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LATIN 520 A: Seminar

Meeting Time: 
TTh 3:30pm - 5:20pm
* *
Stephen Hinds 2021 portrait photo
Stephen E. Hinds

Syllabus Description:

LATIN 520 (5 creds)  Graduate Seminar: Lucan De Bello Civili   [updated 3-25-20]

Stephen Hinds, 

Spring 2020   TTh 3:30-5:20

... probably via live Zoom sessions at the scheduled class hour

I’ll issue the first Zoom invitation for Tues Mar 31 at 3:30 (no assignment)


[This seminar primarily serves students in the graduate program of the Department of Classics:

other interested graduate students with college Latin should consult the instructor]


‘Don’t bother to reclaim this classic in the name of a ‘literature’: this text screams a curse on its readers and upon itself ...’

(John Henderson, ‘Lucan: The Word at War’ in Boyle, ed., The Imperial Muse 1998)

When the normal rules of the human and divine order have ceased to apply, how can a poet make sense of life, Rome, or the epic genre?  This reading-based graduate seminar will make close and sequential exploration of Lucan’s extraordinary De Bello Civili.  We will aim to study something like 3,000 lines in Latin, while paying attention to the rest of the epic in English.  We will focus on purple passages (not much help, since Lucan writes only purple passages): Books 1 and 5 will be read in their entirety, and most of Book 2 (which is on the graduate reading list); key passages from elsewhere in the epic will include Caesar’s tree-chopping at Massilia in Book 3, Erictho in Book 6, some of the battle action at Pharsalus in Book 7, the assassination of Pompey in Book 8, and Caesar’s visit to Troy in Book 9. 

As usual when I teach a reading-based graduate seminar, within the overall reading there will be a ‘major’/‘minor’ alternation between passages we prepare for actual ‘live’ translation and close reading and discussion, and passages we prepare (with a more ‘quick and dirty’ read) for more general comprehension and discussion.

Reading load: starting slow, but probably rolling out to an average of 150 lines per class meeting (300 lines per week), with about half of that (or a little more) in my ‘major’ category.


Required texts with commentary in stock in textbook dept at U Bookstore

(which offers free domestic mailing of textbook orders [no more curbside pickup] while closed):

            Robert J Getty on BC1 (Bloomsbury: Bristol 1940, reprinted) paperback

            Elaine Fantham on BC2 (Cambridge: Greek and Latin Classics 1992) paperback


Optional translation (with excellent intro and notes) out of stock at UBS but available from other online stores:

            Susan(na) Braund Lucan: Civil War(Oxford: The World’s Classics 1992)  paperback


Further commentary resources will be available via pdfs here on Canvas.


Limited critical bibliography as electronic resources allow (I won’t expect comprehensive footnoting in your papers).  One excellent anthology of key articles from the past half century, available online from UW Libraries, is Charles Tesoriero, ed. Lucan: Oxford Readings (OUP 2010)


Probably two translation tests, class presentation/report, SCS-type short paper. 

[The above is my standard format for ‘requirements’, but may change to adapt to the situation.]


Last updated: 
March 20, 2020 - 9:11pm