Translation as MusePoetic Translation in Catullus's Rome

Translation as MusePoetic Translation in Catullus's Rome

Elizabeth Marie Young

Print publication date: 2016

ISBN: 9780226279916

Publisher: University of Chicago Press

Abstract

Translation as Muse: Poetic Translation in Catullus’s Rome questions the truism that poetry and translation are inherently at odds, arguing for translation as a defining condition of ancient Roman lyricism. The study focuses on the late Republican poet Catullus, arguing that translation plays a central role in his work and conditions many of his most celebrated innovations. It argues that translation permeates this poet’s oeuvre but in forms that are frequently unrecognizable to modern readers. It suggests that many poems we moderns would tend to label as lyric originals have been shaped by Roman translation practices and mentalities quite different from our own. Chief among these is the foundational Roman assumption that translation is not a literary liability but a sign of power and a potential motor of poetic invention. Re-reading Catullan translation from this perspective exposes new layers of ingenuity within a familiar corpus of Latin poems and also offers a number of ancillary rewards: it illuminates the idiosyncrasies of Roman translation practice, it reconfigures our understanding of translation history, and it calls into question basic assumptions about lyric poetry, the genre most closely associated with Catullus’s eclectic oeuvre.