How to Talk to Paper About Poetry: Materiality and Aesthetic Judgment in a Catullan Diptych

Emilia Barbiero (New York University)

This paper focuses on the only poems addressed to texts in the Catullan corpus. Catullus 35 addresses a papyrus inscribed by the speaker with a letter to Caecilius, a friend currently composing a poem on the Magna Mater; Catullus 36 is addressed to the "shitted-out pages" (cacata carta) containing Volusius' (apparently foul) Annales. This paper proposes to explore the implications of this address to a material object and its effect in disrupting literary conventions: how do these animate texts function as lyric addressees? What does their ability to listen and speak ‘say’ about Catullus’ poetry? How do these poems play with the notion of textual presence and writing as a means of substituting the self? How does addressing a material object relate to the aesthetics pronouncements both 35 and 36 make? Finally, it argues that these unique material addressees are evidence of a deliberate, authorial arrangement of the Catullan collection.