Group Activity for Propertius, Elegies 4.11
This is a three-day group project conducted during class that is based
on Propertius' poem and commentary in The Worlds of Roman Women. Each
group takes responsibility for answering a set of questions on one topic.
- Day One: Assigned groups work through the Latin passage.
- Day Two: The class reads through the Latin passages in groups
with the instructor, making sure that they understand the grammar, structure,
- Day Three: Each group has fifteen minutes to present its
assigned topic to the class (see group assignments below). The group either
appoints a spokesperson or shares the responsibility for their presentation. It
may be useful for them to prepare a handout or a PowerPoint presentation,
although this is not required.
The presentation is graded on:
- the quality and clarity of the group presentation
- the accuracy and thoroughness with which the group answers their
assignment with direct reference to the Latin text.
- Group 1: The poem is written in a form of a defense speech,
in which Cornelia is imagined as delivering an apologia (justification) of her
own life. Whom does she address over the course of the poem? List these persons
and their relation to her, and explain why she addresses each.
- Group 2: The poem is filled with the vocabulary of death and
mourning. List every example. What is Cornelia's attitude towards her own
death? What attitudes towards death and the afterlife does this poem reveal? Be
- Group 3: The poem describes typical aspects of Roman women's
lives, like marriage and children. Bearing in mind that the Roman familia
included all members of the household and the extended family as well as the
nuclear family, list the passages where Cornelia is described in terms of her
family and explain each relationship. What is her attitude towards her family?
- Group 4: Stereotypical praise of Roman women often consists in
citing those characteristics that make them like men rather than typical women.
For instance, Cornelia, mother of the Gracchi (not the same woman as this
Cornelia) was praised by Cornelius Nepos for denying or suppressing her
maternal desire for revenge for her dead son, and Seneca praised his mother for
her moderate display of grief. Propertius, too, has Cornelia describe herself
in male terms or according to male values. Describe where this happens, and
Submitted by Anne Leen