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Common Course: The Commentary: Paratexts and Metatexts


Admission requirements

This course is open to and compulsory for Research Master students in Classics and Ancient Civilizations (all specializations).


A shared characteristic of the ancient cultures studied in our Research MA is the important role of writing and texts. From ancient times onwards, texts as bearers of cultural and religious identity became the objects of transmission and exegesis. This resulted in the production of ‘textual supports’ of various kinds on the same writing surface (titles, headings, marginal indications of various kinds, mark-up of special features of the text, such as (divine/royal) names etc.): this is known as ‘paratexts’. It also produced exegetical work of different kinds, e.g. lexicographical, exegetical, supplying background information etc. These texts characterized by their ‘dependence’ on a source text are ‘metatexts’ (or: commentary). Finally, in our own day we still make texts accessible in different ways by the production of ‘text about text’. But what is it that people do when they treat a source in this way? What are the cultural effects? How is it done? In this common course we will study what will be called for short ‘commentary’ in all its aspects.

Course objectives

At the end of this course:

  • students understand theoretical principles of the production of metatexts and has acquired a comparative perspective on this material.

  • students have familiarized themselves with a number of examples of metatexts in the original language;

  • students are familiar with the intellectual background to the ‘textual practices’ in ancient cultures (e.g. etymology, ideas on language, educational and other contexts)

  • students know how to assess (modern) commentaries on ancient texts and are capable of making reasoned choices in commentaries they themselves produce on ancient sources;

  • students are capable of reporting the results of their research in oral and written form (see below).


Please consult the Classics and Ancient Civilizations website.

Mode of instruction

  • Seminar

Course Load

10 EC = 280 hours:

  • attending lectures: 24 hrs

  • course preparation: 52 hrs

  • preparation of oral presentation: 64 hrs

  • preparation paper: 120 hrs

  • helping to organize concluding symposium: 20 hrs.

Assessment method

  • Essay (brief analysis of a modern commentary in your own specialization) (25%)

  • Oral group presentation of 20 minutes (25%)

  • Final paper, based on at least 150 pp secondary literature and independent study of metatexts (50%)


The final mark for the course is established by determining the weighted average.


If the overall mark is unsatisfactory, students can take a resit of those parts that were insufficient. There is no resit for the participation and oral presentation.

Exam review

Students will be invited to discuss the essay and research paper individually with their supervisor.


Blackboard will be used for the distribution of handouts and other course documents.

Reading list

Initial bibliography is made available; it is expected that the students will actively search out more material relevant to the topics they have selected.


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.
General information about registration in uSis is available in English and Dutch.

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable.


Dr. L. Huitink

Students are also advised to be in contact with a member of the academic staff who can function as supervisor for the end paper (further information will be given in the first meeting).