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Lesley Dean-Jones, Chair 2210 Speedway, Mail Code C3400, Austin, TX 78712-1738 • 512-471-5742

Fall 2009

LAT 390 • PLINY'S LETTERS

Unique Days Time Location Instructor
33135 W
2:00 PM-5:00 PM
WAG 10
Ebbeler

Course Description

Over the past two decades, Latinists have turned to the study of letters with renewed energy. While letters have always been read as important historical or prosopographical sources—that is, as transparent windows on the life and times of their author—more recent work has emphasized the extent to which these texts are also literary artifacts meant to construct rather than reflect a reality. Although there continues to be relatively little secondary scholarship in print, this situation is changing rapidly with the recent appearances of book length studies of both Cicero's and Pliny’s letters. At the same time, because the number of surviving letters is so large, there is plenty of "elbow room" for adventuresome scholars looking for a road less traveled. This seminar will introduce graduate students to the complicated, fascinating world of Latin letter-writing through the close study of Pliny the Younger’s epistolary corpus, with some attention to how Pliny’s letters should be situated in the history of Latin epistolography. In particular, we will focus on the extent to which letter-writing and letter exchange can be understood as a social performance, governed by an implicit code of etiquette. Besides reading a substantial part of Pliny’s ten-book letter collection, we will also20read and discuss a wide range of secondary scholarship on the letters. Some of the topics that will be raised in seminars include: efforts to define an epistolary genre; the reception/transmission history of Pliny’s letters; the uses and abuses of dialogism; the materiality of the letter and letter exchange; epistolary friendship; consolation and competition; and the complicated relationship between epistolography and historiography. Class meetings will be devoted to the discussion of assigned primary and secondary readings; and, time permitting, to the translation of Latin. Your final grade in the seminar will be based on your performance during our weekly seminar meetings; performance on translation quizzes; and the quality of your final paper. _____________________________________________

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