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Culture and Identity BA


Culture and Identity from Nero to Hadrian

Dr E. Spentzou/Prof R. Alston

The course will be delivered through a series of seminars (20 x 2 hrs). Approximately 50% of the seminars will be taught by Dr Spentzou and will concentrate on literary and social issues, and the other half of the course concerns social historical issues and will be taught by Prof. Alston. The taught seminars will use secondary and primary sources as a basis for discussion. Formats to be used will include limited lecture-style teaching, staff-led discussion, student presentations, group work and individual class exercises.

3. Assessment

2 essays @ c.4,000 words, one in each term.

2 critical commentaries one in each term

4. Course Description

 The fall of the Roman Republic brought about a change in the cultural values of the Roman state. No longer was Rome a Republic in which it was possible to pretend that all citizens were equal, but now even the most powerful of Roman aristocrats were under the power of the Roman emperor and his servants. The period from the accession of Vespasian to the death of Hadrian saw a re-evaluation of this new world. The literature of the period played with traditional models and reworked them into sometimes disturbing, sometimes challenging, sometimes ironic depictions of contemporary society, either addressing the topic directly (through epistolary writers and historians) but other times indirectly, through the imaginative worlds of the poets. The themes cover a wide range of Roman life and literature: the extreme violence of epic poetry, the lamentation of loss, empire, imperialism and the worries over the fate and meaning of Rome, slaves, slavery and relations with masters, how to live as a Roman in a new age, marriage and families. All human life is here, but not confidently; we find our authors in doubt about the world and what it means, unsure of what it means to be a Roman, and writing disturbed, alienated texts. We try to understand these through the prisms of our modern world, thinking about gender, about empire, about psychology, about violence, about a sense of being in society, and the individual. In term one, we will look at these problems mainly through the prose historians and letter writers. In term 2, we look at the poets, with their epic historical and mythological violence. From these angles, Rome society comes into focus, and we can assess once again what it means to be Roman.


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