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Classical Views of Literature & the Visual Arts - Outline

classical painting

This course will draw together a selection of principal authors to provide an introduction to ancient aesthetics. Poetics and the theory of literature will be the primary concern in the first term; the theory of visual art (and particularly sculpture and painting) will be studied in the second.

Poetry and visual art constitute a large area in the study of classical civilisation: studying and evaluating some of the large body of surviving criticism and theory will aid our understanding of ancient art and literature.

This course will examine the connections made by Greek and Roman authors between literature and the visual arts, and between these arts and other areas of human activity. Students will be expected to explore these connections, and other ancient assumptions, with regard to either or both media and with respect to their own beliefs or those of other recent thinkers.

The relationship between ancient and modern aesthetic theory is close and complex. This course will therefore be of interest to anyone concerned with the bases upon which aesthetic judgements are made in both classical and contemporary societies. The course has the following objectives:

  • to increase students' understanding of ancient art and literature through consideration of ancient critics' views of these arts.
  • to develop analytical skills through the close reading of the ancient texts.
  • to encourage students to form their own opinions about the various criteria for aesthetic evaluation found in the ancient writers.