LATN 402B/502B: Epyllion and Epic

In this course, we will study the controversial genre epyllion. The term is used by modern scholars to describe short mythological epics notable for their erotic themes and prominent female characters, as in Catullus 64. But ‘epyllion’ is also used by some to refer to short episodes inset within larger epics, such as the account of Orpheus and Eurydice in Virgil’s fourth Georgic, and the narratives of Ovid’s Metamorphoses. In this class, all students will read Catullus 64, the second half of the fourth Georgic, and Book Ten of the Metamorphoses in Latin, as well as reading additional Greek and Latin texts in translation. Students enrolled in LATN502B will also read Book Eight of the Metamorphoses. We will look at some of the issues that have particularly preoccupied critics of Latin poetry over the past quarter of a century: above all genre, intertextuality/allusion, and ekphrasis (vivid description, often of a work of art). Above all, we will attempt to answer for ourselves the perennial question of whether this genre actually exists at all.