ANT4302 – Ancient Theories of Literature

Schedule, syllabus and examination date

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Course content

The course explores the key ancient texts that reflect on literature, its place in society, its relation to other arts, as well as its epistemic, moral and historical value. Attention will be accorded to the philosophical tradition (Plato’s theory of performance, mimesis, oral vs. written medium; Aristotle’s response to Plato in the Poetics; Cleanthes’ and Seneca’s Stoic theory of poetry as a conduit of philosophical teaching), works that were variously influenced by rhetoric (e.g., Quintilian’s Institutio Oratoria, Pseudo-Longinus’ On the Sublime, Tacitus’ De Oratoribus), and approaches that developed within or responded to the philological tradition (Dionysius of Halicarnassus, Plutarch, Horace, Aulus Gellius, Macrobius). Relevant modern literary-theoretical texts and secondary scholarship will also be discussed.

Students will read texts both in the original and in translation.

Learning outcome

After completion of the course:

  • you will have an overview of the most influential theories of literature that developed in the Graeco-Roman world.
  • you will be able to relate ancient notions of the literary to theoretical ideas that were advanced in the 19th and 20th century.
  • you know how ancient concepts and theories can be applied to literary analysis of both classical and postclassical texts.


The course requires admission to the Master's programme in classical studies (klassiske språk).

Students enrolled in other Master's Degree Programmes can, on application, be admitted to the course if this is cleared by their own study programme.

Students who are admitted to study programmes at UiO must each semester register which courses and exams they wish to sign up for in Studentweb.

If you are not already enrolled as a student at UiO, please see our information about admission requirements and procedures.


Formal prerequisite knowledge

Minimum 40 ECTS in Ancient Greek or Latin.


The course will be offered as guided reading autumn 2020.


Term paper (research paper) of ca. 15 pages ( approx. 2300 characters per page, without spaces).

When writing a term paper, you are entitled to individual guidance by the teacher. To be eligible for this guidance, you must submit a draft of your paper that meets certain requirements. More detailed information about guidance and how to submit your draft will be given by the teacher during class or in Canvas.

Submit assignments in Inspera

You submit your assignment in the digital examination system Inspera. Read about how to submit your assignment.

Use of sources and citation

You should familiarize yourself with the rules that apply to the use of sources and citations. If you violate the rules, you may be suspected of cheating/attempted cheating.

Grading scale

Grades are awarded on a scale from A to F, where A is the best grade and F is a fail. Read more about the grading system.

Explanations and appeals

Resit an examination

Withdrawal from an examination

It is possible to take the exam up to 3 times. If you withdraw from the exam after the deadline or during the exam, this will be counted as an examination attempt.

Special examination arrangements

Application form, deadline and requirements for special examination arrangements.

Facts about this course




Autumn 2020

The course is offerred on an irregular basis.


Autumn 2020

The course is offerred on an irregular basis.

Teaching language