Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Undergraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2023-2024 (archived)

Module CLAS2721: Latin Literature of the Early Empire

Department: Classics and Ancient History

CLAS2721: Latin Literature of the Early Empire

Type Open Level 2 Credits 20 Availability Not available in 2023/24 Module Cap Location Durham


  • CLAS1601 or CLAS1301 or CLAS1731


  • None.

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None.


  • to provide an introduction to a variety of post-Augustan authors (with a particular focus on prose) and literary genres of the first century A.D.
  • to analyse the literary characteristics of the texts discussed.
  • to explore the political and social functions of post-Augustan literature.


  • There will be sections on:
  • satire (e.g. Seneca's Apocolocyntosis, Juvenal)
  • epistolography (e.g. Seneca's Epistulae morales, Pliny the Younger)
  • miscellaneous writings and shorter literary forms (e.g. Statius' Silvae, Martial's Epigrams)
  • biography (e.g. Suetonius)
  • the Roman novel (e.g. Petronius)
  • rhetoric (e.g. Quintilian's Institutio oratoria and Tacitus' Dialogus de oratoribus)
  • science and scholarship (e.g. Columella, Pliny the Elder, Frontinus).

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • knowledge of some major examples of Latin literature of the early Empire (post-Augustan), in particular prose writers
  • familiarity with the literary genres of this period
  • knowledge of the political and social functions of the literature of this period.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • an ability to handle a wide range of diverse and complex literary genres
  • to place them in their socio-cultural and historical context
  • to discuss in an informed and sophisticated way the issues raised by diverse modern approaches
Key Skills:
  • An ability to engage in an informed and sophisticated way with diverse and challenging texts from an important period in Roman literature;
  • an ability to compare and assess different interpretative approaches and methodologies;
  • a capacity to sustain a clear, well-structured and well-defended argument in written form.

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • Classes focus on the main texts and topics covered in the course and enable students to discuss and develop their ideas in an interactive environment.
  • Student presentations (ideally in smaller groups) provide an impulse for further discussions.
  • The summative essay will assess the students' familiarity with the evidence and the sophistication of their analyses. It will test students' ability to focus on relevant issues and organise knowledge and argument appropriate to questions raised.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures 14 1 per week in Epiphany Term (2 per week in the first 3 weeks),1 the first week of Easter Term 2 hours 28
Preparation and Reading 172
Total 200

Summative Assessment

Component: Summative essay Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Essay 4,000 - 5,000 words 100% Yes

Formative Assessment:

One formative exercise

Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University