Catullus and the Poetics of Roman Manhood

Catullus and the Poetics of Roman Manhood

Catullus and the Poetics of Roman Manhood

Catullus and the Poetics of Roman Manhood

Synopsis

This literary study of the first-century BCE Roman poet, Catullus uses two sets of comparative models to offer a new understanding of his poems. The first consists of cultural anthropological accounts of male social interaction in the premodern Mediterranean, and the second, the postmodern poetics of such twentieth-century poets as Louis Zukofsky, which are characterized by simultaneous juxtaposition, a "collage" aesthetic, and self-allusive play. The book will be of interest to students of comparative literature and gender studies as well as to classicists.

Excerpt

Like Catullus himself, this book about his poems came to maturity in exciting times. A first version of it, well under way when the monographs of Paul Allen Miller and Micaela Janan gave their names to a Catullan year, had only just been submitted as a dissertation when William Fitzgerald's Provocations first came into my hands. Since that time, ongoing dialogue with these refined and complex Catullan voices, and with others as well, has brought fuller elaboration and sharper focus to the critical views expressed in these pages. But exciting times never come as an unmingled gift of fortune, and what began as a revision for publication took, in the event, nearly as long as the original writing. The end result is not so much a rewritten book as a new one.

By all accounts, Catullus still commands a wider audience than any other Latin poet. I have written with a varied readership in mind throughout, perhaps especially in the first two chapters on literary and critical constructions and receptions of the Catullan corpus and its author. The second chapter's discussion of Louis Zukofsky and postmodern poetics, while ultimately crucial to the broader arguments of the book, keeps Catullus' own words largely out of the debate for a longer time than some readers may have expected. Patience and indulgence, if tested in Chapter 2, will, I hope, be compensated in Chapter 3, where the contours of a Catullan poetics of manhood are traced through a sustained and nearly exclusive focus on the text of the poems. Chapter 4 brings comparative material drawn from the work of cultural anthropologists to bear on a delineation of what has always seemed to me a defining and irreducible aspect of Catullus' poems: the aggression personated by their speaker. It was Marion Kuntz who, as a dissertation reader, first suggested to me the idea of eventually attempting to situate Catullan invective in a comparative Medi-

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