This Week in Latin Class: Kendrick Lamar, Elvis and Catullus

In order to prepare them for the selection of “Lesbia” poems that we translate, I ask each of the students in my upper level Catullus class to find a love song, play it for the class and to analyze the song in terms of the theme of love. This specifically is what I ask them to write about and discuss:

  1. 1. List the examples of poetic devices found in your song. Examples include alliteration, hyperbole, anaphora, personification and onomatopoeia.
  2. What is the purpose of your song? Why do you think the artist wrote this song? What stage of a relationship is this song describing?
  3. How is Love described in your song? What specific metaphors or similes are used to describe this Love? Are they affective?

I have about 2 or 3 students each day over the course of about a week play their songs and lead a discuss about it with the class. The range of music they choose is always interesting and exciting to me and my students. Discussions about music and culture always take place as a result of their presentations. Since I do this at the beginning of the course it’s also a good way for me to get to know my students better and for them to get more comfortable with each other.

This year some of the artists they chose included Kendrick Lamar, Elvis, Ed Sheeran, The Cure and John Legend. I put together a Spotify list so that we could play it in class throughout the semester and discuss these songs in comparison to the themes we see in Catullus. I inevitably get comments like, “Catullus is so whiny” or “Catullus is too melodramatic” or “Catullus needs to just get over this woman.” But then I remind that the emotions the Roman poet experienced more than 2000 years ago are still an part of human life and I point to specific songs that they played, and sang along to and identified with at the beginning of the class.

In addition, the students are able to recognize in their songs basic poetic devices such as hyperbole, alliteration, simile, etc. But I also use these songs along with the Catullus texts to teach them about and to help them understand more complex poetic devices like chiasmus, synchysis, zeugma, polyptoton, etc.

It is fun to watch them sing along. If you would like to do so, there here is our playlist on Spotify:

Catullus Class Love Songs

6 Comments

Filed under Classics

6 responses to “This Week in Latin Class: Kendrick Lamar, Elvis and Catullus

  1. Such a lovely idea. Thank you. I think I will borrow it for my Japanese students, if you do not object!
    (You probably mean “effective,” I think?)

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Ingeborg D.

    I agree with Ms/Mr Cha. It seems that you’re asking the students whether the metaphors and similes used in the song were ‘effective’ (successful) in describing or conveying that ‘Love’, not whether the metaphors and similes themselves were produced by emotion. (‘Affective’ comes from the noun, affect, a term in psychology, not from the verb “to affect.”)
    I heartily agree that you’ve come up with a terrific way to slide your students into Catullus’s poetry!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I wish I had a teacher like you in Latin class!
    Mine looked and dressed like Marcel Proust and probably only listened to Saint-Saëns and Debussy too!

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s