Neronian Literature and Society (CLA3018)

StaffDr Katharine Earnshaw -
Credit Value30
ECTS Value15
NQF Level6
Pre-requisitesThe successful completion of at least 90 credits at Level 2, 30 credits of which must be in Classics & Ancient History.
Co-requisitesThis module cannot be taken if the student is also taking CLA3251 Classical Language and Texts: Latin V.
Duration of Module Term 1: 11 weeks; Term 2: 11 weeks;

Module aims

By considering a wide range of literary evidence relating to the Neronian period the teaching programme aims to provide a framework within which students are encouraged to address key questions regarding the relationship between literature and history in one society. What is the relationship between different works of literature and the political culture in which they are composed? Do texts inevitably reflect the dominant ideology of the period? Or do they reveal points of anxiety and dissent? In a society in which free speech can prove fatal, how far is political argument displaced, transferred to the literary sphere?

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. Read critically, remember and comment on the set texts.
  • 2. Through reference to the set texts, discuss both orally and in written form the major issues and ideological themes relating to the social, political and cultural life of Rome during the lifetime of Nero

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 3. Empathise with the conceptual and ideological basis of an unfamiliar society
  • 4. Demonstrate an increased sophistication in the use of the texts and narratives generated in a particular society as sources for the study of the history and culture of that society
  • 5. Engage with and debate the relationship between the composition of literature and the society within which it is created

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 6. Show developed skills in reading disparate material critically
  • 7. Demonstrate the ability to work independently and in small groups to formulate, construct and defend arguments (both in written form and orally), and the ability to draw on a body of knowledge in order to respond to the arguments of others (both written and oral).

Syllabus plan

Semester 1: Tacitus, Suetonius, Seneca.

Semester 2: Lucan, Petronius 

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled learning and teaching activities44Seminars (1 x 2 hour per week)
Guided independent study256Independent study

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Essay 1253000 words1-7Mark and written feedback
Essay 2253000 words1-7Mark and written feedback
Exam503 hours1-7Mark and written feedback

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
EssayEssay1-7August refer/defer period
ExamExam1-7August refer/defer period

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Set texts:

Tacitus, The Annals (trans. J.C. Yardley, Oxford World’s Classics paperback), especially books 11-16

Tacitus, Dialogue on the Orators

Suetonius, Life of Nero

Seneca Letters from a Stoic

Seneca De Clementia

Seneca, Six Tragedies (trans. E. Wilson, Oxford World’s Classics paperback)

pseudo-Seneca, Octavia (Penguin Classics: Four Tragedies and Octavia)

Lucan, Pharsalia (trans. S. Braund, Oxford World’s Classics paperback)

Petronius, Satyricon (trans. P.G. Walsh, World's Classics, Oxford U.P. paperback)

Seneca, Apocolocyntosis (Cambridge U.P.) ed. P.T. Eden 2.


Introductory reading:

Buckley, E. and Dinter, M. (eds.) A Companion to the Age of Nero, (Blackwell Companions to the Ancient World), Chichester.

Ahl. A. (1976) Lucan: An Introduction, Cornell U.P.

Bartsch, S. (1997) Ideology in Cold Blood; A Reading of Lucan's Civil War, Camb. Mass.

Elsner, J. & J. Masters (eds.) (1994) Reflections of Nero: culture, history and representation, London.

Gill, C. (1973) The Sexual Episodes in the Satyricon, CP 68, 172-185.

Griffin, M. (1984) Nero: The End of a Dynasty, Batsford, 1984.

Griffin, M. (1976) Seneca: A Philosopher in Politics, Oxford.

Martin, R. (1994) Tacitus, Bristol Classical Press.

Schiesaro, A. (2003), The Passions in Play, Thyestes and the Dynamics of Senecan Drama, Cambridge.

Slater, N. (1990) Reading Petronius, Baltimore.

Wallace-Hadrill. A. (1993) Suetonius: The Scholar and his Caesar, Duckworth. 

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Key words search

Classics, Latin, Nero, Literature