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CL 310 : Semester project
Introduction Poems Translation Scansion Recitation
    Presentation Paper Milestones Resources

In this project students will become experts on a single poem by Catullus.

They will demonstrate their expertise by translating and scanning the poem, compiling relevant bibliography, presenting their research to their peers, and writing a final paper of significant length (due Thursday, Dec. 18, noon.)


Students will first select a poem not assigned as regular reading in this class; this is a chance for you to venture beyond the syllabus.  Furthermore, the poem will be at least 15 lines in length. It is true that some of Catullus' most important poems are less than 15 lines;  accordingly, you might also select two or more shorter but related poems.

Your poem should be well-represented in the secondary literature. You should of course search for secondary sources with the standard Classics bibliographical tools, but a useful acid test is to check the bibliographical notes at the end of Thompson's commentary on each poem: five or more sources of substantial length is a good sign.

Here are the poems selected by the members of CL 310:

  • 4: My little boat (Cipolla)
  • 6: Flavius, who is she? (Kratz)
  • 12: Where's my napkin? (McGuire)
  • 15: Stay away from my boy! (Rotter)
  • 28: Cronies of Piso (Hamilton)
  • 35: Caecilius' Magna Mater (Ryan)
  • 37: The salacious tavern (Flier)
  • 44: My country house (Braungard)
  • 55: Where ya been? (Pierce)
  • 65: Consolation of Hortalus (Jaffe)

Since we will spend some time discussing both the function of ancient and modern poetry, as well as how Catullus has been rendered into English over the centuries, students will be required to offer polished, poetic translation of their poems.

The translation can be as close or as free as you like, but it should have some flair — more than a workmanlike, literal rendering.  You must display a real understanding of the Latin at the level of syllable, word, line, strophe, poem, and the collection at large.  Furthermore, you can use your translation as a way of addressing critical issues in the poem.  Be prepared to justify the choices you have made.


Students will also be required to understand the meter in which their poems are written, be it the elegiac couplet, hendecasyllabics, limping iambics, or something else.  Part of Catullus' poetic achievement was to bring unusual meters — that is, Greek meters — into the mainstream of Latin poetry. Furthermore, since certain meters align with certain poetic ideals and attitudes, it is worthwhile getting to know your poem at the sonic level.


Student will be asked to memorize and recite their poems in meter to the rest of the class. Students should embark on the memorization process as soon as the poem is chosen and approved — don't leave it until the last minute.

The purpose of this requirement is to foster deep appreciation for and familiarity with the text of your poem. It also serves as a reminder of how poems were received in antiquity: not as words on a page, silently absorbed by a reader, but as words recited before an audience.  We must never lose track of the performative context of Roman poetry!


The last four days of class will be devoted to 20-minute presentations of your research as it currently stands. Each presentation must include the following:

  • Recitation and scansion.  Read your (memorized) poem aloud to the class, with reasonably authentic pronunciation and in perfect meter.  No text, no notes, no nothing!

  • Translation.  Hand out and read aloud your polished translation of the poem (you do not have to memorize this, unless you want to impress us).

  • Bibliography.  Hand out a bibliography that reflects both the poem's scholarly history and the scope of your research.  This bibliography will be an unannotated version of the annotated bibliography that you will produce over the course of the semester.  (See Milestones for details.)

  • Narrative.  Narrate for the class the critical history of your poem, making reference to your bibliography.  Your narrative can be chronological, but perhaps better is an issue-by-issue approach.  Especially helpful are cross-references to other poems in the collection — how does your poem do or say what other Catullan poems do or say?  Your audience should come away knowing how your poem contributes to an understanding of Catullus as a poet.

  • Rough draft.  At the conclusion of your presentation, turn in to Prof. Curley a rough draft of your final paper.  (See Milestones for details.)

Your paper will progress from outline, to rough draft, to final version.  This section describes the final paper, though the development of your topic and consideration of the secondary sources begins with the outline.

Length and format.  Your paper must be at least 15 pages, typed and double-spaced.  Attach an unnannotated bibliography or reference list (not counted in the page total).  Cover pages (also not counted) are not necessary.  All bibliographic citations, both in the footnotes and in the reference list must follow an accepted format.  For these and other technical matters refer to the Skidmore Guide to Writing.

Topic.  As for your actual topic, that is largely up to you.  You will develop your topic as you review secondary sources on your poem.  Ideally, your examination of what other scholars have to say about your poem will help you identify some outstanding issues.  With these issues identified, you can write a paper to address them in one of two ways:
  • Discuss one critical issue surrounding your poem, offering a survey of what scholars and commentators have said (and are currently saying) about that issue.
  • Offer a full survey of many critical issues surrounding your poem, discussing what scholars and commentators have said (and are currently saying) about the poem as a whole.

Based on your review of secondary sources, you should also discuss how your poem fits into Catullus' poetry at large.  Does it reinforce his program?  Does it depart from his program?  How might you present the poem to a fellow student as being either representative or non-representative of Catullus?

By adopting one of these approaches, you are most likely to cultivate a paper of appropriate breadth and depth.  If you have another topic in mind, please consult with Prof. Curley.

Secondary sources.  As already noted, your procedure will be to gather outside sources that pertain to your poem, to read and evaluate them, and then use what you have learned in your paper.  Another skill that you must master is the art of quoting and citing the words or ideas of other critics.  Sometimes you may want to quote a scholar's exact words;  sometimes you may want only to paraphrase them.  Whatever the case, you should consult the Writing in Classics Pages to ensure that your quotations and citations are appropriately executed.


Several milestones will help keep the project on track.  Many of them, with a few exceptions, are due on Friday afternoons by 5:00 p.m.

Poem selection (October 3, 5:00 p.m. via email)

Email Prof. Curley with your choice of poem, explaining your choice in a full paragraph; if the poem is less than 15 lines, you must account for that as well.  Remember, the poem must not appear on our regular reading list (for which see the course Calendar). Poems will be approved on a first-come, first-served basis, so it might be prudent to have a second choice (though you need not reveal it).

Research in Classics meeting (week of October 6)

On October 1 Prof. Curley will distribute a sign-up sheet for a one-hour group meeting outside of class to review the fundamentals of Classical research.  This session is intended for those who have not yet taken CC 290 (though graduates of that class are welcome to attend).

Scansion and reading meeting (week of October 13)

On October 8 Prof. Curley will distribute a sign-up sheet for individual 45-minute meetings the following week, during which you and he will review your preliminary reading and scansion of the poem. This is a chance to ask questions about the text and the meter.

Preliminary outline and unannotated bibliography (October 31, 5:00 p.m. via email)

As a Halloween treat, email Prof. Curley with a preliminary outline and unannotated bibliography.  The outline should present your research to date within the structure of your paper, summarizing its constituent parts in some detail.

It practically goes without saying that you should have already begun to gather and review the scholarship.  Accordingly, your outline must be accompanied by an unnanotated bibliography of at least five germane secondary sources (articles, essays, book chapters, and the like), listed in a standard bibliographic format.  Two of the sources should be the fruit of your own bibligraphic search and should not appear in Thomson's bibliography.

Full outline and annotated bibliography (November 21, 5:00 p.m. via email)

Email Prof. Curley with a more developed and detailed version of your preliminary outline. Your prose need not be completely polished, and there may be some gaps in the overall struture.

Also include an annotated bibliography, a comprehensive list of seven secondary sources (hopefully the same ones listed in the preliminary bibliography plus two more) formatted as follows:

  • the source itself, presented in a standard bibliographic format;
  • a paragraph summarizing the source  -- its main idea or ideas;  and
  • another paragraph offering a reaction to the source -- how it has informed the project.

The annotated bibliography should list only those sources that have proven useful to the project.  In addition, at least three of the sources should not appear in Thomson's bibliography.

Presentations and rough draft (December 1, 3, 8, 10, in class)

Four class periods will be devoted to presentations of students' research to date. (Details in Presentation, above.)  Presentations will last no more than 20 minutes.  The order of presentations is as follows:

Monday, December 1:

  • 55: Where ya been? (Pierce)
  • 35: Caecilius' Magna Mater (Ryan)
  • 65: Consolation of Hortalus (Jaffe)

Wednesday, December 3:

  • 8: Cronies of Piso (Hamilton)
  • 37: The salacious tavern (Flier)

Monday, December 8:

  • 12: Where's my napkin? (McGuire)
  • 6: Flavius, who is she? (Kratz)
  • 15: Stay away from my boy! (Rotter)

Wednesday, December 10:

  • 4: My little boat (Cipolla)
  • 44: My country house (Braungard)

Also due immediately following your presentation is a printed rough draft of your paper — think of it as a 75% finished version of the final paper.  All matters pertaining to structure and content should be settled, if not fully developed.  A precious few gaps are acceptable, provided that there are complete summaries of what is missing.

Final version (Thursday, December 18, noon via email)

A polished-to-perfection, ultimate version of your paper, due at the end of our regularly scheduled final examination period.  This version should include an unannotated bibliography, but one that lists any new sources gathered and used between Nov. 17 and Dec. 19.


The following web sites will be helpful when developing your project:

Writing in Classics.  A series of pages developed by Skidmore's Classics Department.  Good advice on every step from thesis to bibliography to final draft.

Skidmore Expository Writing Network.  More trustworthy advice on all aspects of the writing process.

ILLiad, Scribner Library's InterLibrary Loan service.  Allows students to request articles, essays, and books outside of the Library's holdings.  NOTE:  No student requests will be processed after the third week in November.

Searchable index of journals held by Scribner Library (print and electronic).

See our Resources Page for other research tools.

© 2010 Skidmore College Classics Department