These options, which are taught in alternate years, are designed to give you concrete experience of Latin manuscripts, an understanding of the history of textual transmission, and an initiation into the fundamental and absorbing detailed study of Latin texts. The palaeographical part of the course will introduce you to the basics of Latin palaeography, with the opportunity to read manuscripts from the 5th century to the 15th, in capitals and minuscule (e.g. Caroline, Beneventan, gothic, humanistic).
Seneca, Medea: The main witnesses are an 11th‐century manuscript (E) and a group of 13th‐ and 15th‐ century manuscripts all going back to one lost 12th‐century manuscript (A). The course will use images of Senecan MSS, and some original MSS in the Bodleian. Seneca’s Medea is both an exploration of the psychopathology of the wronged, isolated but powerful heroine, and a reflection on classic earlier versions of the myth (Euripides, Ennius, Ovid); it explores the nature of anger, evil, and identity. The basic nature of the work is uncertain (was it staged? is it dramatized philosophy?). The specifically textual problems are made particularly interesting by Seneca’s pithy and potent writing, the diverging readings and characteristics of E and A, and the ideas and work of critics in the 20th century and before. It is a great text to study closely, and makes an excellent climax to an undergraduate’s reading of ancient literature.
Catullus: Despite the small extent of his corpus Catullus is perhaps the most varied Latin poet. Besides his love poems, both hetero‐ and homosexual, he produced wedding songs, scurrilous epigrams, translations of Sappho and of Callimachus, attacks on the politically important and the self‐important, reflections of friendship displayed and betrayed, on departure and homecoming, on bereavement. He uses a considerable range of metres, and mixes direct diction with learning in a unique fashion. His poetry was very influential on subsequent generations, providing a vital impetus to the development of love elegy in particular. The selection chosen for this paper covers a broad range (but not the mini‐epic 64 or the epithalamia). This is thus an excellent subject for anyone who wants to study Latin poetry in depth. The text is badly transmitted, none of the three independently authoritative mss being older than c.1370 (the oldest [O] is in the Bodleian; there are images of this and G available via the website catullusonline). The technical side of the course will consider scribal corruption, problems of poem division, scansion and the use of metrical arguments, and above all what would make the best sense compatible with Catullus’s style.