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CL 310 : Opera
Introduction Scansion Discussions Reports

This page contains information and links on additional assignments, or opera, throughout the semester.

The opera are of three kinds: scansion drills, discussions of secondary sources, and reports on Roman historical / cultural topics germane to Catullus and his world.



Every week students will be assigned passages from our readings to scan -- that is, to break down into the metrical units of the meter in question.  The meters upon which we will focus this term are hendecasyllabics, sapphic strophe, limping iambics, dactylic hexameter, and elegiac couplet.

Although we will cover the basics of scansion in class, additional information can and should be extrapolated from the Hexametrica website, which will prove particularly helpful for dactylic meters like the hexameter and elegiac couplet.

Links to each assignment are given below:  download, print out, and fill in (MS Word required).

Date Purpose Selection
Cat. 1.1-4 (hendecasyllabics)
drill 1
Cat. 1.5-10 (hendecasyllabics)
drill 2
Cat. 42.1-6 (hendecasyllabics)
drill 3
Cat. 13.1-8 (hendecasyllabics)
quiz 1
Cat. 14.1-5
drill 4
Cat. 51.9-16 (Sapphic strophe)
drill 5
Cat. 72 (elegiac couplet)
Cat. 60 (limping iambics)
drill 6
Cat. 8.1-8 (limping iambics)
drill 7
Cat 11.13-20 (Sapphic strophe)
10.24.08 quiz 2 Cat. 8.12-9
drill 8
Cat. 101 (elegiac couplet)
drill 9
Cat. 84.1-8 (elegiac couplet)
drill 10
Cat. 88 (elegiac couplet)
Cat. 64.50-55 (dactylic hexameter)
quiz 3
Cat. 69.5-10
drill 11
Cat. 64.1-7 (dactylic hexameter)a
drill 12
Cat. 64.132-8 (dactylic hexameter)a
quiz 4
Cat. 64.139-146

Each member of the seminar will lead help lead a discussion on scholarly articles relevant to our Catullan readings:

Date Article Leader(s)
10.13.08 Schmiel, R.  1990-91. "The Structure of C. 8: A History of Interpretation." CJ 86:158-66.
Braungard, Kratz
10.15.08 Forsyth, P. Y. 1991. "The Thematic Unity of C. 11." CW 84:547-64.
Jaffe, Pierce
11.03.08 Bell, A. J.  1915."Note on C., 84." CR 29:137-139.
11.03.08 Vandiver, E. 1990. "Sound Patterns in C. 84." CJ 84:337-340.
11.05.08 Scott, W. C.  1971. "Catullus and Caesar (c. 29)." CP 66:17-25.
11.17.08 Thomas, R. F.  1982. "Catullus and the Polemics of Reference." AJP 103.  Pp. 144-154 only.
McGuire, Ryan
11.19.08 Thomas, R. F.  1982. "Catullus and the Polemics of Reference." AJP 103.  Pp. 154-160 only.

The purpose of these discussions is for students to become better readers of Latin elegy with the help of secondary literature, and to learn how to extrapolate pertinent information from the sources themselves.

On the day of a discussion, everyone will come to class having read the article in question. Two student, however, will be responsible for leading and facilitating in-class discussion. Discussion leaders should meet beforehand to plan their discussion according to the following guidelines.

Length and Format.

Aim for a discussion that lasts about 15-20 minutes.

Since all students (not just the discussion leader) will read the article or essay beforehand, discussion leaders should not plan simply to summarize what the scholar has to say, as if giving a book report.  Rather, leaders must attempt to generate an active discussion among their peers by asking questions that elicit genuine interpretation of the scholarship at hand.  The quality of the questions indicates the depth of the discussion leader's preparedness, and the quality of the responses indicates the success of the discussion overall.

The opinions of the discussion leaders, who are responsible for generating the questions, do matter.  But the opinions of their peers are equally important, and the questions must provide opportunities for these opinionds to be aired.


Generating good interpretive questions is a skill acquired both through thoughtfulness and practice.  Such question typically focus on "why"or "how" rather than "what" or "who."  That is, they call for students not to regurgitate the printing on the page, but to do something with the principles and ideas therein.

Consider the following examples of regurgitative questions, and how they can be productively transformed into interpretive questions with a slight shift in emphasis:

  • DON'T:  What does Arnush say on p. 27?
    DO:  On p. 27 Arnush says such-and-such.  How does this statement work within his argument overall?
  • DON'T:  What is a paraclausithyron?
    DO: Why is it useful to define the paraclausithyron, and how does the definition enhance our understanding of Catullus' poem?

  • DON'T:  What is Arnush's conclusion?
    DO: How does Arnush's conclusion reflect his evidence and methodology?

The "DO" questions all take content for granted and prompt one's peers to comment on the author's methodology and purpose.  In addition, these questions all surpass the "DON'T"s in serving the ultimate purpose of helping students become better readers of Roman elegy.

Another approach to interpretive questions, but one that should be used judiciously, is for the discussion leaders to ask about something they genuinely do not understand.  Such inquiries have the virtue of avoiding the sense that the discussion leader is fishing for any one answer -- a sense that should be avoided in any event.  Furthermore, discussion leaders should be prepared to let a question go unanswered, rather than supply the answer themselves.


Although the discussion leaders' questions (or at least the responses they elicit) should be open-ended, their preparation should be both controlled and rigorous.  That is, leaders should not expect to generate useful questions from a single, cursory reading of their assigned scholarship.  Rather, leaders must know their articles inside and out -- the findings and conclusions, yes, but also the methodology and the interpretive framework.  Without these, discussion leaders cannot hope to produce thoughtful and appropriate lines of inquiry.

That said, leaders must allow (if not enable) the discussion to venture beyond the confines of the script -- that is, to ask interpretive questions to suit the topic at hand, regardless of whether it has sprung from the "scripted" questions.  In fact, leaders should accept the fact that most of their questions might well go unasked during the discussion.

Finally, though it might sound obvious, students should be intimately familiar with all of the bibliographic data surrounding their articles:  author, publication, year, and so forth.  References to the author as "they," for example, suggest that the leaders have not done their homework.  To put it another way:  ideas do not exist in a vacuum, which is why we read the scholarship in the first place.  To acknowledge the scholar as a person is, at its most basic level, to acknowledge that we are all part of a larger community of readers.


Each member of the seminar will deliver a brief report on a historical / cultural topic pertinent to our readings:

Date Topic Reporter
Licinius Calvus and Io.
Cinna and Zmyrna.
Pets in ancient Rome.
Roman adultery.
Roman homosexuality.
Roman funerary rites.
Roman personal hygiene.
Roman marriage.

Each reporter should adhere to the following guidelines:

Length and Format.

Aim for a report that lasts no more than 10 minutes, and that provides a solid introduction to your topic. You should highlight the most important aspects of your topic, but also give your audience direction for further information. Your goal is to offer useful background for the Catullan reader.

A handout with your salient points will be most helpful, and will provide you with a place to cite your sources. You must use legitimate scholarly sources, and you must list them in standard bibliographic format. You may list sources that you have not yead read, so long as you identify them as such.


Encyclopedias such as the Oxford Classical Dictionary and Brill's New Pauly are excellent starting points, but they are not necessarily your endpoints. Be sure to consult the CL 310 Reserve List at the Scribner Library website, as well as the Resources Page, and feel free to ask any Classics faculty member for help once you have done your initial research.

For your report you will probably do much more reasearch than you can squeeze into 10 minutes: that's the truth of it.  Please do adhere to the time limit: practice your report beforehand and trim where necessary.  Knowing what to include is a mark of critical thinking, which skill you must develop for the semester project.

© 2010 Skidmore College Classics Department