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Roman Sexual Poetics: Navigating Sex, Sexuality and Gender in Latin Poetry

CX289-30 / CX389-30

Module value: 30 CATS

Module convenor: Dr Joe Watson


This module explores the relationship between the realms of sexuality and gender and Latin literature. Topics of sex and gender are present throughout Roman literature, from the scatological poetry of Catullus to Statian poems commissioned to celebrate same-sex relationships. In this module, students will focus on two major currents:

  1. How sexual/gendered themes become evident in Latin poetry;
  2. The ways in which these themes construct, disturb, contribute to and problematise the poetics of Latin literature.

These currents will be dealt with in Term one and Term two respectively. The module will introduce and develop students’ understanding of hermeneutic tools for Latin literature like queer theory, trans theory, feminism and psychoanalysis.

This module will develop students’ appreciation of the poetics of Latin literature, and will equip them with interpretative tools for unpacking it. It also aims to demonstrate to students the critical debates on sex, sexuality and gender which are ongoing in our discipline, enabling them to navigate different perspectives on these issues whilst also forming their own critical voice and opinions.


Set texts for all students

Where a specific section of a text is given, that is the entirety of prescribed content. However, students are actively encouraged to read the entire works in question and should, at minimum, be familiar with the contents of the entire works.

  • Catullus carmina 10, 16, 21, 28, 37, 47, 56, 74
  • Tibullus Elegies 1.4, 1.8, 1.9
  • Propertius Elegies
  • Virgil Aeneid 1 and 4
  • Ovid Amores 1.1-3
  • Ovid Ars amatoria 2 and 3
  • Ovid Metamorphoses 9.450-10.739
  • Carmina Priapea
    • A translation of the CP will be available on Moodle at the start of the course; if you would like a copy over summer, please email the module convenor).
  • Seneca Phaedra
  • Statius Silvae 2.6
  • Martial Epigrams 1.praef., 1.41, 2.28, 2.33, 2.43, 2.86, 3.73, 4.43, 4.65, 6.16, 6.37, 6.39, 6.50, 7.34, 7.58, 7.64, 7.70, 9.2, 9.29, 9.40, 9.62, 9.63, 9.90, 10.22, 10.40, 10.98, 11.21, 12.16, 12.22
  • Juvenal Satires (especially 2 and 6)
Set texts for Q800 students / Students taking the module as a Latin text option

Seneca’s Phaedra to be read in Term 1 and Ovid’s Met. 9 (selections) and Juvenal Satires 6 to be read in Term 2.

  • Seneca Phaedra
    • Coffey, M. & Mayer, R. (1990) Seneca: Phaedra. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press).
      • Available in hard-copy from the University Library (soon to be e-book).
      • Available to borrow freely online through (at time of writing).
      • Purchasable new for £26.99 and second-hand for around £20.
  • Ovid Metamorphoses 450-665 [Byblis]
    • Anderson, W.S. (1972). Ovid’s Metamorphoses: Books 6-10. (Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press).
      • Available in hard-copy from the University Library.
      • Available to borrow freely online through (at time of writing)
      • Purchasable second-hand for around £30.
  • Juvenal Satires 6
    • Watson, L. & Watson P. (2014). Juvenal: Satire 6. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press).
      • Available online and as a hard-copy from the University Library.
      • Purchasable new for £23.99 and second-hand for around £20.

Learning Outcomes

By the end of the module, all students should have:

  • A deeper understanding of Latin literary genre and poetic construction
  • An appreciation of the conflicting and contradictory scholarship on matters sexual and gendered
  • A deeper ability to engage critically with the ideas of secondary scholarship
  • An increased awareness of the hermeneutic tools which scholars use to unpack Classical texts
  • The ability to seek out appropriate secondary literature and show discernment in the types of primary evidence addressed.

In addition, final year students will be able to show

  • The ability to set their interpretations into a wider comparative context, drawing in other aspects of the study of the ancient world

Q800 students and students taking the Latin text option should have:

  • An increased facility in reading Latin literature
  • An understanding of how topics of sex, sexuality and gender impact Latin literature on the linguistic level