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Image and Text in Late Antique Latin poetry

Module Code: CX212-27, CX212-29

Module Value: 15 CATS

Available in: Term 1 2023-24

Module Teacher: Dr. Nicolas Liney



Latin poetry of Late Antiquity (3rd – 4th Century CE) often concerns itself with description of visual and material artefacts, as well as with a self-awareness of the visual quality of words and poetic structures themselves. This module explores the connections between poetry and visual and material culture in the Latin literature of Late Antiquity , an exciting period in which Classical and Christian cultures compete and coalesce. We will investigate a range of poets and poetic forms from Late Antiquity which work to commemorate and monumentalise emperors, saints, and martyrs, and to foreground the visuality of poetic form.

Module aims

Students will investigate the complex connections made by Roman poets between literature and various forms of visual and material cultures, and will situate poetic texts within the broader context of the built environment, commemorative practices, and political and intellectual climates. Students will be introduced to the poets of Latin literature in Late Antiquity, as well as ancient conceptions and theories of the image, especially within the context of Christian intellectual discourse and of theological concerns around the meaning and interpretation of images, and the ontological status of the word.

Students will be invited to apply a range of theoretical concepts and methodologies, including intermediality, semiotics, and ecphrasis. The module aims to encourage students to pursue interdisciplinary approaches to classics, and to enrich students understanding of Classics by looking at comparisons and contrasts between different media. This unit should be of interest to language and literature students, art and archaeology students, and those with a broader interest in ancient aesthetics.

Timetabled Teaching: 2 hours of class per week in term 1 (partly lecture, partly seminar) with an extra hour for those studying the texts in the original.


One close-reading exercise in Week 5 (2x gobbets, 1500 words max.) (40% of the final mark).

One assessed essay of 2,500-3000 words in length, due beginning of the second term (60% of the final mark).