Friday, March 9, 2007

Week 10: Making sense of strange elements

In Carmen 11, Catullus takes the reader on a catalogued tour of regions around Rome. For us, they are mostly strange, unknown places, and we need the help of commentators to begin to make sense of them. And then, suddenly, two-thirds of the way through the poem, Catullus has a message for his "girl", Lesbia. It's not a pretty message. The relationship is clearly over. Latin scholars admit that this is a "problematic" poem to interpret and has been for the history of interpretation.

What does this catalogued tour of places have to do with his message for Lesbia? Come up with at least two different "theories" for how an intelligent reader might make sense of these seemingly disparate parts. Label your theories A and B, and state each in two sentences or less. Think long on this, and write short!


XRoSeSrReD317X said...

Theory A:
Catullus is definitely over Lesbia and refuses to have anything to do with her anymore because he realizes that he is wasting his time on her.

Theory B:
As he has done before, he could be unsure of his love for Lesbia. He could start talking about how much he does not love her anymore, but then he might change his mind and start loving her all over again.

Will Ravon said...

A) I have a thoery that Catullus describes all these places because these are places that he has been that have reminded him of Lesbia or their relationship, or lack thereof.

B) He might be describing these places as locations he would go to to get away from Lesbia and her adulterous ways.

Gretzky said...

Okay, I guess i get the first shot at this.

First "theory":
I believe that Catullus is telling of all the places that Lesiba and him were going to travel to. He uses the two "comites," Furius and Aurelius, as representation of himself and Lesiba.

Second "theory":
Lesiba and Catullus were to be married. The travel destinations were symbols for the adventures that they were going to have together, and Lesiba was caught in cheating on Catullus by Furius and Aurelius.


welchie said...

Theory A:
Catullus begins the poem talking about all these different places because he is trying to get his mind off of Lesbia. However, he then becomes bitter, realizing that he cannot forget Lesbia, and decides to tell his friends to send a message to her from him.

Theory B:
Catullus is trying to show how final his break-up with Lesbia is. He lists all these places because he is saying that it would be easier for a person to visit all of these far-away attractions than to bring him back together with Lesbia, because she is such a horrible girl and has done many horrible things.

Jeep3 said...

This might sound farfetched, but I think that the great Alps,the beating waves (etc.) are all symbolic of his sexual desires he was preparing to "try" with Lesbia because for all his previous poems, he has written about the central idea of his sexual desires for Lesbia. Thus, this last poem summarizes all of which were "exotic places" to Catullus, all of which were what he once desired.

Catullus could have planned to travel to all these wonderous places with Lesbia because he believed that their love could take them to the furthest ends of the world. Therefore, by showing Lesbia all these exotic places represents the trouble that Catullus was willing to go through -- traveling to the end of the world for/with Lesbia, but instead, Catullus is probably just listing all the places he "would have, could have, should have" but DIDN'T take Lesbia in order to make her wish she had never left him, spiting her.

hahaha psyche said...

A. Catullus is seriously bitter and angry about his relationship, or lack of relationship, with Lesbia.
B. Catullus gives Lesbia a back-handed compliment when he says that she loved him in the past, but then kind of contradicts that when he says that it is her fault she lost their love.

Ian said...

A: Catullus uses these far places to emphasize the bond he feels with Furius and Aurelius - companions of Catullus, wherever he goes. He uses his best friends, his road-trip buddies, to give the metaphorical finger to his ex-girl.

B: I pretty much agree with Welchie's B opinion - it would be easier to do these things than get back with the naughty little Lesbia.

Jesx said...

A: Catullus seemed willing to break all the boundaries of their love with all the great places he described as being obstacles. Mainly, his words such as "penetrabit(penetrate)" and "trans gradietur (he will go across)" suggest this meaning.

B: Catullus could be using these places as a metaphor for how their love grew apart. He uses places that are far away or out of reach for a normal person like the Alps, Indies, and Nile River.

tram192 said...

Theory A: I believe the reason why Catullus describes these places because they remind him of the time when he and Lesbia were together and how happy they were.

Theory B: Or I guess it could be that he is describing all the times he traveled with his friends, Furius and aurelius, to try to forget what he had with Lesbia, but it seems to fail towards the end.

chmathew said...

A) My first theory is that Catullus describes all those places because he and Lesbia traveled a lot together and, the places remind him of her.

B) My second theory is that these might be places where he might go to move on and get his mind off of Lesbia.

I can't beleive magister is a Florida Gator!!!Thats whack said...

Theory A: Catullus is not using these places as locations, but to show degree of how great the magnitude of his feelings are. They show that Catullus still has great feelings for Lesbia, but he is calling on Furius and Aurelius to help him suppress the feelings.

Theory B: Catullus is basically saying that I [Catullus] do not care if I do all of these extreme things to get back Lesbia do not let me change my mind, and still be prepared to tell Lesbia it is basically her fault we broke up.

shocka said...

A) Catullus could be forming a comparison between these far away places and the bitterness shared amid Catullus and Lesbia, claiming that it would be easier to escape to other lands than to escape the wrath of Lesbia's adulterous actions.

B) Catullus also could be referencing all of these far away places to travel to with his "comites," Furius and Aurelius, in order to escape/forget about his relations with Lesbia.

Vance224 said...

A) The first possibility of the relationship between the journey and the message may be to place distance between himself and Lesbia. Their relationship is now definetly over, and Catullus wants nothing more to do with Lesbia; perhaps by adding this long list of places, he hopes to tell Lesbia to keep away

B) My next thought on these places is that Catullus is using them metaphorically. Catullus obviously looks dowwn on the locations and their people, even calling the Arabs soft; perhaps he is using his insults on these places as insults aimed at Lesbia


Theory A:
I think that the reference to these far away places and the reference to Catullus's companions, Furius and Aurelius, represents his and Lesbia's happy memories they shared together before she treated him badly as he expresses in lines 19-24 of poem 11.

Theory B:
These places he talks about could have been romantic spots that he and Lesbia went while their love was still growing. I think that he references his companions, Furius and Aurelius, to show how Lesbia was also a close companion of his, who he loved to share the places he talks about with.

cullenforhire said...

A: Catullus is using this list of travels to convince Furius and Aurelius that saying a few nasty words to Lesbia is a very small task that he asks them to do in comparison.
B: Catullus uses these places to signify just how far he can get from Lesbia, thus clarifying the final end to their relationship.

Wolf Angel said...

A. Catullus is traveling to far away places trying to get as far away from Lesbia as he can, to try to rid his heart and mind of all thoughts of her.
B. He’s exercising his new freedom; now that he isn’t in a relationship, he can travel and wander wherever and whenever he pleases.

jimi said...

Theory A:
Catullus uses the places to show how "willing" and adventurious he is for new things. He indirectly says here that he is willing to give all other things a chance except for Lesbia.

Theory B:
The places could serve as new things for him to try and have fun with now that he has freed himself emotionally for Lesbia. Also maybe he is trying to make Lesbia jealous of this new emerging and sociable Catullus.

5ABIblood said...

A: Catullus shows Lesbia and he are now definitely over, and he hates her with a passion. He is done thinking of or pursuing her, and he now wants to live his life with his two best friends, Furius and Aurelius, and travel the world without Lesbia.

B: Catullus travels all throughout the world to get his mind off Lesbia. He knows it’s going to take him a while to get over her, so he needs to get as far as possible from her to stop thinking of her.

Dr. Gregory House said...

A:: I believe that Catullus thinks Lesbia is having affairs with men from all of these places. Whether she really is or not, Catullus atleast thinks she is capable of being unfaithful in all of the exotic corners of Rome.

B:: Catullus might list all of these places as an insight into the fact that no matter how far Catullus can run and no matter how exotic or dangerous the location, his thoughts will always bring him back to Lesbia whether he really wants to or not.

In_other_words said...

Perhaps, with mentioning his travels, the reader might assume that this "experience" has helped Catullus become more "wise" in the world.

Catullus mentions overcoming "whatever the will of the gods bring", but why? Catullus feels that if he can overcome such mighty tasks in life, what can Lesbia compare.

Minerva said...

A) Catullus spends three verses listing wonders of the world in order to create a sharp contrast between the beautiful, cultured, and lofty idealism of grand adventure and the base, vile, and almost meaningless existence Lesbia is choosing to lead with her indiscriminate sexual relations and rejection of love.

B) Catullus may also be trying to put events into perspective by giving the reader an idea of the extreme vastness of the world, and how insignificant individual mortal affairs become in comparison. In his final steps of letting go, he notes that ultimately, her petty choices are of small consequence in the face of an infinite universe.

Postransky said...

A) Catullus uses these places and how his friends will follow him as an example of how real friends > girlfriends, in the sense that they will stick with you through tough times. Bro's before... well, you know the rest.

B) Maybe Catullus uses these places as landmarks he will tour after Furius and Aurelius announce to Lesbia that "it's over" so that Catullus doesn't have to feel the immediate wrath that is girl.

Eureka! said...

A. I think that Catullus mentions all the places he has been to with Furius and Aurelius to remind Furius and Aurelius all that they have been through together. Catullus reminds them of everything that they have been through together so that they will have no problems with doing a simple favor for Catullus like telling off Lesbia.

B. Another theory I have is that Catullus is contrasting the close relationship that he has with Furius and Aurelius to the distant relationship he now has with Lesbia.

Orz said...

Each place is equivalent to a stage of their relationship. For example, he talks about gentle Arab which can be equivalent to their peaceful life.

Another possibility is that it is easy for Catullus to travel to those distant places than reuniting with Lesbia and prolong the suffering.

unbuma said...

Theory A:
Catullus tours all of these places so he can forget about Lesbia. He wants to clear his mind and think of better things.

Theory B:
Catullus travels to these places because he wants to start a new life. Instead of sitting around and waiting for Lesbia like he usually does, he is trying new things and traveling to new places to show how much he dislikes her.

latin blogger said...

A. These places are showing and preparing Catullus’s friends for the ups and downs of an emotional journey that he is going and will go through after his hurtful break up with Lesbia.
B. These places could also be taken more literally. They could be the actual places Catullus is willing to go to in order to get over Lesbia.

ARP Rocker said...

A. Catullus searched the extreme borders of Rome looking for a replacement for Lesbia. He didnt find one.

B. He searched all of Rome. He DID find one( so he gloats with insults.)

Kirro said...

Theory A:
Catullus is listing all the places he can go now that he is no longer with Lesbia. While she breaks the groins of other lovers, he will be free.

Theory B:
The different places are trials that the gods might put Catullus through. Now that he has beaten the trial with Lesbia, he is prepared for all these new ones.

youknowdis said...

theory 1) I think Catullus is naming these far away places so he can go there and not be constantly reminded of the unfaithful Lebia. When Catullus is in the town and place this romance started he would be reminded, so at this point Catullus is over Lesbia but still angry with her actions.

Theory 2) Catullus could be naming all these locations to show he's willing to take the chance, risk, and money on these places, but not Lesbia. This is why he adds this nasty comment at the end.

LOL said...

Theory A:
The catalogued tour of strange, unknown regions around Rome symbolizes the uncertainty that Catullus feels regarding his future without Lesbia. Catullus feels bitter that he must have this uncertainty in his life because of Lesbia, which is why he wants his friends to deliver such a "not good" message to her.

Theory B:
By mentioning all of the places to which he will travel, Catullus might be trying to show Lesbia the experiences and memories they could have had together. Catullus feels bitter that their relationship did not work out and puts his anger out on Lesbia, which is why he wants his friends to deliver such a "not good" message to her.

Pinky said...

A. It is his way of saying (indirectly) that he is better then her.
B. It might just be a rant, where he writes down what comes to his mind. After all, he's a Neoteric poet.

inthecake said...

A. Catullus is so hurt by Lesbia, that he uses all of these places of travel as a distraction to what she has done to him. He does this as a way to try and forget Lesbia and put her out of his mind.

B. Catullus uses the all the different beautiful places and travels to contrast the hatred and hurt he is feeling toward Lesbia. He uses this contrast to portray the strength of his hatred toward Lesbia.

TiPViking said...

Most of the places in the catalogue are exotic and strange, but as places not "Roman," they are naturally inferior; they are exotic, but to the Romans something different is usually ostracized as dangerous. If Catullus' friends can try these things, surely they can stand delivering a nasty message to an ex-girlfriend.

Lesbia is as far away to Catullus now as these destinations. Before, she was tied into his whole life, but now she is no more a part of Catullus than France is.

Anonymous said...

A. It seems possible and/or probable that Catullus feels that, no matter where he travels, he will be unable to forget about Lesbia or his love for her. He may seem bitter, but it is never easy, no matter how hard one tries, to get over a serious relationship.

B. The different locations may represent something else; they may indicate the distance Catullus now feels with Lesbia, a woman with whom he was once close. Their relationship is over and the two former lovers have grown apart, which is represented by the listing by Catullus of all of the places of the far reaches of the Roman Empire.

hannah-is-cool said...

A) Catullus is clearly pre-occupied with the heartbreak from his relationship with Lesbia and quickly paints a picture of beautiful scenery. Taking the reader around the glorious Roman Empire, he suddenly seems to relapse into a bitter, and upset man who is crushed by the loss of a lover.

B)Catullus may have been tracing back places where he and Lesbia may have once gone. Recounting the endless memories and blissful moments, he then realizes what he no longer has and decides to send Lesbia a message filled with his devastated emotion.

swmslw said...

A- Catullus uses Furius and Aurelius as characters who could possibly spread the word around to the myriad of places that they are journeying to about Lesbia and her horrible, adulterous, and cruel ways and thus in a roundabout way get back at Lesbia for breaking his heart.
B- I agree with vance224 in that because Catullus adopts a condescending tone he obviously doesn't like those places and so he uses them as a way of insulting Lesbia and her adulterous ways without actually coming out and saying it until the end of the poem when he can really bash her and her not so reputable habits.

srivatsanenator said...

Theory 1-
These places might symbolize the feelings he had for Lesbia and .By having the two henchmen visit them he might be dispelling his love.

Theory 2-
Maybe Catullus is looking at a Modernist view of life and is looking at a stream of consciousness view point and while thinking of Ceasar and he thinks of Lesbia. Ceasar's domination of Europe might remind Catullus of Lesbia's domination of the relationship.

82 said...

A. He could be using this list of places to distance himself from Lesbia.

B. He is listing a bunch of places which his friends will go and the difficulty of them, in order to ask if they will do a small favor for him, which is to say a few mean things to Lesbia.

baseball0808 said...

A) Catullus is trying to ease the pain of the breakup a little bit by traveling the world. He is probably finding out that the sun will rise everyday, with or without Lesbia.

B)He clearly has feelings still for Lesbia but he is, with the aid of his friends, Furius and Aurelius, he is getting his mind off of things. And hey, maybe traveling the world little bit may get him to look for another girl...

gabaseballer7 said...

A. Catullus shows anger towards the relationship with Lesbia and is obviously over her. He lists all the places to show that he wants to travel and get his mind off of this stupid girl

B. Catullus is demonstrating how he won't get back together with Lesbia. He uses examples to create a mood that makes the reader realize he is done with Lesbia.