Publication details [#6318]

Jennings, Kelly J. 1995. Translation as metaphor: The function of change in Roman constructions of Greek poetry. Little Rock, Ark.. 219 pp.
Publication type
Ph.D dissertation
Publication language


This dissertation studies the translations by Catullus and Virgil of the Archaic and Alexandrian poets Sappho, Callimachus, and Theocritus. It argues that these Roman poets selected these particular Greeks to translate through political and social motives. Particularly, it argues, following Barton, that the dangerous political and social climate of the late Republic and early Empire motivated upper-class Romans to delight in the fantasy of debasement. That this debasement would remove the Roman from the political arena is significant, but also significant is the sort of debasement popular: in the late Republic and early Empire, Romans became (or fantasized becoming) gladiators, prostitutes, mimes, and elegiac poets, to name a few, in increasing numbers. The debasement is always in an arena where skill and excellence win fame. The dissertation argues that Catullus and Virgil, in translating Sappho and the Alexandrians, are playing with this same paradox of delightful and glorious debasement, and that part of the pleasure of their poetry lies in the overpowering - the defeat, that is - of the reader by the poet/translator's enormous learning and skill. Chapter One examines the sort of translation the study is interested in ("creative translation"), as well as the particular aspects of Roman social history important to the study. Chapter Two deals with Catullus' translations of Sappho and Callimachus, while providing demonstrations to support the arguments made in Chapter One. Chapter Three compares Virgil's first three Eclogues with the Idyll of Theocritus from which they are translated, noting especially the changes made in translating Idyll 11 into Eclogue 2, and the changes necessary in constructing an Eclogue book, rather than a collection of separate poems. Chapter Four looks at Eclogues 4 and 5, while Chapter Five deals with the odd Eclogues 6 and 10, and the plethora of allusions and sources translated into those poems. Chapter Five also discusses Eclogues 8 and 9 and the Idylls they are translated from. (Dissertation Abstracts)