Switch: The Complete Catullus by Isobel Williams: Carcanet Classics Book Launch

  • DATE

    6 September 2023

  • TIME

    7:00 pm to 8:00 pm

  • AGES

    All ages welcome



Please join us to celebrate the launch of Switch: The Complete Catullus by Isobel Williams. Hosting the reading will be classicist Dr Sarah Cullinan Herring. The event will feature readings and discussion, and audience members will have the opportunity to ask their own questions. We will show the text during readings so that you can read along.

During the latter phases of Covid, Isobel Williams completed her celebrated translations of the polyamorous ancient Roman poet Catullus. The poems that proved impossible when she prepared Shibari Carmina, published to acclaim in 2021, finally surrendered to her. ‘Translating Catullus has been, for me, like cage fighting with two opponents, not just A Top Poet, but the schoolgirl I was, trained to show the examiner that she knew what each word meant.’ The conflict was resolved by a third component, the context of shibari, a Japanese form of rope bondage with its own knotty terminology. Due to its severe restraints Catullus came alive in all his ‘tormented intelligence and romantic versatility’. Critics called the work ‘explosive and impactful’, ‘one of the most exciting translation volumes of recent years’, ‘lyrical, funny, engaging, and insightful’, ‘a bracingly foul, but also a shrewd and funny Catullus’, ‘Isobel Williams’ naughty translation puts the Roman poet in a bondage dungeon.’ He will never be quite the same again.

Switch joins Carcanet’s Classics series. Like its incomplete predecessor it is illustrated with bondage drawings by the translator herself. She adds a ‘who shagged whom’ chart so readers can move confidently from one engagement to the next.

Registration for this online event will cost £2, redeemable against the cost of the book.

About the speakers:

Isobel Williams was educated at Woking Girls’ Grammar School and Somerville College, Oxford. She blogs about live-drawing, has held solo exhibitions in London and Oslo, and has written for publications ranging from The Amorist to International Journal for the Semiotics of Law. She wrote and illustrated The Supreme Court: a Guide for Bears (2017), Catullus: Shibari Carmina (Carcanet, 2021), and a chapter in Design in Legal Education (Routledge, 2022). She is contributing to Contemporary Women’s Voices and the Classical Past (Bloomsbury).

Dr Sarah Cullinan Herring read for a BA and an MSt in Classics at Oriel College, and a DPhil at University College which she completed in 2012. She was a lecturer in Ancient Greek literature at Balliol and Trinity Colleges before moving to Winchester College where she was Head of Classics for several years, during which time she became a qualified teacher. Her research interests are in epic and Greek lyric poetry and she has published various essays and articles in this field. She is currently preparing a book for publication by OUP entitled The Power of Performance: Embedded Songs in Greek Poetry.