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Taking 'erotic text' in a broad sense, this unit explores the many functions - but especially the malfunctions - of desire in ancient literature. We will read some of Ovid's Heroides, fictional verse-letters written by heroines of Greek myth to their unfaithful lovers; a selection of love poetry ranging from Sappho to Roman elegy, in which erotic desire is represented as physical distress, as madness and disease; and Longus' second-century novel, Daphnis and Chloe, an ironic and playful study of human maturation and sexuality. We will also look at Plato's influential writings on the philosophical uses of desire, and some responses of later writers.

Summary 2021

Unit name Desire and Disorder in the Erotic Text
Unit code HTC339
Credit points 12.5
Faculty/School College of Arts, Law and Education
School of Humanities
Discipline History and Classics

Dr. Jonathan Wallis

Teaching staff

Dr. Jonathan Wallis and Dr. Graeme Miles

Level Advanced
Available as student elective? Yes
Breadth Unit? No



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About Census Dates

Learning Outcomes

  1. Describe and explain the key features of different types of ancient Greek and Latin texts concerning love and desire and situate them in their historical contexts.
  2. Distinguish between primary and secondary sources of evidence for ancient life and thought, and explain how these sources are used in the study of ancient culture.
  3. Critically evaluate a range of primary sources for ancient Greek and Roman love and desire (e.g. literary and philosophical texts).
  4. Use primary and secondary sources to support an independent argument about the changes in ancient thinking about love, gender and sexuality.




25 points at introductory level in any discipline in any Faculty


Mutual Exclusions

You cannot enrol in this unit as well as the following:



Teaching Pattern
  • Recorded, introductory lecture (approx. 30 minutes).
  • Weekly online reflection on readings.
  • 1 x 2 hour mixed format seminar consisting of: 2 x half hour lectures, with a half hour group discussion following each.

Task 1: Weekly reading reflections, 50-100 words (10%)

Task 2: Take-home exam (40%)

Task 3: Primary text analyses x 3, 300 words each (15%)

Task 4: Major essay, 2250 words (35%)

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