian. List of inventory numbers/publications is excluded from the word count).

Aims: You are expected to demonstrate your ability to 1. Write a formal letter in grammatically correct Italian; 2. Formulate your arguments in a clear, articulate and convincing way; 3. Describe your research interests and scope of visit in a clear and concise way.

Tips: 1. Be brief and concise. 2. Do not write an unnecessarily long letter. 3. You will be practicing letter-writing skills in the Italian module you are taking. You are strongly encouraged to use the relevant components of the Italian module (i.e. specific classes on letter writing, non-assessed homework on relevant topics, etc.) to acquire and improve the skills required to write a formal letter.

2. A critical analysis (in English) of a museum label (written in Italian) OR catalogue entry (written in Italian) for an object you have studied (suggested word count: approx. 200 words for the Italian text; 500 words for the critical analysis). This should include a transcription of the label/catalogue entry, an illustration of the object, an English translation of the label/entry, and a critical review of the label/catalogue entry discussing its significance (e.g. format, expression, audience, aspects the the label/entry does or does not cover, and why) and context (e.g. if part of an exhibition). Please add (if relevant) footnotes and bibliography (not included in the word count).

Aims: You are expected to demonstrate your ability to 1. Provide a clear, grammatically correct English translation of a short Italian text; 2. Engage critically with catalogue entries/museum labels by identifying any issues and contextualizing the material studied.

3. A critical review (in English) of a scholarly article (written in Italian) relevant to visual and material culture (word count: 800-1,000 words).
Outline the content of the article in your review, its major findings, how this contributes to the subject more widely, and (if relevant) identify any significant issue or gap in the article (aspects the article might miss out or overemphasize, methodological problems).
Please give full bibliographic reference and web link/PDF file for the article and add footnotes and bibliography (not included in the word count).

Aims: You are expected to demonstrate your ability to 1. Provide a clear and concise summary, in English, of an Italian scholarly article, covering all relevant aspects; 2. Evaluate critically the arguments of the article; 3. Set the findings of the article in a wider scholarly context.

Tips: 1. You are free to be creative with the choice of material, but you are strongly encouraged to discuss your choice with the relevant tutor (see list of tutors below). 2. Make sure you choose material that can be easily summarized and with a clear line of argument; 3. In the past, students have based their critical review on EITHER a fully developed academic article relevant to their dissertation topic; OR a substantial entry from the Enciclopedia dell’Arte Antica or the Enciclopedia Treccani (Arti visive); OR the scholarly section of the website of an Italian museum.

Dossier contents must be approved by Zahra Newby or Suzanne Frey-Kupper by Friday 18th March 2022.
Deadline for dossier to be submitted: Thursday 9th June 2022, 12 noon

Marking Criteria can be downloaded here