Date of Award

Spring 5-2016

Author's School

Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

Author's Department


Degree Name

Master of Arts (AM/MA)

Degree Type



This thesis explores the ways Catullus uses obscenity in his poetry, and how modern translators captures those effects when translating obscenity into English. I first define obscenity by creating four categories of words that all have to do with taboo topics and exist only in certain contexts, outside of polite company: obscenities, technical terms, circumlocutions, and euphemisms. The first chapter analyzes Poems 16, 37, and 97, Catullus's most obscene, to show that the poet uses profanity as a literary device that gains its strength from its juxtaposition with non-obscene words. The second chapter looks at seven English translations written post-1970 and focuses on how particular authors use and choose not to use obscenity. These choices reflect broader attitudes and goals in interpretation of the corpus as well as in modern translation more generally.


English (en)

Chair and Committee

Tim Moore

Committee Members

Cathy Keane, Tom Keeline


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