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Translation as MusePoetic Translation in Catullus's Rome$
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Elizabeth Marie Young

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780226279916

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: January 2016

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226280080.001.0001

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Surpassing the Gods

Surpassing the Gods

Infatuation and Agonism in Catullus’s Sappho (51)

(p.166) 6 Surpassing the Gods
Translation as Muse

Elizabeth Marie Young

University of Chicago Press

The sixth chapter offers a new reading of Catullus’s version of Sappho (Catullus 51) that shows this celebrated lyric translation to be orbiting the poles of fondness and aggression. It argues that the ambivalent passions outlined in the Latin version of Sappho’s erotic plaint voice the aggressive intimacy of Roman poetic translation itself. To translate, at Rome, was not to copy, but to engage in competition with a revered precursor as well as one’s peers. Catullus 51 refashions Sappho’s text into a metapoetic drama that stages the agonism and desire of Roman translation as a tale of jealousy and love. This translation allegory’s scene of thwarted desire between a Roman poet-lover named Catullus and a female beloved whose name, Lesbia, aligns her with the texts and territories of Greece also dramatized the emotional ambivalence of Roman hellenism more broadly.

Keywords:   Sappho, Catullus 51, lyric, competition, agonism, desire, jealousy, love, Lesbia

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