A one-week module within a 10-week, 200-level course
Curricular materials created for the 2013 SAIL seminar:
The Pompeii Project: A Case Study in Space and Gender/Sexuality is a one-week module within a 10-week, 200-level course titled Gender and Sexuality in Classical Antiquity. While the course mainly focuses on textual sources, there is enormous power in looking at the material sources available to us; Pompeii provides an appealing case study by providing many such sources in proximity (domestic architecture; public architecture; wall-painting; sculpture; city plan; biological/organic remains; natural environment; etc.). In the module, groups of students will be assigned a specific building/region within Pompeii and will analyze the way in which the gender/sexuality of people inhabiting or using that space affected their use/experience of it. They will produce a gendered map both of their own building/region and the way in which their building/region fits into the town as a whole.
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This is a one-week module within a 10-week course on gender and sexuality in the ancient world. While the course mainly focuses on textual sources, there is enormous power in looking at the material sources available to us; Pompeii provides an appealing case study by providing many such sources in proximity (domestic architecture; public architecture; wall-painting; sculpture; city plan; biological/organic remains; natural environment; etc.). Groups of students will be assigned a specific building/region within Pompeii and will analyze the way in which the gender/sexuality of people inhabiting or using that space affected their use/experience of it. They will produce a gendered map both of their own building/region and the way in which their building/region fits into the town as a whole.
The course is Classics/Women’s and Gender Studies 214: Gender and Sexuality in the Ancient World. The course description is “In both ancient Greece and Rome, gender (along with class and citizenship status) largely determined what people did, where they spent their time, and how they related to others. This course will examine the ways in which Greek and Roman societies defined categories of gender and sexuality, and how they used them to think about larger social, political, and religious issues. Primary readings from Greek and Roman epic, lyric, and drama, as well as ancient historical, philosophical, and medical writers; in addition we will explore a range of secondary work on the topic from the perspectives of Classics and Gender Studies.” The course is at the 200 level not because it has a pre-requisite, but because it requires reading of both primary and secondary sources, and overall has a more demanding workload than courses at the 100 level. It enrolls a mix of students interested in Classics and in Women’s and Gender Studies, which makes for stimulating class discussions but can be challenging as well in terms of baseline student expertise.
The module on Pompeii will come at the beginning of the second half of the course; in the first half (focusing on the Greek world) we will have spent considerable time learning to read the texts for their implicit assumptions about gender and sexuality, and thinking about some of the basic debates in the field (social construction v. essentialism). The Pompeii Project will allow students to bring these skills and concepts to a new category of evidence: material remains.
The module is a group exercise occupying the sixth of the course’s ten weeks. Students will have two class days for research/discussion of their assigned building/region, as well as construction of their map, and then will present their findings on the third class day. The module will thus both function as an introduction to the Roman context, and as a way of thinking about analyzing new kinds of evidence. It will also function as an introduction to library research on the ancient world, which students will be required to carry further in their final research projects.
- Content/concepts: To begin mastering gender-specific aspects of Roman social history – these will vary by research group (e.g. prostitution; finance of public buildings; performance and spectacle; religious ritual; domestic economy; etc.).
- Higher order thinking skills: To practice thinking about the strengths and weaknesses of different kinds of source materials.
- Learning multidisciplinary analysis: To practice synthesizing literary with material sources and assessing the values and challenges of each.
- Other skills: To present complex analysis using visuals that convey multiple kinds of information.
Description of Module Activities
Large Question: how did issues of gender/sexuality play out in three dimensions in the daily life of the people of Pompeii in the first century CE?
For this module, the students will be working in groups of 3-4. As my course is usually somewhere between 20-30 students, I would designate 5-10 building/area options and assign one to each group. The number and size of the groups, clearly, could vary depending upon class size: several of the suggested assignments below could be split.
Possible assigned buildings/areas:
- Amphitheater/Palaestra/Gladiators’ barracks
- Forum: east side (Macellum and Eumachia building)
- Forum: west side (temples of Jupiter, Apollo or Venus)
- Theaters (large or covered)
- Cemeteries (Nuceria Gate or Herculaneum Gate)
- Baths (Suburban, Forum, Stabian or Central)
- Inn of Euxinus
- Fullery of Stephanus
- Villa of the Mysteries
- Region VI (private houses: choose one or two from house of the surgeon, house of Sallust, house of Pansa, house of the Tragic Poet, house of the Faun, house of the Vetii)
Before Day One: Groups would be assigned and topics distributed.
For Day One: Everyone would read one of the general introductions (e.g. Beard 2008 Berry 2013, Bradley 2013, De Albentiis, etc.) and do some preliminary research on their building from the books that will be on Closed Reserve at the Library (see list below).
Students will have the full class time on day one, and then prep and class time on day two, to carry out and discuss the implications of their research on the assigned building. Each group member will locate, read, and report back to the group on one or two articles on the building or its context: thus each group will have the benefit of several articles.
In advance of Day Three the groups will create visual(s) to support their presentation to the rest of the class on their building and how it expands our understanding of gender/sexuality.
On Day Three the groups will present the results of their research and the visuals they have created to answer the following questions:
- Who primarily inhabited/used your space or the spaces within it: men, women, or both together? of what social class(es)? age(s)?
- What activities would have taken place in your space? To what extent are these gendered?
- If your space includes art (wall painting, sculpture, objects), what was its purpose, and what sort of experience was involved in viewing it?
- What route(s) to and from your space would be most likely? Choose two locations from the plan and give routes to your space from them: what/whom would someone see along this route? How public or private would the journey be? At what times of day or night would it likely occur?
- How might ancient textual sources supplement our interpretation of your space?
- What are the biggest questions remaining concerning your space, and what gaps in the material record determine what we can and can’t know about it?
The visuals produced by the groups, and their presentations to the rest of the class, will be the means of assessing how well students have met both the content and the skills the goals for the project. I anticipate developing a rubric which I can distribute to the students at the outset of the module.
Resources & Materials
Sources to be kept on Closed Reserve:
- Allison, Penelope (2004). Pompeian Households: an analysis of material culture.
- Amery, Colin (2002). The Lost World of Pompeii.
- Beard, Mary (2008). The Fires of Vesuvius: Pompeii Lost and Found.
- Berry, Joanne (2013). The Complete Pompeii.
- Bradley, Pamela (2013). Cities of Vesuvius: Pompeii and Herculaneum.
- De Albentiis, Emidio (2009). Secrets of Pompeii: everyday life in ancient Rome.
- Lazer, Estelle (2009). Resurrecting Pompeii.
- Ling, Roger (2005). Pompeii: history, life and afterlife.
- Varone, Antonio (2001). Eroticism in Pompeii.
- Zanker, Paul (1998). Pompeii: public and private life.
Some web resources: