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CitationUden, James. "Impersonating Priapus." American Journal of Philology 128(1):1-26. 2007.
Whenever Catullus is sexually aggressive or brutally frank in his poetry, modern commentators will often call him "Priapic," an adjective that tends to obscure rather than elucidate the various ways in which Catullus uses the figure of Priapus in crafting his poetic persona. This article attempts to read poems 47, 56, and, in particular, 16, as Catullus' experiments in the Greek and Roman subgenre of Priapic poetry. Once we see that these poems are focalized through the generic perspective of Priapus, Catullus' impersonation of Priapus becomes less an assumption of hyperphallic masculinity and more a witty way in which to lampoon a world-view dominated by an obsessive focus on penetration. Impersonating Priapus meant, in fact, exposing the garden god and his hopeless rusticity to urbane critique.
This is a preprint (author's original) version of an article published in The American Journal of Philology in 2007. The final version of this article may be found at http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/ajp/ (login may be required). The version made available in OpenBU was supplied by the author.