A Laughing Matter: Translating the Humor of Catullus



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



Catullus, an innovative and sharp-tongued poet writing during the late Roman republic, has engaged generations of scholars and students alike with his unique wit. Generally, however, the humorous aspect of his poetry is overlooked in academic settings, especially when it comes to translations of his work. Beyond engaging readers, Catullus’ humor reveals many things about the society in which he lived. In this thesis, I explore how we can communicate Catullus’ humor in translation, so that those who do not read Latin may enjoy his poetry and the knowledge that comes with understanding it. Catullus’ work, and especially the humor of his work provides an accessible point of entry into the Roman republic, one of the richest and most enlightening periods of Roman history. In analyzing Catullus’ unique sense of humor, I consider his work through the lenses of two major philosophical theories of humor, as well as through the lens of the literary tradition that inspired the poet. Within this thesis, I offer my own translations of a selection of Catullus’ work in order to prove the feasibility of translating his humor and to demonstrate how this goal should be achieved. I also provide commentary on my translations in order to explain the choices I made to best display Catullus’s humor.



Latin, Humor, Translation, Catullus