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Classics & Ancient History   >   Pliny: Letters

Letters as Literature

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Pliny: Letters

In this course Professor Christopher Whitton (University of Cambridge) explores Pliny’s Letters. In the first lecture we introduce Pliny, his political career and his literary output, and think about the idea of letters of literature. After that, in the second lecture, we think about the style of Pliny’s Letters, from the collection as a whole to the style of individual letters. In the third, fourth, fifth and sixth lectures, we think the representation of society in Pliny’s Letters, including his engagement with politics, his presentation of women and slaves, and his reflections on the institution of slavery itself. In the seventh, eighth and ninth lectures, we think about Pliny’s Letters as philosophy, natural philosophy and history, respectively, before turning in the tenth and final lecture to provide some suggestions for further reading.

Letters as Literature

In this lecture we think about Pliny’s letters not as historical documents but as literature, focusing in particular on: (i) Pliny’s life, political career and literary output; (ii) Pliny’s Letters: its size, structure and arrangement, its key preoccupations, and the idea of the collection as a kind of autobiography in fragments; (iii) the influence of previous letter collections, including Cicero’s Letters, Seneca’s Epistulae Morales, Horace’s Epistles, and Ovid’s Heroides, Tristia and Epistulae ex Ponto; (iv) the extent to which Pliny’s Letters should be read as genuine correspondence; and (v) the intended audience for Pliny’s Letters.

Cite this Lecture

APA style

Whitton, C. (2022, November 03). Pliny: Letters - Letters as Literature [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Whitton, C. "Pliny: Letters – Letters as Literature." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 03 Nov 2022,


Prof. Christopher Whitton

Prof. Christopher Whitton

University of Cambridge