Catullus and Roman Dramatic Literature Public Deposited

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Last Modified
  • March 20, 2019
  • Polt, Christopher Brian
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Classics
  • This dissertation examines how Roman drama, and Roman Comedy in particular, informs the poetry of Catullus. It argues that Latin drama continued to play a significant role in Roman thought and literature after the second century BCE and offered a shared cultural vocabulary through which authors could communicate private ideas about love, friendship, and rivalry. It argues that many of Catullus's poems contain meaningful intertextual allusions to Roman Comedy whose presence contributes additional layers of complexity to his work. It also argues that reading Catullus with an eye towards theatricality and performativity reveals new ways in which his poetry can be understood, from both ancient and modern perspectives. Chapter One outlines evidence for ongoing interest in the Roman stage in the first century BCE, including scholarly and antiquarian study, large scale public performance, and private entertainment at aristocratic dinner parties and literary recitations. Chapter Two examines Catullus's engagement with Plautus and Terence in his erotic epigrams and argues that the Catullan speaker consistently invokes the figure of the young lover from Roman Comedy. It considers how early Latin epigrammatists like Q. Lutatius Catulus drew on the language and themes of comedy to modify Alexandrian epigram and argues that Catullus continued this tradition of blending drama and subjective poetry. It also explores how Catullus creates a unified speaker across separate poems through divided allusions to the opening of Terence's Eunuchus. Chapter Three examines how the Plautine servus callidus functions throughout Catullus's polymetrics in poems of erotic, social, and literary rivalry. It argues that Catullus alludes to stock routines from Plautus's comedies to ridicule traditional power structures and elevates Plautine malitia, Heroic Badness, as a vehicle for asserting dominance over others. Chapter Four approaches Catullus's poetry as literature for performance, studying how dramatic elements in his work can affect its reception, especially in the context of Roman convivia and recitationes. Using theater semiotics and reader response theory, it examines how poem 8 creates open spaces for readers to fill. It also argues that allusions to Roman Comedy in poem 8 create a palimpsestuous text that constantly shifts and enables multiple readings.
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  • In Copyright
  • "... in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in the Department of Classics."
  • O'Hara, James
Place of publication
  • Chapel Hill, NC
  • Open access

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