The Books of Catullus

Smith, Simon (2014) The Books of Catullus. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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The Books of Catullus consists of a completely new translation of Catullus’s poems divided into the three ‘books’ some scholars have agreed is the right order of the poems. These ‘books’ are divided as book one 1-60, book two 61-64, book three 65-116. This main text is prefaced by six essays: ‘Starting Line,’ ‘The Flâneur: Catullus, Martial, Baudelaire, Frank O’Hara,’ ‘Catullus and Modernism,’ ‘The Question of Voice in Catullus,’ ‘The Accessibility of Catullus,’ and ‘Sourcing the Origin: Translations of Catullus since 1950’. The essays together have an aesthetic of their own, reflecting what I take to be the most important features in ‘the books’ of Catullus: the key feature is a flâneurist wandering. The essays are speculative and diverse in their enquiry, and are not only representative of the ‘matter’ of thought which was going on behind the translations, but also represent the ‘form’ and circumstances that that thinking took place in. So the essays wander through and around questions relating to the gaze, collecting, ‘occasion’ and voice, the modern and Modernism, the contemporary, accessibility and difficulty, coterie and the evolution and practice of translation itself, in general, and in relation to Catullus in particular. If the essays wander (and wonder) in these ways, as a flâneur might conduct his perambulations, they also reflect the ‘form’ of the ‘books’.
The poems are anchored by metrical form, they ‘wander’ around, through and across other possible categorical orderings as diverse as genre (lyric, elegy, epigram, hymn, translation, verse-letter, ‘epyllion,’ etc.); theme (love, loss, friendship, rivalry, marriage, adultery, politics, sexuality, etc.); length (the poems vary in length from two lines to in excess of four hundred), and so on. George A. Sheets in his essay ‘Elements of Style in Catullus’ (Skinner 2007, 190) sums up the poems in this way: ‘the single most characteristic aspect of Catullan “style” is its protean character’. Other epithets can be added: quotidian, contingent, exploratory, speculative. The essays, therefore, reflect this ‘protean character’ of the poems in how they address the reader: they can be chatty, informal, formal, comical, serious, academic, intellectual (and intelligent), playful, precise, digressive, ‘occasional,’ accessible, difficult, ‘modern’ – all rich characteristics of the poems – in short the art of the poems can be found in the expression of the essays.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General)
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts & Humanities > School of Critical Studies > English Literature
Supervisor's Name: Schmidt, Professor Michael
Date of Award: 2014
Depositing User: mr simon smith
Unique ID: glathesis:2014-5133
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 23 May 2014 13:48
Last Modified: 23 May 2014 13:50

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