Catullus' Attis : counterfeit epic
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[ACCESS RESTRICTED TO THE UNIVERSITY OF MISSOURI AT REQUEST OF AUTHOR.] Catullus' carmen 63 presents a confluence of forms - inverted, parodic, and imitative - from which flow diverging streams of critical interpretation. In this dissertation, I maintain that a systematic examination of themes, characterization, imagery, phraseology, and meter demonstrates that the Attis possesses many essential qualities of epic poetry that have been inverted in ways that parody traditional epic form. Catullus recasts the Attis myth and treats it in terms that illuminate the tragic consequences of Attis' religious fanaticism - castration and slavery - while violently subverting epic's sensibilities. As an antithetical epic hero, the self-emasculated Attis becomes the female slave of the Great Mother goddess Cybele. Features of Catullus' narrative technique and diction in c. 63 include the use of words from the old epic vocabulary, anaphora, alliteration and assonance, archaic forms, repetition, and unusual compounds. Attis' conflict with Cybele has affinities with Homeric epic as well. Animal imagery throughout and castration, the irrevocable emblem and price of membership in Cybele's band of worshippers, recall Circe's enchantment of Odysseus' men on Aeaea, though without the divine mediation which repeatedly rescued that Homeric hero. Attis' obsessive desire to become a follower of the goddess, self-emasculation, and his profound repentance upon reflection evoke parallels to Odysseus' encounter with the Sirens - had Odysseus succumbed to their lethal charms. Finally, and most palpably, Catullus' use of the rare galliambic meter as a rhythmic vehicle audibly highlights and underscores the parodic epic character of the poem. Receiving close scrutiny are the implications for oral performance that the galliambic meter offers, especially in light of advances in the field of oral theory. Following chapter one's comparative treatment of Attis in myth, chapter two reviews relevant scholarship. Chapter three is devoted to a detailed examination of the galliambic meter and the prosodic and metrical opportunities it provides for an effective "audio-parody" of the texture of epic hexameter, and chapter four seeks to establish a connection between c. 63 and epic poetry - Alexandrian, early Roman, and Homeric - by listening for resonances of epic themes, imagery, and diction.
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