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Hellenistic Poetry

This module explores the Greek poetry of the third century BCE, notably that of the Ptolemaic court at Alexandria, Egypt, in its literary, intellectual, and social contexts. Key concepts are poetics and aesthe­tics, intertextuality and genre, tradition and innovation, continuity and change, politics and ideology, philosophy, and history of thought. You will study selections from the oeuvre of Callimachus, Theocritus, Aratus, and Apollonius in Greek. You will study a larger selection in translation, including all of Apollonius’ epic Argonautica, whose novel hero and heroine, ‘Hellenistic’ world view, bold narrative experiments, and pervasive intertextuality and aetiology inspired Virgil’s Aeneid.
The module is offered in two iterations: 1) entirely in translation and 2) in translation and in Greek for those with advanced Greek language skills.

  • Module Organiser:
    • Dr Martine Cuypers
  • Duration:
    • Semester 2
  • Contact Hours:
    • 22 hrs (11 2-hr seminars) in translation; 33 hrs (plus 11 1-hr translation classes) in Greek.
  • Weighting:
    • 10 ECTS
  • Assessment:
    • 100% Continuous Assessment

Learning Outcomes

On successful conclusion of this module, students should be able to:

  • Analyse the language, style, structure, metre, themes and content of the poetry studied in Greek
  • Critically discuss the content, themes and style of the poetry studied in translation
  • Evaluate differences in poetics and aesthetics between Hellenistic and earlier poetry in relevant genres
  • Evaluate current critical approaches to intertextuality, genre, narratology and other key literary-critical areas associated with Hellenistic poetry
  • Situate Hellenistic poetry in its historical, social, and ideological contexts, viz., the royal courts and cities of the Hellenistic world (323-31 BCE).
  • Orally introduce a topic, text or problem and play an expert role in the relevant group discussion
  • Write a research essay with appropriate questions, arguments, evidence, language use, referencing and bibliography.

Introductory Reading

  • Race, William H. (ed., tr.), Apollonius of Rhodes, Argonautica (2008)
  • Nisetich, Frank (tr.). The Poems of Callimachus (2001)
  • Hopkinson, Neil (ed., tr.), Theocritus, Bion, Moschus (2015)
  • Clauss, J.J., Cuypers, M. (eds.), A Companion to Hellenistic Literature (2014)
  • Fantuzzi, M., Hunter, R. Tradition and Innovation in Hellenistic Poetry (2004)
  • Gutzwiller, K., A Guide to Hellenistic Literature (2007)
  • Stephens, S.A. The Poets of Alexandria (2018)