Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Undergraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2023-2024

Module CLAS3571: The World of Catullus

Department: Classics and Ancient History

CLAS3571: The World of Catullus

Type Open Level 3 Credits 20 Availability Not available in 2023/24 Module Cap Location Durham


  • Prior study of literature at University


  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None


  • Final year students should: develop a sophisticated understanding of the poetry of Catullus and selected models and contemporaries in its social and literary-historical context.
  • In terms of departmental degree programmes, the module will allow students to hone further skills at interpreting literature developed at Levels one and two.


  • Students will explore a broad and diverse body of poetry written in genres including lyric, elegiac, iambic, epigram, and the so-called 'epyllion' (or miniature epic) and the way in which it draws upon and develops earlier verse and has had a significant influence upon later poetry.
  • Students will consider this poetry in its socio-historical as well as its literary context.
  • Students will also explore the transmission and the modern reception of the poetry of Catullus.
  • Students will read the poetry of Catullus in translation as well as selected fragments of poems by contemporaries including Calvus, Cinna, Cornificius, and Valerius Cato.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • A detailed knowledge of key genres in the corpus of ancient poetry and their development by Catullus and his contemporaries.
  • A detailed knowledge of the main approaches to and interpretations of this poetry.
  • A detailed knowledge of how this poetry responds to its socio-historical context.
  • A detailed knowledge of the literary, socio-historical, political and methodological issues raised by the set texts.
  • A detailed knowledge of the history of the transmission and the reception of the poems of Catullus.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • The ability to handle a group of complex and diverse texts in such a way as to reach a coherent picture of the poetic programme of the verse of Catullus and his contemporaries.
  • The ability to gain a sophisticated understanding of the literary-historical and socio-historical contexts of late Republican poetry.
  • The ability to combine literary and cultural analysis of the texts in question.
  • The ability to appreciate how the transmission of Catullus' poetry affects our interpretations of the poetry
  • The ability to appreciate how the poetry of Catullus has had an enduring influence.
Key Skills:
  • The ability to comprehend and evaluate alien cultural starting-points.
  • The ability to handle a wide range of written materials at a sophisticated level.
  • The capacity to construct a clear and well-structured argument in written form, displaying an awareness of different scholarly approaches.
  • The skills to analyse, evaluate and synthesise a wide range of evidence and to select and apply the appropriate methodologies.
  • Close reading of the set texts.
  • Oral presentation skills.
  • The ability to articulate nuanced and independent interpretations of the texts studied.

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

  • Lectures will provide content and a theoretical framework for the primary works studied, and demonstrate techniques of close reading
  • This provision will be enhanced by required readings in secondary literature keyed to each lecture.
  • Students will gain practice in close reading in seminars.
  • Formative and summative commentaries and essays will give students the opportunity to put their knowledge into a broader context and to synthesise the knowledge gained from different parts of the module
  • The summative commentary will assess students' ability to analyse texts in detail, practising the techniques of close reading refined in seminars.
  • The summative essay will assess students' familiarity with the texts and period studied, the broader literary-social context, and the transmission and reception of Catullus' poetry, their ability to draw material together and make connections between it, and the sophistication of their analyses.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures 20 1 per week 1 hour 20
Seminars 8 Fortnightly in Michaelmas Term and Epiphany Term 1 hour 8
Preparation and reading 172
Total 200

Summative Assessment

Component: Commentary Component Weighting: 40%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Commentary 2000 words max 100% Yes
Component: Essay Component Weighting: 60%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Essay 4000 words max 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