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Tutorial Latin: Exclusus Poeta: Ovid's Tristia


Admission requirements

This course is open to Master students and Research Master students in Classics and Ancient Civilizations.


In 8 A.D, at the age of fifty, Ovid was exiled by the Emperor Augustus. The reasons for this sentence have remained unclear to this day.

At the time of his banishment, Ovid had been a celebrated author. He had recently published the Heroides – fictitious love-letters of mythological figures – he had just completed his popular Metamorphoses, and was working on the Fasti, a book concerned with the Roman festival calendar. Most importantly, he was recognized as a master of love poetry. According to Ovid, his love poetry, the Amores and the Ars amatoria, was a contributing factor in Augustus’s anger. It is clear that the original version of the Amores had provoked disgust; and that his Ars amatoria has been offensive to Augustus’s political and moral program.

In Tomis – a place right at the edge of the Roman Imperium – he starts to write the Tristia, 5 books of elegies. It is not clear if Ovid has ever been to Tomis or if Tomis is rather meant to be a symbolic place to demonstrate the situation of a poet: the poet who works beyond the real world of the society and wants to be part of it, at the same time. The Tristia, which are presented as an enormous paraklausithyron (with Ovid, the poet, as the exclusus amator and Augustus, the emperor, as the puella), are ironic, sophisticated and continuosly reflecting on two central questions which are relevant to us still today: Is an author responsible for what he writes, i.e. ? And how do we have to read poetry?

The seminar will start with two introductory classes.

Class III-XIII will each be devoted to a close reading of the text and the discussion of a research question related to it. Research questions are introduced by the students in short presentations (5-10 min.). Research questions include ancient and modern theoretical reflections on autobiographical writing, theories on reading poetry and the relationship between literature and politics.

The final class will be devoted to the responses and to discussions of the essays.

Students are required to have read the whole Tristia in translation before the seminar starts, and to bring their own OCT-edition (see literature).

Course objectives

  • Survey Roman elegy;

  • Modern theories of reading poetry;

  • Relation literature and politics;

  • Advanced research skills: independent formulation of a complex research question, collecting materials (both primary texts and results of earlier research). Analyzing results, constructing arguments, formulating conclusions;

  • Critical assessment of secondary literature;

  • Oral presentation: presenting clearly and making effective use of hand-outs, illustrations and/or multi-media techniques; responding to the argumentation of one of the essays and chairing the discussion;

  • Written presentation: writing an essay (close reading of one of the passages read in class);

  • In case of 10 ec: written presentation: setting out research results effectively, clearly and in a well-structured manner.


The timetable is available on the Classics and Ancient Civilizations website.

Mode of instruction

Tutorial. Students are required to attend all classes, to be fully prepared and to join the discussions.

Course Load

Total course load: 10 ec x 28 hours= 280 hours:

  • Reading Ovid’s Tristia in advance in translation: 28 hours;

  • Attending Classes: 28 hours;

  • Preparing classes (reading secondary literature): 14 × 3 = 56 hours;

  • Preparing short oral presentation: 14 hours;

  • Preparing essay & response: 14 hours;

  • Preparing written examination: 140 hours.

Assessment method

In case of 5 ec:

  • Active participation, preparation of the pensum (20%);

  • Short (5-10 min.) oral presentations (20 %);

  • Essay (1000 words) & Response (20 + 10 = 30%).
    The essay can be revised after the discussion on class. The final version is to be submitted before 23 December 2017.

  • Written examination: translation (30%).

In case of 10 ec:

  • Active participation, preparation of the pensum (20%);

  • Short (5-10 min.) oral presentations (5%);

  • Essay (1000 words) & Response (2:1, in total: 10%).
    The essay can be revised after the discussion on class. The final version is to be submitted before 23 December 2017.

  • Written examination: translation (15 %);

  • Paper (5000 words, incl. footnotes; deadline: 30 jan 2017) (50%).


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


If the overall mark is unsatisfactory, either the written exam or the essay/paper can be repeated after consultation with the teacher. There is no resit for participation, oral presentations and the response.


Blackboard will be used: to upload Powerpoints, handouts and papers. Secondary literature will be available via the University Library.

Reading list

Text editions:

  • Ovidius: Tristia, ed. S.G. Owen Oxford 1985.
    All participants who attend the tutorial are required to owe this edition.

Translations & Commentaries:

  • Luck, G.: P. Ovidius Naso: Tristia, ed., trans., comm. G.L., 2 vol. Kommentar. Heidelberg 1977;

  • Ovid, Sorrows of an Exile (Tristia), translated by AD Melville, with an Introduction and Notes by EJ Kenney, Oxford 1992.

Research Literature:

  • Amann, M.: Komik in den Tristien Ovids. (Schweizerische Beiträge zur Altertumswissenschaft, 31). Basel 2006;

  • Classen, J-M.: „Ovid’s Poems from Exile. the Creation of a Myth and Triumph of Poetry“ A&A 34.2 (1988), pp. 158-169;

  • Ehlers, W.-W.: „Poet und Exil. Zum Verständnis der Exildichtung Ovids“. A&A 34, 1988, pp. 144-157;

  • McGowan, M. M.: Ovid in Exile. Power and Poetic redress in the Tristia and Epistulae ex Ponto. Leiden, Boston 2009;

  • Williams, G.: Banished Voices. Readings in Ovid’s Exile Poetry. Cambridge 1994;

  • Man, Paul de: “Autobiography as De-facement”, in: P. de Man: The Rhetoric of Romanticism. New York 1984, pp. 76-82 [first published in: Modern Language Notes 94 (5), 1979, 919-930].


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.
General information about uSis is available in English and Dutch.

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable.


Students are required to attend the classes regularly, to be fully prepared and to join the discussions.


Mw. Prof. dr. A.B. (Antje) Wessels