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CL 310 : Semester project
Introduction Poems Scansion Translation Recitation
Presentation Paper Milestones Resources

In this project students will become experts on a single poem by Catullus.

Expertise here means scanning and translating the poem, compiling relevant bibliography, presenting research to peers, and writing a final paper (due Tuesday, May 9, noon.)


Students will first select a poem not assigned as regular reading in this class; this is a chance to venture beyond the syllabus.  Furthermore, the poem will be at least 15 lines in length. It is true that some of Catullus' most important poems are less than 15 lines; accordingly, students might select two or more shorter but related poems.

The poem should be well-represented in the secondary literature. You should of course search for secondary sources with the standard Classics bibliographical tools, but a useful acid test is to check the bibliographical notes at the end of Thomson's commentary (on reserve): five or more sources of decent length is a good sign.

Poems selected by the members of CL 310:

  • 4, "My Little Boat" (Griffin)
  • 34, "Hymn to Diana" (Brady)
  • 35, "Caecilius' Magna Mater" (Strileckis)
  • 37, "The Lecherous Tavern" (Rueda)
  • 55, "Desperately Seeking Camerius" (Cail)
  • 65, "Exhausted by Grief" (Le)

Students will also be required to understand the meter in which their poems are written, be it the elegiac couplet, hendecasyllabics, limping iambics, or something else. Part of Catullus' poetic achievement was to bring unusual meters — that is, Greek meters — into the mainstream of Latin poetry.

Furthermore, since certain meters align with certain poetic ideals and attitudes, it is worthwhile getting to know your poem at the sonic level.


Since we will spend some time discussing both the function of ancient and modern poetry, as well as how Catullus has been rendered into English over the centuries, students will be required to offer a polished, poetic translation of their poems.

The final translation will adhere closely to the Latin and mimic verse structure the meter of the original. You must display a real understanding of the Latin at the level of syllable, word, line, strophe, poem, and the collection at large. Furthermore, you can use your translation as a way of addressing critical issues in the poem; but be prepared to justify the choices you have made.

The translation will evolve in two stages:

  • A rough translation early in the semester (with your scansion of the poem); and
  • A polished translation late in the semester, following the original's verse structure and meter.

Student will be asked to memorize and recite their poems in meter to the rest of the class. Students should embark on the memorization process as soon as the poem is chosen and approved — don't leave it until the last minute.

The purpose of this requirement is to foster deep appreciation for and familiarity with the text of your poem. It also serves as a reminder of how poems were received in antiquity: not as words on a page, silently absorbed by a reader, but as words recited before an audience.  We must never lose track of the performative context of Roman poetry!


The last full week of class will be devoted to 30-minute presentations of students' research as it currently stands. Each presentation must include the following:

Recitation and scansion

Read your Latin poem aloud to the class from memory, with reasonably authentic pronunciation and in perfect meter. No text, no notes, no nothing!


Hand out and read aloud your finished translation of the poem (you do not have to memorize this, unless you want to impress us). (For details, see Translation, above.)


Hand out a bibliography that reflects both the poem's scholarly history and the scope of your research. This bibliography will be an unannotated version of the annotated bibliography that you will produce over the course of the semester. (See Milestones for details.)


Narrate for the class the critical history of your poem, making reference to your bibliography. Your narrative can be chronological, but perhaps better is an issue-by-issue approach. Especially helpful are cross-references to other poems in the collection — how does your poem do or say what other Catullan poems do or say? Your audience should come away knowing how your poem contributes to an understanding of Catullus as poet.

Peers of the presenters should prepare by looking over the poems to be discussed in Latin and reading a translation of the same. This will assure some familiarity on the part of the audience.


Your paper will progress from outline, to rough draft, to final version. This section describes the final paper, though the development of your topic and consideration of the secondary sources begins with the preliminary bibliography (see below).

Length and format

Your paper must be at least 3500 words, typed and double-spaced, with numbered pages and one-inch margins. Attach an unannotated bibliography or reference list (not counted in the word total). A cover page is not necessary.

All bibliographic citations, both in the footnotes and in the reference list must follow an accepted format.  For these and other technical matters refer to the Skidmore Guide to Writing or other authoritative source.


As for your actual topic, that is largely up to you. You will develop your topic as you review secondary sources on your poem. Ideally, your examination of what other scholars have to say about your poem will help you identify some outstanding issues. With these issues identified, you can write a paper to address them in one of two ways:

  • Discuss one critical issue surrounding your poem, offering a survey of what scholars and commentators have said / are currently saying about that issue.

  • Offer a full survey of many critical issues surrounding your poem, discussing what scholars and commentators have said /are currently saying about the poem as a whole.

Based on your review of secondary sources, you should also discuss how your poem fits into Catullus' poetry at large. Does it reinforce his program? Does it depart from his program? How might you present the poem to a fellow student as being either representative or unrepresentative of Catullus?

By adopting one of these approaches, you are most likely to cultivate a paper of appropriate breadth and depth. If you have another topic in mind, please consult with Prof. Curley.

Secondary sources

As already noted, your procedure will be to gather outside sources that pertain to your poem, to read and evaluate them, and then use what you have learned in your paper.

Another skill that you must master is the art of quoting and citing the words or ideas of other critics.  Sometimes you may want to quote a scholar's exact words; sometimes you may want only to paraphrase them.

Whatever the case, you should ensure that your quotations and citations are appropriately executed.


Several milestones will help keep the project on track. Most of them are due on Sunday evenings by 11:00 p.m. via email.

IMPORTANT. All work should be emailed to Prof. Curley before the deadline and formatted as follows:

  • PDFs only;
  • double-spaced with one-inch margins;
  • numbered pages (if more than one page).

Work that fails to comply with these specifications will NOT be accepted and, as appropriate, will be counted as late.

Poem selection
Sunday, February 26

Your choice of poem, explaining your choice in a full paragraph; if the poem is less than 15 lines, you must account for that as well. Remember, the poem must not appear on our regular reading list (for which see the course Calendar). Poems will be approved on a first-come, first-served basis, so it might be prudent to have a second choice (though you need not reveal it).

Scansion and rough translation
Sunday, March 5

A preliminary translation of your poem, literal and grammatically correct; and a scanned version of the Latin, formatted like our scansion exercises (see our Opera page). Leave lots of room for Prof. Curley's comments and corrections.

Scansion and translation meeting
Week of March 5

On Feb. 28, Prof. Curley will distribute a sign-up sheet for individual 30-minute meetings, during which you and he will review your scansion and preliminary translation of the poem. This is a chance to ask questions about the text and the meter.

Preliminary bibliography
Sunday, April 2

The preliminary bibliography should present your research to date. List at least seven secondary sources (articles, essays, book chapters, and the like) germane to your topic, and following a standard bibliographic format. For general thoughts about research see "Secondary sources" (under Paper, above).

Outline and annotated bibliography
Sunday April 23

A comprehensive outline of your paper. Begin with a thesis statement, a single paragraph that summarizes the salient points of your paper. Then unpack these points, one by one, by listing the smaller ideas that go along with them. You need not use a traditional number-and-letter format, but you should offer a complete overview of your paper's structure and sub-structure.

Include an annotated bibliography, a comprehensive list of nine secondary sources (hopefully the same ones listed in the preliminary bibliography plus two more) formatted as follows:

  • the source listing, in a standard bibliographic format;
  • a paragraph (at least six sentences) summarizing the source — its main idea or ideas; and
  • a second paragraph (at least six sentences) offering a reaction to the source, how it has informed the project.

The annotated bibliography should address only those sources that have proven useful to the project. See also "Secondary sources" (under Paper, above). DO NOT annotate entire books, only chapters or essays thereof.

Tuesday, April 25, and Thursday, April 27, in class

Two class periods will be devoted to presentations of students' research to date (details in Presentation, above.) Presentations will last about 30 minutes. The order of presentations is as follows:

April 25: Brady, Cail, Le

April 27: Griffin, Rueda, Strileckis

As noted, peers of the presenters should prepare by looking over the poems to be discussed in Latin and reading a translation of the same.

Rough draft
April 30

A rough draft of your final paper. Think of it as a 60-75% finished version of the final paper. All matters pertaining to structure and content should be settled, if not fully developed. A few gaps are acceptable, provided that there are complete summaries of what is missing.

Rough draft meetings
Tuesday, May 2

Sign up at our last class for a 30-minute meeting with Prof. Curley that same day to discuss your rough draft. Our discussion will give you appropriate guidance for completing your final paper.

Final paper
Thursday, May 9, noon

A polished-to-perfection, ultimate version of your paper, due at the end of our scheduled final examination period. This version should include an unannotated bibliography, but one that lists any new sources gathered and used between April 19 and May 9.

Remember, your paper should

  • be a PDF file;
  • have numbered pages and one-inch margins;
  • follow accepted standards for listing and citing sources; and
  • be at least 3500 words in length (excluding bibliography).

Research Papers for Classics. General practices for the research process, from thesis to bibliography to final draft.

CL 310 Course Reserves (Scribner Library).

Searchable index of journals (Scribner Library).

ConnectNY and ILLiad (Scribner Library). NOTE: No student requests will be processed two weeks before the exam period.

The Skidmore Guide to Writing. More trustworthy advice, especially on matters of grammar and formatting.

See our general Resources Page for other research tools.

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