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Summer Reading

Please see below for a few things you could do in preparation for this module over this summer's vacation, 2021. If you are reading this page before September 2021 you are already making a great start!

First, you can start by reading some (or all!) of the primary texts, as indicated in the Syllabus. Please make sure you use the editions recommended in the Syllabus if you are reading the texts in English, as I will base the commentary sections of the exam on those editions, and translations of poetry can vary quite a lot. We are going to read the entire production of Horace, so that may take some time. It is not extremely long, but you may find that it is fairly complex, so do take some time to write down annotations and questions on whatever you can't understand.

  • You can start wherever you want, but it may be a good idea to read the hexametric works first: the Satires, which Horace himself defined as sermones ( = 'conversations') and the Epistles (which, being letters, are conversations by other means; one special letter, the Art of Poetry, is, as the title suggests, a treatise on poetry, but you may find it a very peculiar and contradictory one at that). These works may be more accessible for finding out details about Horace's life, his friends and circles, and the relationship with his patrons and with power itself, which is the core focus on this module. So be on the lookout for clues that give you access to these themes, and questions: How does Horace represent himself in these works? How does he represent his friends, and his patrons? Do you get a feeling that he is free to write whatever he wishes in these poems? Do you get a sense that these poems engage in some kind of reticence, ambiguity, concealment? One text in particular, the Epistle to Augustus (Ep. 2.1) will be especially central to the topic of writing verses to power, so do make sure that you read and think about that text.
  • You may then want to move to Horace's epodic and lyric production, which includes Epodes, Odes and the 'official' Carmen Saeculare. You are welcome to read these poems as you wish, but do be on the lookout for questions of genre (e.g. a) what is the difference, you think, between the Epodes and the Odes, as far as you can perceive it from the poetry: do they treat different themes? Do they have a different register? b) is there a perceived difference between the first three books of the Odes, which were published together, and the fourth book, which was a later addition? c) what kind of different genres and themes can you perceive being a work in the Odes? Can you group some poems together on the basis of similarities?) as well as on questions of poetry vs power, and think about whether Horace's lyric production tells a different (or perhaps the same?) story from his hexameter works: is Horace's persona in the Odes different from that of the Satires? Does he use a different voice? Do you think he is more or less free to write? How does the political and historical situation reflect onto, and is reflected into, the world of his lyric?
  • NB If you are taking the module as a Latin-language option, you can start reading in the original Horace Odes 2 with the Green & Yellow commentary by Stephen Harrison, which is the prescribed edition.

Secondly, you may want to start reading some of the secondary literature and the debates surrounding these topics. An initial bibliography is available on Talis Aspire and will be updated during the summer.

  • I would recommend you to start by listening to the podcast of In Our Time devoted to Horace: 
  • You can then have a look at some chapters in the Cambridge Companion to Horace (there are other companions recommended on the list), and in the collected volumes Horace: Epodes and Odes. An important book for the module will be Ellen Oliensis' Horace and the Rhetoric of Authority, which is available online.