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Seminar Latin: Writing Exile. Latin Literature of Displacement from Ovid to Joachim Du Bellay


Admission requirements

Not applicable.


Ovid’s later elegiac collections, the Tristia and Epistulae ex Ponto, came into being during his exile from Rome to Tomi, a small town at the shore of the Black Sea, from ca. 8 to 17 AD. In these collections, Ovid writes to his wife, friends, patrons and even emperor Augustus himself about his life in exile and longing for home, often pleading for help to speed up his return or relieve his punishment. These collections have stimulated a broadening of the elegiac genre as it was practiced thus far. Moreover, they have inspired many later (Neo-)Latin poets who travelled throughout Europe to express longing for their homeland and descriptions of their new whereabouts in elegies as well.

Already in late Antiquity, the theme of Ovid’s exile poetry was taken up by Boethius, who started his De consolatione philosophiae in elegiac distichs when discussing his exile. He, in his turn, influenced the medieval poet Hildebert de Lavardin to write about his exile in elegiacs as well (De exilio). Among later humanist poets several treated the theme of exile in their elegies, whether or not they were actually exiled, or felt a kind of longing for their native country. Among them, we find Michele Marullo, the Byzantine Greek who fled from Constantinople to Italy, as well as Joachim Du Bellay, who in his elegy Patriae desiderium compared his period in Rome to an exile.

In this course, we will first make ourselves familiar with the literary form and themes of Ovid's exile poetry, before analyzing how these were used and appropriated in later Latin literature about exile. We will ask ourselves which literary, historical or social parameters determined Ovid's exile poetry, as well as the way it was (re-)used. We will then consider what this teaches us about Ovid and the way he was read and interpreted in Late Antiquity, the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. Students can choose their own research topic either from the classical or the later Latin discourse of exile.

Course objectives

Knowledge & Insight:

  • Broadening the knowledge of Ovid’s Latin literature of Exile and its reception;

  • Broadening the knowledge of research tools for Latin literature, including Medieval and Renaissance Latin;

  • Deepening insight in modern interdisciplinary approaches to Latin literature, including literary criticism, sociology of literature, and Classical Reception Studies.


  • Enlarging reading and interpretative competence of Latin texts from different periods;

  • Enlarging the competence to critically assess secondary literature in the above mentioned fields;

  • Enhancing presentation skills;

  • Enhancing writing skills;

  • Enhancing research skills.


The timetables are available through My Timetable.

Mode of instruction


Assessment method


  • Weekly assignments: 20 %

  • Oral presentation, with full handout: 30 %

  • Paper: 50 %


The final mark for the course is established by determining the weighted average of the examinations mentioned.


The oral presentation cannot be repeated. In case the final mark is unsatisfactory, a student can resit (part of) the weekly assignments, the written paper, or – if necessary - both.

Inspection and feedback

How and when an exam review will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the exam results at the latest. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the exam results, an exam review will have to be organized.
The exam review will take place in consultation with the student.


The requirements for MA and ResMA students are differentiated: ResMA students are expected to come up with their own original research topic, choose a (Neo-)Latin text, find literature, and write an original research paper; MA students may expect more help in choosing their texts and finding literature, and their papers may lean more heavily on existing scholarship on the given text. ResMA students may also be asked more frequently to take a leading role in class discussions.

Reading list

Most primary and secondary literature will be made available through the University Library, but each student should have a critical edition of Ovid's Tristia & Epistulae ex Ponto.
Some secondary literature:
Gaertner, J.F., Writing Exile. The Discourse of Displacement in Greco-Roman Antiquity and Beyond (Leiden: Brill, 2007)
Tucker, G.H., Homo viator. Itineraries of Exile, Displacement and Writing in Renaissance Europe (Geneva: Droz, 2003)
Williams, G.D., Banished Voices. Readings in Ovid's Exile Poetry (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1994)


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


  • For substantive questions, contact the lecturer listed in the right information bar.

  • For questions about enrolment, admission, etc, contact the Education Administration Office: Arsenaal


Not applicable.