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1. Catullus’ Poetic Programme

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In this module, we think about Catullus’ opening poem and what it might tell us about his poetic programme, focusing in particular on: (i) Catullus’ description of his collection of poems as a ‘charming little book’ (lepidum … libellum) filled with ‘trifles’ (nugae); (ii) the figure of Cornelius Nepos, to whom the collection of poetry is dedicated, and the similarities and differences between Nepos’ literary output and Catullus’; (iii) the Greek poet and scholar Callimachus (c. 310-240 BC) and the concept of Callimacheanism; (iv) the importance of lepor (‘attractiveness, charm, wit’), as a characteristic both of Catullus’ poetry and of the people he likes to have around him; and (v) Catullus’ use of diminuatives, and the extent to which this collection of poetry, which stands at almost 2,300 lines, can justifiably be described as a ‘little book’ (libellum).


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’ Poetic Programme [Video]. MASSOLIT.

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Trimble, G. "Catullus – Catullus’ Poetic Programme." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 14 Jul 2022,

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