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Receptions of the Ancient World: Art and Literature and their Ancient Intertexts


Admission requirements

This course is open to all BA students. No specific knowledge of Latin or Greek required. Students of Classics are also most welcome.


The literary texts from Greek and Roman Antiquity have continuously influenced literary texts and works of art in the early modern and modern Western European tradition. The way in which these later ‘hypertexts’ and ‘hyper-icons’ interact with their earlier ‘hypotexts’ is called intertextuality. In this class, we study several pairings of ancient Greek and Roman hypotexts with modern texts and/or artworks. A leading question will be why artists in the European tradition continue to appeal to Greek and Roman examples. A leading hypothesis is that the appeal to Classical texts and stories is always connected to the rhetorical aims of the hypertexts, that is to say to the way in which modern artists and authors try to influence their audiences. The appeal to the ancient tradition can help, for instance, to address issues that would otherwise be too delicate or dangerous to address directly (‘double speech’). The appeal to the authority of a Classical text can also lend a voice to social groups under pressure. On the level of dramatic tension, audiences who know the ancient hypotexts are more engaged recipients of modern texts. They are more acutely aware of what may ‘go wrong’ in the story presented to them (‘dramatic irony’).
Texts and artworks to be studied include (provisionally): Ovid’s Metamorphoses & Heroides, Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale & the representation of Pygmalion in Baroque art; Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray; Vergil’s Aeneid & Vondel’s Gysbrecht, Plato’s Symposium & Thomas Mann’s Death in Venice, Livy’s Ab urbe condita and the figure of Scipio in Livy and early modern engravings and paintings, and Euripides’ and Seneca’s Medea and the reception of Medea in modern art and cinema.

Course objectives

The course aims to demonstrate the rhetorical/persuasive functions of intertextuality by confronting pairs of classical and (early) modern works of art.


The timetables are available on My Timetable.

Mode of instruction


Assessment method


Mid term examination: written examination with short open questions concerning the theory of intertextuality and the subjects covered in the first part of the term;
Final exam: written examination with short open questions concerning the theory of intertextuality and the subjects covered in the second half of the course.


The final mark is established by determining the weighted average of the two examinations (50% both).


Both exams can be separately taken at the resit.

Exam review

The results of the mid term examination will be discussed in class; for the final examination, a separate session during the examination period (May-June) will be organised. The dates for both these sessions will be announced in the time schedule for this class at the start of the semester.

Reading list

This is a provisional list of primary and secundary literature that will be studied and discussed in any case The definitive list will be published at the start of the course.

  • Graham Allan, Intertextuality, Routledge: London 2011 (pbk);

  • Livy, The War with Hannibal. The History of Rome from Its Foundation, Books XXI-XXX, transl. Aubrey De Selincourt, Penguin Classics, London etc. 1965 (and many reprints) (pbk.) (or any other translation);

  • Thomas Mann, Death in Venice and Other Stories, translated and introduced by David Luke, London: Vintage Classics 1998 or: Thomas Mann, De dood in Venetië en andere verhalen, vertaald door Pé Hawinkels, Amsterdam: Arbeiderspers 2009.

  • Plato, Symposium and Phaedrus, translated by Benjamin Jowett, Dover Thrift Editions 1993; or Plato, Symposium, vertaald door Gerard Koolschijn, Amsterdam: Athenaeum, Polak & Van Gennip 1985, or in a Flemish translation by Xavier de Win on

  • An edition of Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale, preferably: The Arden Shakespeare The Winter’s Tale. Edited by John Pitcher. London: A & C Black, 2010;

  • Seneca. Tragedies, Volume I: Hercules. Trojan Women. Phoenician Women. Medea. Phaedra. Edited and translated by John G. Fitch. Loeb Classical Library 62. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2002. [online via UB]

  • Ovid. Heroides. Amores. Translated by Grant Showerman. Revised by G. P. Goold. Loeb Classical Library 41. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1914. [online via UB]

  • Virgil. Vol. 1: Eclogues. Georgics. Aeneid: Books 1-6. Translated by H. Rushton Fairclough. Revised by G. P. Goold. Loeb Classical Library 63. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1916; Vol. 2: Aeneid: Books 7-12. Appendix Vergiliana. Translated by H. Rushton Fairclough. Revised by G. P. Goold. Loeb Classical Library 64. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1918. [online via UB]

  • Euripides, Medea, translated by David Kovacs,

  • Vondel, Gysbrecht van Aemstel

  • An edition of Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray, e.g. Penguin Classics


Enrolment through MyStudymap is mandatory.
General information about enrolment is available on the website

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable.


  • For questions related to the content of the course, please contact the lecturer, you can find their contact information by clicking on their name in the sidebar.

  • For questions regarding enrollment please contact the: Administration Office Arsenaal


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