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The module will consider how we might think about the politics of literary production in the ancient world – not just in terms of content, but also in terms of form. How do texts do political work in the world? This is, fundamentally, a way into investigating the relationship between power and its modes of representation in the Greco-Roman world: how is power represented? What counts as a powerful representation? Is power always political? Was power ever erotic? Personal? In term 1 the module focuses on Greece and the epic origins of political thought in the Iliad before moving on to choral lyric poetry. The module then aims to inform how these issues are explored and manipulated by the poetics of Athenian democracy, and in late fifth-century Greek historiography and rhetoric. In term 2, the module turns to Rome. The civil wars profoundly changed, fractured and problematised Roman identity, and in the years afterward, Roman poets turned to epic poetry to make sense of the trauma. This term focuses on the impact of civil strife in the works of Virgil, Ovid, Lucan and Statius, to ask how these texts use the space of epic to enact and renegotiate political forms against and in dialogue with other sources of socio-political authority.

Learning Outcomes:

During this module, all students will:

  • acquire a broad knowledge of a variety of texts in a range of genres in which power is represented, discussed, or critiqued;
  • gain an understanding of the availability, uses and limits of literary sources for constructions and representations of power, from archaic Greece to the Roman principate;
  • gain an ppreciation of interactions between literary form and discourses of power;
  • gained the ability to situate literary texts in broader cultural and ideological contexts.

Additionally, final-year students will :

  • develop the ability to set their findings into a wider comparative context, drawing in other aspects of the study of the ancient world;
  • engage creatively with a wider range of secondary literature that includes discussion of classical literature within broader comparative, including critical-theoretical, frames.