2016 — Imperial Literature

Course Description

This course, making extensive use of resources available via the internet, focuses on Latin prose and poetry written under the Flavian emperors as well as Trajan and Hadrian. This course is specifically designed for advanced students and will include a rigorous study of cultural and historical contexts of this period using the works of Pliny the Younger, Martial, and Tacitus as primary authors. Students will also become familiar with current interpretative approaches to the material, as well as how political and philosophical literature interrelated during this period.

Students will participate in online interactive common sessions, submit short essays to an online forum moderated by faculty members from participating institutions, and attend weekly tutorials with faculty members at their home institutions.


The following textbooks will be used for a significant portion of the primary reading in this course. Additional primary and secondary sources will be available through the course materials page on this website.

Kingery, Hugh MacMaster, Selected Letters of Pliny.  Scott, Foresman and Company, 1911.

Rutlege, Steven H. A Tacitus Reader: Selections from the Annales, Historiae, Germania, Agricola, and Dialogus. Bolchazy-Carducci, 2013.

Course Objectives

Through tutorial instruction at their home institution students will further their skills in the Latin language by reading literature from the imperial period.

By participating in the online common sessions students will further contextualize the primary readings within the broader social, historical, and/or linguistic landscapes of this period.

By composing responses to selected study questions students will develop their ability to read critically, write clearly, and contribute productively to an ongoing discussion of these texts and their contexts.

Course Components

Preparation: Assigned readings are listed in the syllabus by week. Students should prepare this material in accordance with their home instructor’s specifications. All writing assignments must be submitted to the forum on this website by 5pm on Friday.

Common Sessions: Select Wednesdays, 7-8:15 PM EST (see the course calendar for common session dates). Students at all participating institutions will meet together online for a common session via multipoint interactive video-conferencing and a chat room. These interactive sessions have different faculty leaders and typically combine mini-lectures with discussion, questions, and exercises.

Study Questions: Responses to two of the first four study questions and to the final study question are required. In addition to being graded by their home institution instructor students will receive comments from participating faculty on their responses.The study questions afford students the opportunity to expand on and synthesize issues that arise in the reading and common sessions, as well as engage with secondary literature. Students may be asked to complete additional reading in English and/or in Latin for the study questions. Additionally, one of the responses will be revised for submission as an abstract for the Student Undergraduate Research Symposium.

Abstract: All students will write an abstract for a paper related to the themes of this course and submit it by Nov. 18. This abstract will be evaluated by contributing faculty for acceptance to the Student Undergraduate Research Symposium held at the Center for Hellenic Studies in March, 2017.

Times, Due Dates, and Evaluation:

Tutorials: Each student will meet for at least one hour every week with an instructor at her or his home institution. The times and locations of these meetings will be determined on each campus. Students are responsible for contacting their home institution faculty instructors and finalizing the details of their weekly meetings. These sessions will focus more closely on issues of language, translation and interpretation of assigned readings. Home campus instructors will be the final authority for all grades. Translation exams and quizzes will be handled by home institutions.

Common Sessions: All common sessions will occur on Wednesday evenings at 7:00 EST.

Study Questions: Responses to study questions are due by midnight on Friday.

Abstract: The deadline for submission of the paper abstract is by midnight Friday, November 18. For information on the abstracts see the bottom of the SURS page.

Inter-Institutional Course Dates

The inter-institutional phase of the course will begin September 7 and conclude on November 16. Individual campuses may begin before September 7 and conclude after November 16. Students should consult with their faculty instructors for further information.


If you have any questions or concerns you can contact our Sunoikisis Post-Baccalaureate Fellow, Emily Kohut, at ekohut(at)mail.chs.harvard.edu