Syllabus [1]
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Instructor: Professor Dan Curley
Office: 210 Ladd Hall
Hours: MWF 11:15 a.m. - 12:15 p.m.
Extension: 5463


Overview. In Rome of the first century BCE, the genre of tragedy had reached a standstill. Although plays continued to be commissioned, written, and performed, the living Roman stage of the prior century was essentially dead.

Enter Publius Ovidius Naso, a young poet of great genius and facility, who undertook to revive Roman tragedy with a new play about a famous Greek heroine, Medea. Time has not been kind to Ovid's Medea (only two fragments survive), nor was the poet himself pleased with his work.

Fortunately, Ovid's passion for the stage carried over into other works, chief among them the Metamorphoses, an epic poem about supernatural transformations that draws from the vast reservoir of Greek tragedy for many of its stories.

In this course we shall explore the tragic stories of the Metamorphoses with an eye toward reading the poem as both epic and tragedy. We shall consider how and where the two genres overlap, and where they diverge. Of particular interest is how Ovid gave voice to women, providing a stage for them to express their loves, hates, fears, concerns, and joys. Toward this end, we shall also read selections from his Heroides, a series of love letters written by mythical heroines to their absent lovers.



Objectives. The specific goals for this course are as follows:

  • to explore the boundaries of various poetic genres;
  • to become acquainted with the style and substance of Ovid; and
  • to engage advanced Latin grammar, syntax, and vocabulary.

Furthermore, students will obtain and exercise the following skills:

  • to regard literature critically; that is, to evaluate and analyze it with sensitivity and precision;
  • to communicate critical thinking in oral presentations and written essays; and
  • to engage in and to facilitate group discussions and activities.
© 1999 Skidmore College Department of Classics