"Walnut Boy" and the Tradition of "Fecsennine Verses"

        This is one of the great, long-running controversies in classical studies.  The basic facts seem to be agreed upon by the early 20th century: the bawdy and insulting tradition of writing verses that attack one or more members of the audience have roots in rural, possibly Etruscan culture; their practice was suppressed in part because they tended to lead to violence; they persisted because they performed some important cultural functions, perhaps associated with ritual magic.  Beyond that, I leave it to your own curiosity.  A recent survey of JSTOR articles on the subject turned up these hits:

  •  
    The Classical Review, Vol. 23, No. 8 (Dec., 1909), pp. 252-253
    ...cheers' of a modern ovation, but also a potent charm against the evil eye.2 The same motive that prompted the soldiers to sing their Fescennine verses , led the people also to observe in their salute the number that religion (or superstition) enjoined.3 We may translate: 'And as the Emperor passes...
  • Journal

  • Review
    Il Carme 61 di Catullo by Paolo Fedeli
    Review by: D. F. S. Thomson
    Phoenix, Vol. 28, No. 2 (Summer, 1974), pp. 264-266
    ...from a judgment of Eduard Norden's that what Catullus essentially does in the poem is to blend the traditional Greek epithalamium with the traditional " fescennine " badinage of an Italian wedding. Closely examin- ing Catullus's predecessors in the genre, and the literary legacies he in- herited from other sources, and...
  •