Never Out of Style: Teaching Latin Love Poetry with Pop Music

Kopestonsky, Theodora B.
Abstract of Article: 

Students often struggle to interpret Latin poetry. To combat the confusion, teachers can turn to a modern parallel (pop music) to assist their students in understanding ancient verse. Pop music is very familiar to most students, and they already translate its meaning unconsciously. Building upon what students already know, teachers can reframe their approach to poetry in a way that is more effective. This essay shows how to present the concept of meter (dactylic hexameter and elegy) and scansion using contemporary pop music, considers the notion of the constructed persona utilizing a modern musician, Taylor Swift, and then addresses the pattern of the love affair in Latin poetry and Taylor Swift’s music. To illustrate this approach to connecting ancient poetry with modern music, the lyrics and music video from one song, Taylor Swift’s Blank Space (2014), are analyzed and compared to poems by Catullus. Finally, this essay offers instructions on how to create an assignment employing pop music as a tool to teach poetry — a comparative analysis between a modern song and Latin poetry in the original or in translation.