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Receptions of the Ancient World: (Early) Modern Art and Literature and its Greek and Roman 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 artworks 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, 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, and the figure of Scipio in Livy and early modern engravings and paintings.

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


Written examination with short open questions and essay questions:

  • 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;

  • 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;

  • 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;

  • Ovid, Metamorphoses. Transl. Arthur Golding. Ed. with an introd. and notes by Madeleine Forey. Penguin books. 2002 [Or any other translation.]

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


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

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable.


  • Voor inhoudelijke vragen, neem contact op met de docent (rechts in informatiebalk).

  • Voor informatie over inschrijvingen, toelating, etc: Onderwijsadministratie Arsenaal


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