Skip to main content


CAC3066 : Poetry and Literary Culture in Late Antiquity

  • Offered for Year: 2022/23
  • Module Leader(s): Dr Arianna Gullo
  • Owning School: History, Classics and Archaeology
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus
Semester 1 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0


•       To provide an introduction to a variety of Greek and Latin authors and literary genres of the fourth-sixth centuries A.D.
•       To analyse the literary characteristics of the texts discussed and to explore the political and social functions of fourth-sixth century A.D. literature.
•       To consider the change of perspectives caused by the rise of Christianity, and the problematic categories of “classical”, “non- classical”, “Christian” and “pagan” literature.
•       To investigate the impact of the interface between paganism and Christianity on the literature of this period.
•       To understand the extraordinary, simultaneous continuity and change in late antique literary form.

Outline Of Syllabus

This course will focus on the development of late antique literature from the fourth to the sixth centuries AD, in both Greek and Latin. The aim of the module is to explore and analyse a range of relevant authors, works and themes, in order to understand whether and how genres persisted, changed and merged between the classical tradition and that of late antiquity, bearing in mind the change of perspectives caused by the rise of Christianity, and the problematic categories of “classical”, “non-classical”, “Christian” and “pagan” literature. In fact, a particular focus will be the impact of the rise of Christianity on literary form. The lectures will introduce the main authors, texts and topics covered in the course. Potential poets considered include Palladas, Ausonius, Claudian, Prudentius, Paulinus of Nola, Sidonius Apollinaris, and Nonnus of Panopolis. Among prose authors, potential authors include the Cappadocians (Basil the Great, Gregory of Nazianzus and Gregory of Nyssa), Ambrose, Jerome, Augustine, Ammianus Marcellinus, Boethius, and Cassiodorus. The module aims to introduce students to the challenges presented by studying different kinds of texts, subjects, authors and sources, and the literary richness of a period that balanced an explosion of Christian creativity with a fierce desire to keep traditional classical genres alive. All texts will be studied in translation.

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture261:0026:00Present in person teaching. If covid guidance changes, these will become synchronous online lectures
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion451:0045:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading781:0078:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching61:006:00Seminars - these are to act as contact hours.
Structured Guided LearningStructured research and reading activities271:0027:00Engagement with scholarship and its application on the texts. Training in literary analysis skills.
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesWorkshops11:001:00The workshop is to act as one of the 33 contact hours.
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study171:0017:00N/A
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

Lectures, whether in person or online synchronous sessions, provide students with the opportunity to get familiar with and appreciate a wide range of authors and texts, as well as the historical, cultural and literary context(s) in which works were composed. At the same time students will also further refine existing skills in:
- identifying and understanding the main authors, texts and topics covered in the course;
- discussing and developing their ideas in an interactive environment;
- literary analysis;
- skills practice;
- directed reading and research;
- use of scholarly resources such as companions, edited volumes, articles, prosopographical works etc.

The small-group sessions, to be understood as seminars delivered every other week, are largely student-led; they will hone the students' ability to engage critically with scholarship on the set text and to discuss it in a constructive manner They will provide students with the opportunity to:
- acquire knowledge and understanding of broader themes, ideas and contexts (whether literary, historical, philosophical, socio-cultural);
- prepare for weekly in person or synchronous sessions;
- further refine discipline-specific technical skills.

The workshop, to be held in Week 2, is intended as time for:
- skills practice;
- preparing for any formative and summative assessments. In particular, it will aim to explain and clarify how the mid-term assessment (poster) is to be carried out.

The structured guided learning activities, for which students will do readings, are meant to:
- skills practice;
- directed reading and research;
- prepare for weekly in person or synchronous and small-group sessions;

Assessment Methods

The format of resits will be determined by the Board of Examiners

Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Poster1M301,000-word limit
Written exercise1A702,500 words comprising two parts: a) a source commentary (500 words) and b) an essay (2,000 words)
Formative Assessments
Description Semester When Set Comment
Computer assessment1MBi-weekly quizzes on Canvas
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

Summative assessment is designed to evaluate students' knowledge and interpretative understanding of the texts studied, with particular reference to the application of their literary knowledge, and their skills in presenting their views and analyses of key issues regarding the text(s) presented over the lectures. The poster will test the ability to convey a contextualised interpretation of key material through carefully arranged sources designed for a broad audience. The assignment will allow in the commentary the display of skills of source-criticism, while the essay allows for more extensive engagement with a major topic of the module and the development of considered and coherent arguments bolstered by appropriate detailed evidence and engagement with modern scholarship.

Formative assessment is designed to review, revise and consolidate key features of historical and literary topics on a continuous basis. The regular quizzes (every two weeks) will help consolidate learning and alert students to areas of weakness or lack of engagement.

This module can be made available to Erasmus students only with the agreement of the Head of Subject and of the Module Leader. This option must be discussed in person at the beginning of your exchange period. No restrictions apply to study-abroad, exchange and Loyola students.

Study-abroad, non-Erasmus exchange and Loyola students spending semester 1 only are required to finish their assessment while in Newcastle. Where an exam is present, an alternative form of assessment will be set and where coursework is present, an alternative deadline will be set. Details of the alternative assessment will be provided by the module leader.

Reading Lists