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"Not Seeing the Pack on His Back: Catullus and his Persona"

When a lyric poet speaks in the first person, the reader naturally wants to view the poet as the protagonist.  However, the tendency to blindly accept the poet’s point of view can obscure aspects of the poet’s carefully constructed persona.  When Catullus criticizes someone, we assume at first that he is placing himself in a morally superior position.  Looking closely at several poems, we will see that when he tries to assert control over someone else, he is actually doing so to reveal his own lack of control.  This hypocritical behavior does not diminish our interest, but in fact sustains it, by making the persona more universal. As Catullus says in c. 22, “Everyone has their own failing / but we don’t see the pack that’s on our back.”

David Kutzko received his BA from the University of Iowa and his PhD from the University of Michigan. He has taught at Western Michigan University for eighteen years.  His research interests include Herodas, Theocritus, Catullus, and, more generally, Greek and Latin literary traditions.  He enjoys teaching all aspects of Greek and Latin culture and literature.  He is currently working on a Catullus student commentary.

Refreshments served.

October 2019
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