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
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
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
- to engage advanced Latin grammar, syntax, and vocabulary.
Furthermore, students will obtain and exercise the following
- 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