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6. Catullus and Genre

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In this module, we think about the variety of genres that one finds in Catullus’ collection of poetry, focusing in particular on: (i) the extent to which collections of poetry in the ancient world tended to stick to a single genre, and the uniqueness of Catullus’ collection of poetry, which pointedly doesn’t do this; (ii) the extent to which Catullus’ poems can be grouped together into sets of the same genre, e.g. epigrams, carmina polymetrics, etc.; (iii) the generic variety within the group of poems known as the polymetrics; and (iv) the reference to Catullus and his friend Calvus writing poetry “now in one metre, now in another” in poem 50, and what it might tell us about how Catullus thought about his ‘lepidum libellum’ (charming little book).


In this course, Dr Gail Trimble (University of Oxford) explores the poetry of Catullus (c. 84-54 BC). In the first module, we think Catullus’ first poem and what it might tell us about what he hopes to achieve with his poetry – which he describes as a ‘charming little book’ (lepidum … libellum) filled with ‘trivialities’ (nugae). After that, we think about the figure of ‘Lesbia’, the women with whom Catullus has a tempestuous relationship – and who may or may not be based on a real Roman woman. In the third module, we think about Catullus’ presentation of myth, looking in particular at his longest poem (64), before turning in the fourth module to consider Catullus’ invective poems. In the fifth module, we read through some of Catullus’ shorter poems – in particular poems 85 and 70 – before turning in the final module to think about the generic variety of Catullus’ collection.


Dr Gail Trimble is Associate Professor in Classical Languages and Literature at the University of Oxford. She works primarily on Latin poetry, with particular interests in Catullus, Ovid, Virgil and Horace. She is currently completing a commentary on Catullus 64, with newly edited text, to appear in the Cambridge University Press series Cambridge Classical Texts and Commentaries.

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Trimble, G. (2022, July 14). Catullus - Catullus and Genre [Video]. MASSOLIT.

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Trimble, G. "Catullus – Catullus and Genre." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 14 Jul 2022,

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