Catullus and the Poetics of Roman Manhood.
Cambridge University Press, Cambridge (,,,), 2001. 1st ed. XI,246p. Hardbound with dust wrps. 'The declared aim of this monograph is to 'make Catullus new'- that is, to offer fresh perspectives on the author, including readers to see the corpus, particularly the short poems, in a different light. It is, accordingly, a refreshingly iconoclastic study. (...) While conceding the possibility that Catullus may indeed bear witness to a collapse of values in Roman society, W. contends that the prevailing 'axiomatic, central and complete' view of him as 'crisis poet' needs interrogation. (...) Next W. presents the case for reading a 'post-modern Catullus' by aligning his art with that of contemporary poets who eschew meditative lyric in favor of encyclopedic collage. (...) The central thesis of W.'s book is that Catullus' short poems can be constructed as a 'performance of manhood'- a self-consciously competetive staging of gestures and stances defined in Roman gender ideology as quintessentially masculine. In successive chapters W. presents close readings of certain 'Lesbia poems' and poems of invective to bolster that contention. (...) In the final chapter W. describes two 'code models' of earlier authors through which Catullus enacts manhood: the 'Archilochian'mode of fierce hypermasculine invective and the 'Callimachean' mode of erudite, Hellenized, and 'feminized' sophistication. W. is careful to present his thesis as an heuristic tool, a means of 'triangulating' between blind dismissal of the brutality of Catullan polemic and its condemnation on moral grounds. (...) Several of W.'s insights into particular poems are brilliant (...). That said, though, W.'s take on the invective poems is uncomfortably grim and literal (...). Where is the tongue-in-cheek quality other readers have frequently sensed? (...) Again, W. elides the distinction between performance as 'social display of self' and performance as theatrical art. (...) W. does not take account of a growing body of recent scholarship examining Catullus' texts as scripts for performance in the latter sense. (...) This is a provocative first book by a talented and sensitive commentator, one that set me thinking about my own (ethical) relation to Catullus. I have not been dissuaded from viewing the poet as a principled critic of his cultural and political milieu, but I will nuance my statements more judiciously from now on.' (MARILYN B. SKINNER in The Classical Review (New Series), 2003, pp. 94-96). From the library of Professor Carl Deroux.