nl en

Seminar MA Latin: The Elegiac Book: Propertius, Book IV


Admission requirements

This course is open to master students in Classics and research master students in Classics and Ancient Near-Eastern Civilisations.


What makes a number of Latin poems into a ‘book’ rather than just a number of poems? What were the main physical, artistic and intellectual influences on the concept of the poetry book in the Augustan period? In how many different ways might the structure of a ‘book’ be conceived? These and other supplementary questions will be addressed with particular reference to Propertius, Book IV.

Course objectives


  • Broadening of the range of Latin poetry studied in the BA programme.

  • Increasingly nuanced awareness of the history and generic conventions of Roman elegy, including Alexandrian Greek influence upon it.

  • Close acquaintance with the Latin text of Propertius Book 4, and appreciation of the book’s position within the elegiac genre.

  • Awareness of the physical and intellectual factors affecting the composition and circulation of the poetic book in the Augustan period.

All of the above, enhanced by

  • a larger and more adventurous range of secondary literature to be sought out entirely independently;

  • critical awareness of the latest textual scholarship on Propertius.


  • ‘Close-reading’ of a Latin text.

  • Formulation of a question or hypothesis relevant to the overarching questions for the seminar as a whole.

  • Oral presentation of a preliminary argument.

  • Written presentation of a sustained and fully worked-out argument.

  • Working to deadlines and within word-limits.

  • (Where appropriate) working in a group or partnership.

All of the above, enhanced by:

  • formulation of a substantially original research question or hypothesis related to the overarching questions for the seminar as a whole;

  • both oral and written presentation in academic English of a high standars

Contextualisation and insight:
MA and ResMA: an appreciation of the main similarities and differences in the concept of ‘book’ (especially poetic book) in the ancient and the modern world.



Mode of instruction


Assessment method

  • Oral presentation 20%

  • active participation in class discussion 10%

  • written paper 70% (MA: maximum 6,000 words; ResMA: maximum 8,000 words)

Minimum levels of attendance, participation and preparation will be specified and announced at the start of the seminar.


Blackboard will be used for basic course information and announcements; use of the discussion board will be considered, according to convenience and need.

Reading list

Principal Latin text for close reading:

  • G. Hutchinson (ed.) Propertius, Elegies Book IV. Cambridge 2006.
    Students will need to buy their own copy. Poems 1-5 should be read in Latin and the whole book in modern translation before the start of the seminar. The rest of the poems should be read in Latin before the end of the first teaching block.

Other literature:

  • J.C. Bedaux, ‘De Romeinen en hun boeken’, Hermeneus 57 (2005), 111-22.

  • E. Coutelle, Poétique et Métapoésie chez Properce. De l’ Ars amandi à l’Ars scribendi. Louvain, 2005.

  • J. DeBrohun, Roman Propertius and the Reinvention of Elegy. Ann Arbor 2003

  • S.J. Heyworth, Cynthia. A Companion to the text of Propertius. Oxford 2007.

  • G.O. Hutchinson, Talking Books. Readings in Hellenistic and Roman Books of Poetry. Oxford 2008.

  • G.O. Hutchinson, ‘Propertius and the Unity of the Book’, JRS 74 (1984), 99-106.

  • K. Gutzwiller (ed.), The New Posidippus. A Hellenistic Poetry Book. Oxford 2005.

  • J. van Sickle, ‘The book roll and some conventions of the poetic book’, Arethusa 13 (1980), 5-42.

Further books and articles will be recommended at the start of the course.


Via uSis
Exchange and Study Abroad students, please see the Study in Leiden website for information on how to apply

Contact information

Mw. prof. dr. J. Booth