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The Age of Cicero

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manuscript of Catullus

Instructor: John Gruber-Miller, College 312, x4326,

Class meetings: M-F 10:00-11:00 a.m. and 1-3 p.m.

Office Hours: M W F 11:00-12:00 noon and always by appointment.

Required Materials:

  • Daniel H. Garrison, ed.  The Student's Catullus.  4th ed. Oklahoma 2012.
  • Julia Haig Gaisser. Catullus. Blackwell Introductions to the Classical World. Wiley-Blackwell, 2009.
  • M. Tullius Cicero.  Selected Political Speeches.  Trans. Michael Grant.  Penguin 1973.
  • T. Wiedemann.  Cicero and the End of the Roman Republic.  Duckworth 1994. 

Optional Texts

  • Catullus, Carmina (with vocabulary and morphological parser) (Perseus)
  • Catullus, Carmina (text only) (Latin Library)
  • Ronnie Ancona, ed.  Writing Passion: A Catullus Reader.  Wauconda, IL: Bolchazy-Carducci, 2004.
  • L. Mestrius Plutarchus. Fall of the Roman Republic. Trans. Rex Warner.  Penguin 1972.
  • M. Tullius Cicero. Selected Letters. Trans. D.R. Shackleton Bailey.  Penguin.

The major goals of the course

This course supports Cornell College's Educational Priorities and Outcomes with emphases on Communication, Intercultural Literacy, Knowledge, Inquiry, Reasoning, and Vocation:

  • Students will apply their understanding of Latin grammar and syntax to become more fluent in reading, speaking, and writing Latin by reading a representative sampling of Catullus' poetry. (Knowledge, Communication)
  • Students will become familiar with the historical, cultural, and literary background to Catullus' poetry and the Age of Cicero by using research tools such as lexica, prosopographies, handbooks of literary terms, etc. (Knowledge, Inquiry, Reasoning)
  • Students will learn to read Catullus' poetry aloud and to appreciate the aural dimension in understanding Roman poetry. (Communication, Inquiry)
  • Students will read secondary literature to understand how different communities of readers received and interpreted Catullus from antiquity to the present (Inquiry, Reasoning, Intercultural Literacy)
  • to become more expert in recognizing the characteristics and effects of multiple literacies by creating presentations of Catullus' poetry through a poster presentation and a podcast (Communication, Vocation)

Course Requirements

Latin reading: I don't expect perfect, polished translations, but I do want you to work at it diligently, have questions about the reading, and show that you have been thinking about the meaning of the Latin and the meaning of the text.  We will begin with a moderate amount of reading while you get acquainted with Vergil's style and vocabulary, and then we will gradually increase the amount of reading as the course progresses. 

Developing precision and fluency: during the first week or two, we will be working to increase vocabulary, become more automatic at recognizing endings, and gain confidence in recognizing Catullus' syntax, word order, and style. Possibilities include working with a word wall, creating a semantic map, developing an visually enhanced text that helps your fellow students identify, e.g., noun-adjective pairs or participial constructions, or breaking the text into chunks that reveal the structure of each sentence or paragraph. In addition, Open University's Interactive Latin website will help you recognize and form the endings on nouns, adjectives, and verbs. Another good website is Magistrula's Latin Exercises. A Web of Latin Verb Synopses is a great way to practice verb forms.

The Rhythms and Sounds of Catullus' Poetry: One of the best ways to become more comfortable with Catullus' grammar, syntax, and word order, and style, is to learn to read and hear his words in the meters that he most frequently uses: hendecasyllables, limping iambics, elegiac couplets, and sapphics. Over the first two weeks of the block, we will gradually learn how to scan and read Catullus' verse. Then throughout the rest of the course, each day we will read aloud. You will present one poem in each meter aloud during the course. By the end of the course, students will choose their favorite lines to read aloud and explain why they chose them (i.e., what sound effects, rhythms, and poetic devices enhance the passage).

English quickwrites: In order to do research on the 1st c. BCE, you need to become familiar with four types of research: a) prosopography (the study of historical individuals); b) lexica and concordances; c) poetic devices (incl. word order and intertextual allusion); d) meter/sound effects.  Therefore, six times you will have the opportunity of choosing one of these topics and writing no more than one page about what you have come up with. Each analysis will present your research in one of these areas and then explain why this information enriches our understanding of a poem of Catullus. Please cite the sources, both print and web, that you use to come to your conclusions.


  • Broughton, T.R.S.  Magistrates of the Roman Republic.  3 vols.  Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1951.  937.02 B797
  • Neudling, C.L.  Prosopography to Catullus.  George Washington University, 1973.  B870 C29n
  • Stroup, Sarah Culpepper. Catullus, Cicero, and the Society of Patrons. Cambridge, 2010. 274-90, and index.

Lexica and concordances:

  • Glare, P.G.W.  The Oxford Latin Dictionary.  Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1982.  Ref 473 Ox2
  • Adams, J. N. The Latin Sexual Vocabulary. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins, 1990. 478.1 Ad18L
  • Wetmore, M. N. Index Verborum Catullianus. Hildesheim: Olms, 1961.
  • Krostenko, Brian. Cicero, Catullus, and the Language of Social Performance. Chicago, 2001.
  • Commentaries by Quinn or Thomsen

Literary Terms, Poetic Devices, and Sound Effects:

  • Baldick, Chris. The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Literary Terms. Oxford, 1990. Ref 803 C748
  • Packard, William. The Poet's Dictionary: Handbook of Prosody and Poetic Devices. New York: Harper & Row, 1989. Ref 808 P125p
  • Shaw, Harry. Dictionary of Literary Terms. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1972.
  • Garrison, Appendix C

Rhythm/Sound Effects:

  • See entries for alliteration, assonance, consonance, onomatopoeia, rhyme, meter, rhythm in the previous handbooks

Latin Quickwrites: To become better acquainted with Catullus' diction and syntax and to gain agility with writing Latin, five times during the block each of you will write a short summary, description, dialogue, or response to the reading assignment.  Specific topics to be announced in class.  These quickwrites will be posted in Moodle at least one hour before the beginning of class.

Poem Leader/Guide: Twice during the course you will lead discussion on a poem or set of related poems. To prepare, you will read the commentaries of Quinn and Thomson so that you understand the poem, its people, imagery, and diction. Then read 1-3 articles about the poem(s) (that are on Reserve or on Moodle) so that you have a variety of approaches to interpreting the poem and leading discussion. In essence, you are examining many of the same issues that you would do for an English Quickwrite, but the difference is that you are combining several of these approaches to develop a strong interpretation of the poem. In class, first you will lead everyone through the meaning of the poem and then second help guide us to an interpretation. You are not being asked to give a presentation (although at times you will present relevant information), but to ask probing questions and show us some of the complex ways of understanding the poem(s) under discussion.

English reading: In order to get an overview of the end of the Republic, we will read in translation Plutarch's Lives of Caesar and Cicero; Cicero's speeches On the Command of Cn. Pompeius, Against Catiline, In Defense of Caelius, In Defense of Milo, and selected letters.

A Brief History of Reading Catullus Project: This project is composed of two parts.

1. Poster Presentation: The first part is to report on how one person or community of readers who experienced Catullus' poetry in the past. Your task is to describe what evidence we have for reading practices and reading communities in one time period and then compare how that set of readers read one of Catullus' poems compared to our understanding of the poem. You should consult your textbook, Gaisser's Catullus (2009) Chapters 7-8, plus the following print sources:

  • Julia Haig Gaisser. Catullus and his Renaissance Readers. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1993.
  • Julia Haig Gaisser. Catullus in English. London: Penguin, 2001.
  • Brian Arkins. "The Modern Reception of Catullus." A Companion to Catullus. Ed M. Skinner. Wiley-Blackwell, 2007. 461-78.
  • N. Vance. The Victorians and Ancient Rome. Oxford: Blackwell, 1997.
  • Early European Books Online (at the University of Iowa Main Library)

Preliminary bibliography and brief outline of your findings: Due First Friday

Final Poster Presentation: Due Third Monday.

2. Catullus: A Podcast: The second part is to make one of Catullus' poems accessible to contemporary readers. Each podcast will include an introduction to the poem, Catullus' poem in Latin, a literary translation of the poem, plus a brief interpretation and comments on the poem.

Script for the Introduction, literary translation, and interpretation/comments: Due Third Friday.

Recording with you delivering the introduction, reading of the poem in Latin, literary translation, and interpretation, in mp3 format: Due Fourth Tuesday.

On the fourth Tuesday in class, we will listen to each podcast, followed by an oral debriefing in which you reflect on what you hoped to have accomplish, how your re-working has made Catullus accessible to a 21st century audience, how sound media affected your choices, what cultural values have changed from Catullus' poem to your translation. After the presentation, each student should submit a written reflection that articulates your thoughts on the same questions as the oral debriefing. Due: 4th Tuesday.

Midterm and Final: the midterm (2nd Friday) as well as the final (4th Wednesday) may include translation of either prepared or unseen passages, reading comprehension, commentary on particular passages (grammatical, historical, cultural, and/or literary), composition in Latin (similar to the quickwrites), scanning several lines of poetry, and essay (more general questions about the Age of Augustus and literary interpretation).


  • 30%     daily preparation: quickwrites, oral reports, fluency presentations, reading Catullus aloud, quizzes
  • 30%     Brief History of Reading Catullus project
  • 20%     midterm
  • 20%     final

There will be no make-up quizzes. Exams can be made up only if pre-arranged and with a note from a doctor.

Letter grades will be assigned according to the following pattern:

A 93-100

B 83-86

C 73-76

D 63-66

A- 90-92

B- 80-82

C- 70-72

D- 60-62

B+ 87-89

C+ 77-79

D+ 67-69

F below 60

Final Note: Do not get behind at any time. Ask for help before you feel you are slipping. Carpe diem!


Attendance: Since our class format is based primarily on participation, discussion, and small group work, it is essential that you come to class every day, prepared and ready to participate actively. Since pair work is team-based and collaborative, it is essential that you are flexible and meet regularly. Any unexcused absence after one missed class period will harm your final grade. If you must miss class, please inform me ahead of time if at all possible.

Deadlines: no late work will be accepted. If an emergency or illness occurs, please let me know immediately so that other plans can be arranged.

Academic Integrity: According to the Cornell College Student Handbook, plagiarism is "is the act of taking the work of another and presenting it as one's own, without acknowledgement of the original source." In other words, using others' ideas, words, even sentence structure, without crediting them is a serious academic offense. Plagiarism also includes writing a paper for another person, borrowing or buying an essay and submitting it as your own, or paraphrasing an article but forgetting to document it. Click here for Cornell's policy on Academic Honesty.

Accomodations for different learning styles: Cornell College is committed to providing equal educational opportunities to all students.  If you have a documented learning disability and will need any accommodation in this course, you must request the accommodation(s) from me as early as possible and no later than the third day of the term. Additional information about the policies and procedures for accommodation of learning disabilities is available on the Cornell web site at


Cornell College
600 First Street West
Mt Vernon, IA 52314

John Gruber-Miller
(319) 895-4326

Maintained by: Classical Studies Last Update: March 20, 2014 5:44 pm
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