Introduction

By Johnson, Marguerite | Antichthon, January 1, 2006 | Go to article overview

Introduction


Johnson, Marguerite, Antichthon


The editorial process involved in this inaugural Thematic Volume of Antichthon has been an extremely enjoyable one; indeed I regularly recalled Catullus, poem 50, particularly the lines in which the poet describes the joys of intellectual and artistic pursuit with a fellow lover of the good things in life, Licinius. To each of the authors, colleagues as acute and talented as Catullus' iucundus, I dedicate the following:

atque illinc abii tuo lepore

incensus, Licini, facetiisque . . . (7-8)

I may not have forgone sustenance and rest, but I was certainly 'fired' by some of the interpretations and insights I read

The volume grew from a one-day Symposium held at the University of Newcastle in November 2004. Aptly named 'Catullus in the Tree House', because of the location - an elevated and airy space overlooking typically Australian gum trees - the gathering featured papers by most of the contributors to this collection: Jacqueline Clarke, Judy Deuling, Anna Jackson, Charles Tesoriero, James Uden and Lindsay Watson. Ellen Greene and Judith Hallett generously agreed to submit additional papers to what may be described, quite loosely, as the proceedings arising from that scholarly and joyous day.

The papers have been arranged in a complementary style, giving the volume a tripartite structure: Individual Poems and Cycles, Thematic Issues, and the Influence of Catullus. Section One opens with an analysis of poem 17 by Judy Deuling, followed by Charles Tesoriero on poems 5-8 and James Uden on poem 75. Lindsay Watson's examination of the theme of incest begins the second part of the collection, after which comes Ellen Greene's essay on masculinity in Catullus' 'Caesar' poems and, finally, Judith Hallett's analysis of Catullus and Horace's views on female poets. The collection concludes with Jacqueline Clarke on Catullus and Prudentius and Anna Jackson on her own, Catullus-inspired poetry.

To situate the volume within current trends and developments in Catullan scholarship is no easy task, as work on the poet continues to move at a fast and ever-changing pace. While each paper reveals the effects of recent literary criticisms, these are never overtly employed, which ensures - from the editor's perspective - more subtle arrangements of methodology. In other words, the poetry comes first, then individual scholarly interpretation and, finally, the implementation of theoretical analysis.

Intertextuality, essentially our term for imitatio, underscores several of the papers. James Uden's 'Embracing the Young Man in Love: Catullus 75 and the Comic Adulescens' traces the influence of Roman Comedy on Catullus through a particular reading of poem 75. He employs the work of Roland Barthes, who argues for the usefulness of combining detectable literary echoes with reader response: '[A] text is made up of multiple writings, drawn from many cultures and entering into mutual relations of dialogue, parody, contestation, but there is one place where that multiplicity is focused, and that place is the reader, not, as was hitherto said, the author.'1 Thus, the comic stereotype of the adulescens amans is, according to Uden's reading, an image already embedded in the Roman literary culture and perhaps, even, in the Roman psyche. Accordingly, it is argued that Catullus plays with and subverts the figure, a figure which - as Uden argues - suits the poet's self-representation. In addition to the explication of comic imitatio in poem 75, Uden's work proffers an exquisite scholarly reminder of some key philosophical and gendered approaches to the states of love and lust in the Roman world.

The subtleties of intertextuality - and indeed, the current developments that have built substantially on Barthes - are also evident in Jacqueline Clarke's 'Bridal Songs: Catullan Epithalamia and Prudentius Peristephanon 3'. Clarke does not engage with issues of an overtly theoretical nature; nevertheless, her work bespeaks intuitive reading when it comes to matters of intertextuality as she performs the role of the 'ideal reader', drawing on recesses of learning to establish connections between poets and texts. …

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