Graduate Seminars 2021-2022

Prose Composition

 Fall GRK1000H Advanced Greek language B. Akrigg MW 11-1
Spring LAT1000H Advanced Latin Language J. Welsh R 9-12

Language-Intensive Courses

 Fall LAT1800H Special Topics in Latin Literature A. Bendlin R 9-12
 Spring GRK1810H Classical Greek literature and culture: E. Lytle T 10-1

Research Seminars

 Fall CLA5018H Topics in Roman History, “Roman Weather: Climate Science and Ancient History” S. Bernard W 1-4
 Fall CLA5022H Topics in the Study of Greek and Hellenistic Society, “Acts, Agents, and Agency in Ancient Greek Thought” V. Wohl M 1-4
 Fall CLA5023H Topics in the Study of Roman Literature and Culture, “Greco-Roman Rhetorical Culture of the 1st and 2nd Centuries CE” E. Gunderson T 1-4
 Spring CLA5010H Vergil M. Dewar W 1-4
 Spring CLA5021H Topics in the Study of Greek and Hellenistic Literature and Culture, “Classics and Theory: Orality, Textuality, Hypertextuality” K. Yu R 4-7
 Spring CLA5025H Topics in Greek and Hellenistic History II: Thalassourgoi: The Sea and Maritime Labour in the Ancient Greek Imaginary E. Lytle R 1-4

Prose Composition: Course Descriptions

GRK1000H-F: Advanced Greek Language (B. Akrigg)

LAT1000H-S: Advanced Latin Language (J. Welsh)

Reading Seminars: Course Descriptions

LAT1800H-F: Special Topics in Latin Literature (A. Bendlin)

GRK1810H-S: Classical Greek literature and culture (E. Lytle)

Research Seminars: Course Descriptions

CLA 5010 Dewar 

‘Vergilius noster, qui non quid uerissime sed quid decentissime diceretur aspexit, nec agricolas docere uoluit sed legentes delectare.’ (Seneca the Younger, Ep. 86. 15). Ostensibly a handbook in verse intended to serve the practical needs of farmers, the Georgics offer a profound, if sometimes mysterious, meditation on the human condition and humanity’s place in nature, on love, loss and longing, on ethics and on politics, on creation and destruction. In form and style they bear witness to the remarkable transformation of Roman literature in the first century BC under the influence of the learned Greek poetry of the Hellenistic age. Their often melancholy tone, however, and their depiction of the fragility of all that Virgil considers valuable also bear the imprint of the terrible upheaval of the civil wars through which he and his contemporaries lived. Topics to explore include the nature, theory, and function of didactic poetry as a genre; Virgil’s engagement with his predecessors in the genre, both Latin and Greek; the poem’s negotiation of Roman politics and the establishment of a new regime; the astonishing variety and novelty of Virgil’s style; and the perennial question of whatever the ‘Aristaeus episode’ with which the poem concludes is actually ‘about’. Evaluation will be based on one or more class presentations, an assessment of one or more items of secondary literature, and a research paper. Advanced knowledge of Latin is indispensable, the ability to read scholarship in French and/or German and/or Italian desirable.

Text: A. B. Mynors (ed.), P. Vergili Maronis Opera (Oxford, 1969).

CLA 5018 Bernard 

This seminar considers scientific approaches to ancient history, and in particular the paleoclimatology of the Roman past. Generally, the course seeks to build students’ familiarity and fluency with interdisciplinary approaches to the study of the ancient world. We explore scientific literature on physical proxies that reveal past climate trends, along with primary literary, epigraphic, and archaeological  sources, which shed light on how Romans understood environmental change and developed resiliency. Together, we will work to elaborate best practices for incorporating climate science into reconstructions of the ancient world without resorting to simplistic models of environmental determinism. The course coincides with a planned conference on the climate history of Roman conquest to be held in Toronto this fall. Readings will predominately be in English but will regularly include technical scientific literature; it is a chief aim of the course to help students locate and grapple with specialist scholarship from outside their discipline. Students of all intellectual backgrounds are very welcome, from those interested in socioeconomic history to those thinking about philosophical, artistic, or literary engagements with environment and landscape. Assessment is based on an in-class presentation, a related literature review, and a term paper.

CLA 5022 Wohl

What does it mean to claim or confess to be the author of one’s actions? Modern liberalism draws tight causal links from individual volition to action to responsibility. But for the ancient Greeks, that causal chain was not so singular or straightforward. Agents acted amid a miasma (sometimes literal) of other forces: the gods, fate, genealogy, the polis, the limits of knowledge and the passions of the body. The study of agency in ancient Greek thought thus opens onto questions about the nature of the ethical subject and their relation to the myriad forces and pressures (internal and external, familial and social, physical and metaphysical) that surrounded them. The course will be divided into three parts. In the first we will examine the limits of individual human agency, including the particularly challenging question of female agents. The second will focus on collective agency, including that of the dêmos in Athenian political thought and of the elements in pluralist philosophies. In the third part we will consider non-human agency (gods and daimones, non-human animals, and lively objects). Our primary texts will come mostly from fifth- and fourth-century Greece (including tragedy, comedy, forensic oratory, and philosophy). We will read these primary texts with and against works of scholarship and of critical theory (likely to include Bernard Williams, Gyatri Spivak, Jean-Luc Nancy, Rosi Braidotti, and Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari). The class is open to those without advanced knowledge of Greek: if that is you, please contact me for more information (

CLA 5023 Gunderson

We will be exploring rhetoric in the age of empire. The advent of an imperial system fundamentally complicates one of the fantasies that animated previous rhetorical culture, namely that orators and oratory play a hegemonic role in their societies. We will explore some of the modifications both implicit and explicit that occur in the first 150 or so years of the common era. These include issues such as  the rise of epideictic and the evolution of “oratory for its own sake” as well as the super-star culture of traveling orators; shifts in canons of style; the changes in rhetorical theory that attend changes in practice; and the rise of nostalgic histories of rhetoric.We will be reading both Greek and Latin authors. The specific authors and topics we cover will depend on student interest. Sociological, historical, and literary-critical approaches will all be encouraged.

CLA 5021 Yu

This course takes a long-range view of orality and textuality as modes of discourse in Greek literary thought. Equally fundamental will be the concept of hypertextuality — the obsession and overproduction of text as exemplified by the profusion of specialist compendia, encyclopedias, and commentaries in the Imperial Greek period. Rather than approach orality, textuality, and hypertextuality teleologically, we explore their interdynamics, their potentialities and limits, the social and intellectual institutions and practices undergirding them, as well as the distinct forms of authority inherent in each mode. Some guiding questions include: How does occasional performed poetry already intimate the textual? Why do inscriptions and technical scholarly texts routinely take recourse to aspects of orality? Indeed, how do we purport to access Greek oral tradition when the evidence is largely, if not entirely, mediated by the textual? What happens to the speaking voice when rendered textual?To recover how the Greeks themselves theorized the oral, textual, and hypertextual, we will read representative ancient Greek texts (not only selection of archaic poetry, historiography, philosophy, and public inscriptions and sacred laws, but also inscribed hymns, Totenpässe, curses, prayers, and oracles recorded on various materials). We will integrate into our discussions pertinent secondary scholarship from comparative literature, linguistics, anthropology, and the sociology of knowledge (e.g., Goody, Vansina, Ong, Havelock, Rosalind Thomas, Benveniste, Certeau, and Latour).

CLA 5025 Lytle 

Kostas Vlassopoulos has invited Greek historians to “unthink the polis” and to attempt to write histories that avoid privileging a limited set of canonical texts which, perhaps misleadingly, construct the polis as the central organizing feature of Greek culture and society. At the same time, in recent decades scholars have increasingly focused on social and occupational classes that were peripheral to what we might think of as conventional polissociety. As Vlassopoulos anticipates, these studies are often faced with a paucity of textual sources and frequently rely on the difficult interpretation of archaeological evidence. In this course we will examine one exceptional occupational class – thalassourgoi, literally ‘those who work the sea’, a term that could be used to describe anyone from sailors to salt workers, but most often and perhaps more especially referred to fishermen. For reasons that we will come to understand the fisherman and his technê were of considerable interest to Greek authors and relative to other “marginal” classes we are fortunate to possess a superabundance of literary sources. Interestingly these sources often construct the figure of the fisherman as standing largely outside of polis society. In the letters of Alciphron, for example, one fisherman describes the members of his occupational class “as unlike the residents of cities and villages as the sea is foreign to the land” (1.4.1). In this course we will explore not only the “real” social and economic contexts of maritime labour but also the role that such labour, and especially the figure of the fisherman, played in the Ancient Greek Imaginary.

In practical terms we will interrogate not only epigraphic and archaeological evidence but also literary texts ranging from lyric, comic and didactic poetry to Second Sophistic epistolography. We will address economic questions, but also a wider range of issues from the evidence for distinct maritime religious beliefs and ritual practices to the crucial role that thalassourgoi played in the construction of scientific knowledge like Aristotle’s marine biology. For students with appropriate language training the course will offer opportunities to engage directly with a rich body of literary and documentary texts, but students from other graduate programs are welcome and knowledge of Greek and Latin is not required.