“…the last of the wise ones of Greece.” Al-Masúdí, Moroudj-al-dzeheb (10th century)
“Had Cleopatra’s nose been shorter, the face of the world would have been changed.”
Blaise Pascal, Pensées (1670)
“…the most complete woman ever to have existed, the most womanly woman and the most queenly queen, a person to be wondered at, to whom the poets have been able to add nothing, and whom dreamers always find at the end of their dreams.”
Théophile Gauthier, One of Cleopatra’s Nights (1845)
“How would you like to be the wickedest woman in history?”
Cecil B. DeMille, offering the role to Claudette Colbert for the 1934 movie
“I would have loved to have been Cleopatra in real life -- providing I could choose my own Antony.” Vivien Leigh, star of the 1951 movie
“The true history of Antony and Cleopatra will probably never be known; it is buried too deep beneath the version of the victors.” W.W. Tarn, The Battle of Actium (1931)
These quotations offer only a tiny fraction of the ideas that have been expressed about Cleopatra over the last 2000 years, for Cleopatra has exercised a hold over the imagination of people everywhere as no other woman has ever done. But who was Cleopatra? Tarn’s comment may be the best answer we can give: her ‘true history’ may well be unknowable. But the ways in which Cleopatra has been depicted over the centuries presents us with a more intriguing, and more interesting, question than that of who she really was. To the Romans, she was represented as the foreign queen who tried to steal their empire and who represented the most dangerous threat to their civilization in 200 years, but to the Egyptians she may have been a goddess incarnate, the universal mother, and a liberator who came to free them from oppression. Artists and writers since her death have not hesitated to offer their images of Cleopatra, as we shall see. This course will examine these depictions of Cleopatra in a variety of different mediums to explore how each society has created their own image of this bewitching figure.
The primary objective of this course is for first-year students to see the complexity that lies behind a seemingly simple topic, and to develop the enthusiasm for probing deeply into such subjects that will carry them into more advanced coursework. Specifically by the end of the term students should be able to:
Read and write critically across a variety of disciplines
Recognize the complexity of any individual fact or figure
Recognize how images are often constructed to suit the conceptions of individuals or of the society in which they live
Describe the basic historical context of the life and times of Cleopatra
Active participation as a good colleague in this course is an essential component to making this class a success. These first-year courses have been designed as seminars, where the students take responsibility for sharing their thoughts about the material and the professor’s primary function is to guide the discussion, not to provide THE answer; as we shall see, there is no THE answer for most of the questions posed. Being a good colleague includes, but is not limited to: completing assigned readings before class; devoting thought and consideration to the meaning of those readings before class; arriving on-time to class and remaining in your seat for the entire class session; and active participation in class discussion, which includes both talking and listening. A good colleague is one who listens to his or her colleagues, the instructor and the authors we have read, then adds to the existing conversation. To be a good participant, you need to listen, think about what you have heard, and then offer your own voice to the discussion. Dominating the discussion to the exclusion of other voices is not being a good colleague.
All students will deliver an oral report that will provide the other students in the class with relevant information not covered by other readings. Students will have a choice of topics; some are ancient, some are more recent, some are historical, some are more literary. See the attached sheet for the list of choices. Students must email their top three choices to me by Monday, September 10; topics will be handed out on a first-sent, first served basis.
The major written assignments is a 10-12 page analysis exploring one or more representations of Cleopatra after her death; see the attached assignment sheet for fuller details and suggestions. This project will proceed in stages: students will develop a topic (in consultation with the professor); submit an annotated bibliography and exploratory essay; submit an introductory paragraph with thesis statement; and a tentative outline; prepare a draft; and finally submit the final paper on April 27.
We will have a midterm exam focused primarily on the historical facts surrounding Cleopatra’s life and her position in the ancient Roman and Egyptian worlds. We will also have a take-home final exam, in which students will have the opportunity to present their own representations of Cleopatra, using whatever format the student chooses and emphasizing whatever aspects of Cleopatra’s character seem most significant to that student, or group of students. These representations will be due on the day of our final exam, and we will meet on that day for students to share their representations with each other.
Except in documented cases of emergency, no make-up exams will be given and late papers will be penalized one-half grade for every day (not class) they are late. so please do not ask. This policy is constructed to ensure fairness for all students; we are all busy and we all have other work that needs attention, so plan your time accordingly.
Tentative Hypothesis & Outline
Please note the following general policies.
Please come see me as soon as possible if you are having trouble keeping up with your work. I know that crises sometimes arise unexpectedly in the middle of the semester, and one of the ways in which you will be judged as you enter the ‘real world’ is how you handle such crises. You will find that I am quite sympathetic to those who notify me as soon as they notice a problem, but I have a ‘tin ear’ for those who send me an email on the morning a paper is due. I want to see everyone in this class succeed, but you need to take responsibility for your own success. My office hours are for you: I guarantee to be there at those designated times, but I am usually in my office at other times as well, and you are encouraged to schedule an appointment with me outside those hours if you like.
I will strictly enforce the University policy on academic honesty. The Academic Handbook states: "Academic dishonesty can take many forms, including but not limited to the following: plagiarism, which is the misrepresentation of someone else's words, ideas, research, images, or video clips as one's own; submitting the same paper for credit in more than one course without prior permission; collaborating with other students on papers and submitting them without instructor permission; cheating on examinations; mistreatment of library materials; forgery; and misuse of academic computing facilities.” Read the complete policy at: http://www.ups.edu/x4718.xml.
Special Note on Electronic Resources: The Web is both a blessing and a curse. It provides a great deal of information that might otherwise not be easily available, and we will make extensive use its resources. But there is also a tremendous amount of unreliable information on the Web, since anyone can create a website and post anything they want, accurate or not. In order to save you from hours of searching which leads to a pile of rubbish, my policy is that you may not use information taken off the web unless the site is directly linked in Blackboard. Please respect this policy; if you find a website you think is respectable, let me know. I will explore it and create a link it in Blackboard if it checks out.
Texts: The following required texts are available at the bookstore.
Royster, F. Becoming Cleopatra
Shakespeare, W. Antony and Cleopatra
Dryden, J. All for Love
Chauveau, M. Egypt in the Age of Cleopatra
Everitt, A. Augustus: The Life of Rome's First Emperor
Coursepack (Items in the Coursepack are indicated by a CP on the schedule below.)
Each student will also need a copy of L. Hughes-Hallett, Cleopatra: Histories, Dreams, Distortions. As this book is out of print, I have bought copies for each of you, which you can buy from me for $10. At the end of the term, you can keep the book or I will buy it back (in good condition) for the same $10.
In an effort to save trees and save you money, we will also make extensive use of readings that I will post in Blackboard. These readings are indicated as being online on the schedule below. If you have any problems accessing these files, let me know as soon as you can. You may want to print these out in the library, or I would be happy to create a supplementary coursepack for any who wish to purchase it. Students should regularly check Blackboard for updates; it will also hold an array of materials to help you with this course, as well as an archive of all materials handed out in class.
COURSE SCHEDULE AND ASSIGNMENTS:
Topic & Reading
Hughes-Hallett, Chapter 1
What strikes you already about the history of Cleopatra? Write down three questions about which you as a historian would like to know more and bring these to class.
Part I: Historical Survey of Cleopatra’s Life and Times
The Hellenistic World
Chauveau, Chapters 1 (6-24 only), 3, 8
What are some major political and cultural features of the Hellenistic Egypt? Who are the Ptolemies? What are major aspects of the relationship of Greeks and Egyptians?
Chauveau, Chapter 2
Pomeroy, Women in Hellenistic Egypt, xv-xix, 3-40 (online)
What can be said about the kind of power exercised by the Ptolemies? about the role of women within the Ptolemaic Kingdom? What kind of lessons might Cleopatra VII have learned from previous queens?
What can be said about position and role of women in the Greco-Roman world? Make a particular effort to note differences in roles and attitudes between women in Rome and Egypt.
The Rise of Rome
Everitt, Ch. 1-2
What are some key elements of Roman society? How did the Romans come to control the Mediterranean basin?
Cleopatra and Caesar
Everitt, Ch. 3-4
Suetonius, Julius Caesar, 35, 45-54 (CP)
Plutarch, Julius Caesar 48-49 (CP)
Cicero, Selected Letters (CP)
Focus attention on the ancient texts relating to Caesar and Cleopatra: What are you personally willing to accept as ‘fact’? What was Caesar trying to accomplish? What about Cleopatra?
Cleopatra and Antony
Everitt, Ch. 5-7
Plutarch, Mark Antony 1-39 (CP)
Again, focus attention on Plutarch and try to separate fact from rumor. What were Antony’s aims at this stage in their relationship? Cleopatra’s?
Cleopatra, Antony & Octavian
Everitt, Ch. 11-13
Plutarch, Mark Antony 40-87 (CP)
Suetonius, Augustus, 9-17, 68-71 (CP)
Continue attempting to identify ‘facts’. Based on the available material, in your opinion what caused the war between the two sides? Would you consider this a Roman civil war or a war between Rome and Egypt?
P. Zanker, The Power of Images, 44-65 (online)
S. Walker, “Cleopatra’s Images” in Cleopatra of Egypt 142-147 (online)
S. Ashton, “Identifying the Egyptian-style Ptolemaic Queens” in Cleopatra of Egypt 148-155 (online)
How does the visual material contribute to our understanding of this period? Examine one of the images of Cleopatra posted in Blackboard, and write down one detail of an image of Cleopatra and its significance.
The Battle of Actium
Everitt, Ch. 14
Cassius Dio 50.1-35 (CP)
Suetonius, Augustus, 17-23, 51-65 (CP)
Based on the sources we have, do your best to reconstruct the campaign and battle of Actium.
How and why did Cleopatra die?
Research Topics must be discussed with me by this date.
The Aftermath of Actium
Everitt, Ch. 16 and 19
What are the key elements of the society that Augustus strove to erect?
Part II: Ancient Representations of Cleopatra
Horace, Ode 1.37, Epode 9 (CP)
Propertius 3.11 (CP)
M. Wyke, “Augustan Cleopatras” (online)
What are the key elements in each poet’s depiction of Cleopatra? What consistent themes, if any, emerge from the Augustan poets representation of Cleopatra?
Virgil, Aeneid, tr. Fitzgerald (CP)
Selections from Books 1, 4, 6, 8
Dido is often seen as a stand-in for Cleopatra; do you think this is legitimate? What are the key elements in Vergil’s image of Cleopatra?
Find ‘Plutarch’ in Oxford Classical Dictionary
Reread Plutarch, Antony
Who was Plutarch? How might his era and his purpose in writing have affected the manner in which he presented Cleopatra? Reading Plutarch again, identify and submit one piece of information you feel might not be as reliable because of these factors.
Pliny, Natural History (CP)
Philostratus, Lives of the Sophists (CP)
Lucan, Pharsalia Book 10 (CP)
Aurelius Victor, On Illustrious Men 86 (CP)
What elements of Cleopatra’s life might have made the details added by each author believable? Which are believable to you?
Cleopatra from Diverse Viewpoints
Hughes-Hallett, Ch. 2-3
Compare these versions of ‘Cleopatra’s Story’ to your own.
Part III: Representations of Cleopatra from the Renaissance to the Present
What elements of Cleopatra’s story does each author choose to emphasize? to ignore? to invent?
Hughes-Hallett, Ch. 5
Antony and Cleopatra, Act I
Throughout our entire reading of this play, note the ways in which Shakespeare’s presentation sticks to the historical material and deviates from it What does he choose to include? to omit? to add? How do these choices affect the reader’s overall impression of Cleopatra?
Antony and Cleopatra, Acts II & III
Antony and Cleopatra, Acts IV & V
In what ways is race an important aspect of studying Cleopatra? Does Royster’s reading of Shakespeare affect the way you see the play and/or the figure of Cleopatra?
Hughes-Hallett. Ch. 6
All for Love, Act I
WORKINGHYPOTHESIS AND OUTLINE DUE As for Shakespeare, look at the way Dryden constructs the story of Cleopatra. How and why does Dryden’s play present a different vision of Cleopatra?
All for Love, Acts II & III
All for Love, Acts IV & V
Cleopatra in Film
M. Wyke, Projecting the Past pp. 73-109 (online)
How does Wyke position each film she studies within its context? How does she explain the differences between the films?
Cecil B. DeMille’s Cleopatra
How does Royster’s reading of Claudette Colbert’s performance differ from Wyke’s?
Liz Taylor as Cleopatra
Re-read Wyke, 100-109 (on Taylor)
How do these readings of Elizabeth Taylor’s role help you to situate what is THE definitive performance of Cleopatra?
Meet with Sarah Smith at the CWLT
FIRST DRAFT DUE
THANSKGIVING TRAVEL DAY
Cleopatra in Venice: Tiepolo
J. Fletcher, “Dissembling Pearls” (online)
Hughes-Hallett, Ch. 7
How might Cleopatra as Queen be a ‘positive’ representation? ‘negative’?
Shaw’s Caesar & Cleopatra
Hughes-Hallett, Ch. 10
How, and why, do Hughes-Hallett and Royster differ in viewing the key elements in Shaw’s version of the story?
How does the figure of Cleopatra intersect with the genre of ‘blaxploitation’ films?
A 19th century French Cleopatra
Hughes-Hallett, Ch. 8
Th. Gauthier, One of Cleopatra's Nights (CP)
What elements of ‘the Cleopatra story’ does Gauthier emphasize, ignore, or invent?
A 19th century Russian Cleopatra
Hughes-Hallett, Ch. 9
A. Pushkin, We were spending the Evening at Princess D’s Dacha; Egyptian Nights (CP)
How does Pushkin work Cleopatra into his story? Why might Pushkin have chosen Cleopatra, and this particular image of her?
Queen Latifah and Cleo
How does Queen Latifah’s role play off key elements of Cleopatra’s character?
Where does Cleopatra go from here?
Hughes-Hallett, Ch. 12
Hamer, “Disowning Cleopatra” (online)
What do you make of the figure of Cleopatra now?
Final Papers DuE AT THE BEGINNING OF CLASS
Wrap-up Discussion: Why is the figure of Cleopatra still a subject of interest today?
Sarah Fielding and the “Lives of Cleopatra and Octavia”
African-American Sculptures Of W. W. Story and/or Edmonia Lewis
Costumes in Dramatic Theater Productions
Cleopatra in Latin American Culture
You should plan to speak for approximately 10 minutes, and to answer questions afterward. You may write out your report entirely as a script, or you may speak from notes or an outline, whichever works best for you. The purpose of these reports is to provide information to your classmates on topics that will help them understand Cleopatra and/or representations of her in a specific cultural context. I will give you some study questions that will vary according to the topic chosen; these can help you focus your attention on certain aspect of the material you discover while researching your topic, but you will still be responsible for organizing that material in a way that makes it comprehensible to your fellow students. You need not develop brilliant insights of your own for these presentations (although such insights are always welcome), but your presentation should be organized with a beginning, middle, and end to present information as clearly and usefully as possible. Your fellow students will fill out evaluation forms following your presentation to help give you feedback. You should also plan to submit to me your notes, script, outline, or whatever you use during your presentation. Please feel free to consult me as often as you like while preparing for your presentation.
As a guideline for timing, five pages of printed, double-spaced text takes about 10 minutes to read aloud. I strongly encourage you to run through your presentation out loud at least once prior to your class presentation; you can do this in your room by yourself, or take advantage of the residential nature of our seminar by having a fellow student serve as a test audience. There is no better way to find out how long your presentation will take than by running through it.