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Love and Sexuality in Greece and Rome

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CLA 3-373-10

College Hall 013

Instructors: John Gruber-Miller, College Hall 312, Ext. x4326,

Laura Farmer, Writing Studio Director, 124 Cole Library; phone: x4509; email:

Jennifer Rouse, Arts and Humanities Consulting Librarian, 307 Cole Library; phone: x4466; email:

Class Hours: M W Th 10:00-11:15; M-F 1:00-3:00 p.m.

Office Hours: M W 11:15-12:00 noon, and by appointment

Required Texts

  • Alexander Nehemas and Paul Woodruff, trans. Plato. Symposium. Hackett 1989.
  • Snyder, Jane McIntosh. The Woman and the Lyre. Women Writers in Classical Greece and Rome. Southern Illinois University Press, 1989.
  • Charles Martin, trans. The Poems of Catullus. Johns Hopkins, 1990.
  • W. G. Shepherd, trans. Propertius. The Poems. Oklahoma, 1994.
  • Peter Green, trans. The Argonautika: The Story of Jason and the Quest for the Golden Fleece. California.
  • Stephen M. Trzaskoma, trans. Two Novels from Ancient Greece: Chariton’s Callirhoe and Xenophon of Ephesos’ An Ephesian Story: Anthia and Habrocomes. Indianapolis: Hackett, 2010.
  • Anthology of readings (Moodle)

Recommended Text

Goals of the Course:

  • to become intimately familiar with the origins of and continuing influence of three literary traditions that speak of love: the Sapphic, the Roman elegiac, and the Romance-novel traditions;
  • to explore ancient constructions of sexuality and compare them with modern ones
  • to understand how "romantic" relationships were constructed within classical and later cultures;
  • to investigate the difference gender makes in both literary and extra-literary love relationships;
  • to learn to recognize and analyze the influence of these three traditions upon subsequent literature, music, and culture;
  • to become sensitive critics of our own and other's writing;
  • to reflect on how you interact with others in loving relationships.

This course addresses the following Cornell College Educational Priorities and Outcomes: Knowledge, Inquiry, Reasoning, Communication, Intercultural Literacy, Ethical Behavior, and Well-Being.

Course Format:

Discussion, oral and written reports, collaborative learning, in-class writing, workshop, conference. Throughout the course, you will learn to share and express ideas clearly and effectively, to collaborate, to critique others' ideas, and to give and receive criticism about one's own ideas and writing.

Course Requirements

As you prepare for class, it is a good idea to write marginal notes in your text to remind you of significant imagery, recurring themes, historical background, and questions you have about the text. Since this course (and love-making) involves dialogue between people, your active participation is essential to the success of the course. Absences will lower your grade; your thoughtful contributions in class will improve it.

You will work collaboratively with others in the class to come to grips with the traditions of love represented in our texts. Once during the course, you will work in pairs to prepare an oral presentation: either a close reading of selected texts or a summary/response to an article illuminating our texts. These presentations (15-20 minutes in length) will help lead the rest of the class to an understanding of key texts or of contemporary approaches to reading love relationships in our texts. If you present a close reading, avail yourself of the commentaries listed in the bibliography in order to familiarize your self with the literary, mythological, or cultural background of the text(s). You don't need to know Latin or Greek to read the notes about the poems! For either a close reading or report on an article, you will hand out a written version of your report to the rest of the class. It will help you to be more focused when you give your report, and it will provide an outline for others to take notes on as they listen. The best reports are those that lead the class through the text(s) that you have read, referring to specific passages in the ancient authors. In addition, presentations that encourage participation by the rest of the class by posing questions and eliciting a variety of responses are especially welcome. Click here for a list of topics. Here are some suggestions for a good oral report.

In weeks that you do not make a presentation, you will read an article listed in the bibliography and write a two page summary and two page response to it. Like the presentations, the summary will state clearly the author's thesis, methodology, and assumptions. Then the rest of the summary will discuss the evidence that the author uses to support the thesis. These readings and responses to them will offer a variety of approaches to the material that you may be able to incorporate into your essays. They are due each Thursday at 9:00 a.m. Here is a rubric to help you.

Three papers will focus on each of the three love traditions (i.e., one for each section of the course). The topic of the paper is open, but each paper will involve a comparison of at least two authors or will apply a critical approach discussed in class to a text or set of texts not discussed by the author of the article. They will be due at 5:00 p.m. on the first, second, and third Saturdays of the block. No need for a separate title page, but please include your name, the date, and your box number on the back of the last page or on a separate page at the end of the paper. Please number pages.

Each Thursday afternoon, we will discuss an abstract of your paper. What do I mean by an abstract? It is the opening paragraph of the essay plus an outline showing how the paper will be organized. The more detailed and specific, the better. There are four things that every abstract should include. First, what is the question that the paper is trying to answer? Second, what specific poems/passages will the paper discuss and what will each passage contribute to the overall interpretation? Third, what are the patterns, categories, themes, or issues that contribute to the analysis? Finally and most importantly, what assertion/thesis will the paper attempt to prove?

During the term, each student will have the opportunity to have an essay discussed by the rest of the class. On the day your essay is to be discussed in workshop, you will provide enough photocopies for the rest of the class. I will supply worksheets to guide your evaluations. On workshop days, we will exchange photocopies, read and comment on papers, and then sometimes discuss them as a class. Worksheets will be given to the author to help her/him to revise, and the author will turn them in with her/his revision. The workshops are designed to help you share your ideas with the rest of the class, and to help you evaluate and revise your own work. Please turn in your first draft with my comments, all editorial sheets, and the revised version of the paper.

At the end of the term, you will turn in a portfolio of your writing so that I can evaluate your progress over the course of the term. You will also include a 1-2 page reflection on your development as a writer and thinker during the course. Some questions to consider in the reflective essay: How have you improved as a writer, reader, and thinker? What do you wish you could have done differently? What challenges did you meet both in your research and in your writing and how did you attempt to overcome them? What do you feel you still need to work on as a writer, reader, and thinker? The portfolio should include at least one abstract, one summary-response, and all your essays. The portfolio should include a hard copy of your papers with my written comments. If you revised something, include both the first draft and revised version. The portfolio will be returned to you after the course is completed.

In lieu of a final exam, on the last two days of the course, each of you will analyze a modern song, poem, story, or film about love and discuss how it fits (or doesn't) within the three traditions of love. Point out similar passages, themes, or imagery to those in the authors we have read in class. Discuss the way relationships are configured. Then explain which tradition the work fits best. If a song or poem, please include the text. If something longer, please include a written summary. In addition, please prepare a written outline of your analysis for each member of the class. As usual, the best presentations are those that provoke discussion and engage all the members of the class.


Two major components will determine your grade:

a) class preparation and participation, including in-class writing, close readings of the text, oral reports, summary/responses to scholarly articles, and a presentation of a contemporary song, poem, film, novel, etc., about love 40%

b) 3 papers, 5-7 pages each, one of which may be rewritten (20% each) 60%


Attendance: Since our class format is based primarily on discussion and workshops, it is essential that you come to class every day, prepared and ready to participate actively. Any unexcused absence after one missed class period will harm your final grade. If you must miss class, please inform me ahead of time if at all possible. If you have a fever and other symptoms of the flu, please do not come to class until you have been fever-free for 24 hours.

Drafts and Model Papers: Learning how to revise papers is an important element of becoming a successful writer, and peer workshops are an important element in honing your reading and writing skills. The failure to submit a full-length draft when due, submit a model paper when due, or attend a peer workshop, will automatically result in a grade of C or below for that particular paper.

Deadlines: no late work will be accepted. If an emergency or illness occurs, please let me know immediately so that other plans can be arranged.

Academic Integrity: According to the Cornell College Student Handbook, plagiarism is "is the act of taking the work of another and presenting it as one's own, without acknowledgement of the original source." In other words, using others' ideas, words, even sentence structure, without crediting them is a serious academic offense. Plagiarism also includes writing a paper for another person, borrowing or buying an essay and submitting it as your own, or paraphrasing an article but forgetting to document it. I prefer that you use MLA or Turabian format for citing works. Click here for Cornell's policy on Academic Honesty.

Accomodations for different learning styles: Cornell College is committed to providing equal educational opportunities to all students.  If you have a documented learning disability and will need any accommodation in this course, you must request the accommodation(s) from me as early as possible and no later than the third day of the term. Additional information about the policies and procedures for accommodation of learning disabilities is available on the Cornell web site.

Cornell College
600 First Street West
Mt Vernon, IA 52314

John Gruber-Miller
(319) 895-4326

Maintained by: Classical Studies
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