A Companion to Catullus

A Companion to Catullus

A Companion to Catullus

A Companion to Catullus

Synopsis

In this companion, international scholars provide a comprehensive overview that reflects the most recent trends in Catullan studies.
  • Explores the work of Catullus, one of the best Roman 'lyric poets'
  • Provides discussions about production, genre, style, and reception, as well as interpretive essays on key poems and groups of poems
  • Grounds Catullus in the socio-historical world around him
  • Chapters challenge received wisdom, present original readings, and suggest new interpretations of biographical evidence

Excerpt

Catullus, as William Fitzgerald acutely observes, is a poet whom “we have taken rather too much to our hearts” (1995: 235). For a considerable part of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, both lay and academic audiences reacted to the lyric voice in the Catullan collection as that of a friend and contemporary, whose grief over a brother’s death and anger at betrayals of trust struck us as candid, universally human responses to circumstance. Yet treating Catullus sympathetically as one of ourselves greatly impeded efforts to appreciate his literary achievement as a whole and to locate his poetry within its particular cultural and historical milieu. New Criticism finally taught readers to value the longer works of the learned “Alexandrian” Catullus and even to relish displays of erudition in the love poetry, but only at the price of dismissing his barbed invective and his coarsely funny occasional pieces as material supposedly displaying a “lower level of intent” (Quinn 1959: 27–43). Appreciation of the Catullan corpus, obscenity and all, in its entirety and within its proper context had to wait for the rise of New Historicism in the 1980s and the subsequent impact of the cultural studies movement on the humanities.

It is just since the 1980s, then, that wide-ranging research has succeeded in grounding Catullus firmly in the socio-historical world around him – by investigating his provincial North Italian background, his family connections, and his dealings with the Roman elite; by observing his interactions with fellow provincials seeking advancement; by teasing out references to matters of everyday life in his poems; by studying, lastly, the circumstances under which his works were produced and disseminated and what they might have conveyed to the audiences at which they were aimed. This historicizing approach has proved unusually fruitful; since Wiseman’s Catullus and His World (1985), influential articles and entire monographs on Catullus have appeared with increasing frequency. Such recent critical studies have employed a variety of incisive tools, including those of anthropology, cultural studies, gender theory, Lacanian psychology, performance theory, reader-response theory, and sociolinguistics, to delineate the basic cultural and rhetorical frameworks within . . .

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