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Seminar Latin: The Young Avantgarde: Catullus & the Poetae Novi


Admission requirements

Secondary literature will be mainly in English. Students should also be willing to read secondary literature in other languages, such as German, French and Italian.


Brief introductory description of the course. Please include course subject and teaching materials used.
The Young Avantgarde: Catullus & the Poetae Novi
At the beginning of the first century BC, a group of young energetic poets took to the literary stage in Rome: the so-called poetae novi.
Catullus, the only representative whose texts have been transmitted by and large in full, presents his own collection as “new” (novus libellus); at the same time, he claims its innovative features to build on an earlier innovation, the alleged programme of a Hellenistic ‘avantgarde’. In modern scholarship, it is still assumed that the poetae novi shared this agenda and that they more or less employed the same techniques. Yet, can the material we have on them actually support this view?

Apart from Catullus, the poetae novi – poets such as Licinius Calvus, Helvius Cinna, and Furius Bibaculus – have been transmitted in fragments. In our seminar you will learn how to study these fragments, how to use a critical edition of fragments, what techniques you can employ in order to reconstruct them and how to assess former reconstructions.

We shall discuss whether the poetae novi can indeed be considered as an avantgarde, whether we can identify a poetological programme, how this programme can be related to their political engagement, and how the relation between the works of the poetae novi, Catullus and Hellenistic literature can be described.

Students are required to regularly write short commentaries on a selection of passages or fragments and will give a pitch in which they will describe a relevant context or theoretical approach..

Course objectives

Concise description of the course objectives formulated in terms of knowledge, insight and skills students will have acquired at the end of the course. The relationship between these objectives and achievement levels for the programme should be evident.

  • Survey Catullus and poetae novi, Hellenistic Literature

  • Working with Fragments (Latin and Greek)

  • Aesthetic theory, concepts of autnomous art and political writing

  • Advanced research skills: independent formulation of a complex research question, collecting materials (both primary texts and results of earlier research). Analyzing results, constructing arguments, formulating conclusions.

  • Critical assessment of secondary literature;

  • Oral presentation: presenting clearly and making effective use of hand-outs, illustrations and/or multi-media techniques; responding to the argumentation of one of the papers and chairing the discussion

  • Written presentation: setting out research results effectively, clearly and in a well-structured manner.


The timetables are available through My Timetable.

Mode of instruction


Assessment method


  • Active participation, preparation of the pensum (20%)

  • Short oral or written presentations (20 %)

  • Paper (1000 words) (10%)

  • Paper (5000 words) (50%). Your can either chose a different topic or include (a revised version of) your 1000 words-paper, i.e. submit a paper of 6000 words (which then counts 60% of your final grade).

Students are required to attend the classes regularly, to be fully prepared and to join the discussions.


See above.

Papers (1000 words) are to be submitted in december and will be discussed at the end of the course. Students who want to react on the feedback and to submit a revised version, are welcome to do so before 10 jan 2023.

Papers deadline: 10 jan 2023 (50%/60%)


If the overall mark is unsatisfactory, either the written exam or the paper can be repeated after consultation with the teacher. The marks for the oral presentation and the response will still count in such a case.

Inspection and feedback

How and when an exam review will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the exam results at the latest. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the exam results, an exam review will have to be organized.

Reading list

Please note:
The Fragments of the Poetae Novi will be studied in the edition of Hollis, the poems of Catullus will be read in the OCT-edition (for both editions see below). All students are required to bring their own exemplars.
Students who want to be admitted to the seminar are required to have read Catullus’ poems in advance (this may also be done in a bilingual edition of their choice).

Editions & Commentaries:
a. Catullus
Mynors, R. ed. 1967. Valerii Catulli Carmina. Oxford (OCT)
Thomson, D.F.C ed. comm. 1997. Catullus. Toronto.
b. Poetae Novi
Blänsdorf, J. 2011. Fragmenta Poetarum Latinorum Epicorum et Lyricorum praeter Enni Annales et Ciceronis Germanicique Aratea4. Berlin.
Courtney, E. 2003. The Fragmentary Latin Poets2. Oxford.
Hollis, A.S. 2007. Fragments of Roman Poetry c. 60 BC–AD 20. Oxford.
Traglia, A. 1962. Poetae novi. Rome.
c. Hellenistic Poetry
Harder, A. ed. comm. 2012. Callimachus. Aetia. 2 vols. Oxford.
Hollis, A.S. ed. comm. 2009. Callimachus Hecale. 2nd ed. Oxford.
Lightfoot, J.L. ed. 2009. Hellenistic Collection. Cambridge, Mass.
Pfeiffer, R. ed. 1949. Callimachus. 2 vols. Oxford.
Powell. I.U. ed. 1970. Collectanea Alexandrina. Oxford.

Introductory Literature
a. Catullus
Ferguson, J. 1988. Catullus. Oxford.
Gaisser, Julia ed. 2007. Catullus. Oxford.
Skinner, M.B. ed. 2011. A Companion to Catullus West Sussex.
Syndikus, H.P. 1984-1990. Catull. Eine Interpretation. 3 vols., Darmstadt.
Wiseman, T.P. 2000. Catullus and His World: A Reappraisal. Cambridge.
b. Poetae Novi
Clausen, W. 1964. Callimachus and Latin Poetry. Greek, Roman and Byzantine Studies 5, 181-196.
Clausen, W. 1986. Cicero and the New Poetry. Harvard Studies in Classical Philology 90, 159-170.
Lyne, R.O.A.M. 1978. The Neoteric Poets. ´Classical Quarterly 28.1, 167-187 (repr. in: Gaisser, J. ed. Catullus. Oxford 109-140).
Mendell, C.M. 1965. Latin Poetry. The New Poets & The Augustans. New Haven, London.
Newman, J.K. 1967. Augustus and the New Poetry. Brussel.
c. Hellenistic Poetry
Acosta-Hughes, B., Stephens, S. 2012. Callimachus in Context. From Plato to the Augustan Poets. Cambridge (esp. ch. 4: In My End is My Beginning, 204-269).
Asper, M. 2001. Gruppen und Dichter. Zu Programmatik und Adressatenbezug bei Kallimachos. Antike & Abendland 47, 84-116.
Bär, S., Baumbach, M. ed. 2015. Brill’s Companion to Greek ansd Latin ‘Epyllion’ and its Reception. Leiden.


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.
General information about uSis is available on the website.


For substantive questions, contact the lecturer listed in the right information bar. For questions about enrolment, admission, etc, contact the Education Administration Office: Arsenaal


Students are required to attend the classes regularly, to be fully prepared and to join the discussions.

The number of registrations is limited to 10.