Tuesday, May 19, 2015

The moment of reading

From the Washington Post:

“Not far from the walls of Enna, there is a deep pool,” begins Ovid’s version of the rape of Persephone. “While [Persephone] was playing in this glade, and gathering violets or radiant lilies, while with girlish fondness she filled the folds of her gown, and her basket, trying to outdo her companions in her picking, [Pluto], almost in a moment, saw her, prized her, took her: so swift as this, is love.” [Metamorphoses 5]
The Greek myth has been recounted for thousands of years in hundreds of languages, scores of countries and countless works of art. It’s considered a cultural touchstone for Western civilization: a parable about power, lust and grief. 
Now, however, it could be getting a treatment it’s never had before: a trigger warning. 
In an op-ed in the student newspaper, four Columbia University undergrads have called on the school to implement trigger warnings — alerts about potentially distressing material — even for classics like Greek mythology or Roman poetry.  More...

Regardless of cultural shifts and chance mutations of public sensibility, it remains necessary to read the text with attention, thought, and contextual awareness. Without this moment, the joys and discomforts of any work of literature might be matters of pleasure or pain, but do they offer human or historical truth or ethical imperatives? Without a reading, can there be "a treatment"?

Monday, December 15, 2014

Greek warriors as Roman lovers

When a love poet invokes the great epic heroes, the substance and rhetoric of eros is always in play. In a very Ovidian manner, Propertius begins his bit of amorous braggadocio with Zeus's fathering of Heracles:

“Jupiter slept with Alcmene two nights, and for two nights the heavens missed their king. He did not on that account languidly resume his thunderbolt: no lovemaking defrauded him of his virility. When Achilles left the embrace of Briseis, did the Phrygians then flee his missiles less? Did the Mycenaean ships fear the war less because Hector had just come from Andromache’s bed? Hector could have burnt those ships, Achilles could have leveled those walls: in this I am Achilles, in this am I Hector.”

Iuppiter Alcmenae geminas requieverat Arctos,
et caelum noctu bis sine rege fuit;
nec tamen idcirco languens ad fulmina venit:
nullus amor vires eripit ipse suas.
quid? cum e complexu Briseidos iret Achilles,
num fugere minus Thessala tela Phryges?
quid? ferus Andromachae lecto cum surgeret Hector
bella Mycenaeae non timuere rates?
ille vel hic classis poterant vel perdere muros:
hic ego Pelides, hic ferus Hector ego.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Deianeira to Heracles

Update: a follow-up post on the letter is here.

Next time, we'll have a look at Deianira's letter to Heracles from Ovid's Heroides. A few sources:

Grant Showerman's translation (used in the Loeb edition).

The Perseus site: English and hyperlinked Latin, as well as notes.

The Latin Library has the Latin text on one page.

Tony Kline's translation.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Ovid and Postmodernism

A conference on Ovid and Postmodernism at Oxford.
It is by now a critical commonplace to demonstrate the affinity between Ovidian and postmodern concerns: a playful insistence on the rhetorical nature of ‘reality’; on the instability of meaning; on the permeability of borders and on the arbitrariness of time. Our project takes as its starting point the appeal of Ovid’s preoccupations with desire, transition, transgression, power, violence, subversion and alienation to the cultures of the late twentieth / early twenty-first century world. It seeks to discover what recent engagements with both the poet’s biography and his rich and varied corpus have contributed to our still-evolving conceptualizations of postmodernism.

  • How has Ovid changed the politics of classical scholarship in the last forty years?
  • What can a reception history of the postmodern Ovid tell us about the history of postmodernism itself?
  • Is Ovid just ‘play’ or does he speak seriously to politically aware (feminist, ‘minority’ and/or postcolonial) concerns about postmodern relativism and its denial of agency?

Monday, August 25, 2014

Opening Loeb online

Loeb Library to go digital.

We still prefer the little volumes, but one hopes this will be a free, open-access project.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Penelope in Stevens' "The World as Meditation"

There's a nice contrastive piece by Lucas Kwong in the Yale Undergraduate Journal of Classics about Penelope as she appears in the Odyssey and in Wallace Stevens' poem, "The World  as Meditation."

It's entitled "Penelope as Meditation," and might be fun to read in connection with our upcoming look at Ovid's first Heroides.

The World as Meditation

Is it Ulysses that approaches from the east,
The interminable adventurer? The trees are mended.
That winter is washed away. Someone is moving

On the horizon and lifting himself up above it.
A form of fire approaches the cretonnes of Penelope,
Whose mere savage presence awakens the world in which she dwells.

She has composed, so long, a self with which to welcome him,
Companion to his self for her, which she imagined,
Two in a deep-founded sheltering, friend and dear friend.

The trees had been mended, as an essential exercise
In an inhuman meditation, larger than her own.
No winds like dogs watched over her at night.

She wanted nothing he could not bring her by coming alone.
She wanted no fetchings. His arms would be her necklace
And her belt, the final fortune of their desire.

But was it Ulysses? Or was it only the warmth of the sun
On her pillow? The thought kept beating in her like her heart.
The two kept beating together. It was only day.

It was Ulysses and it was not. Yet they had met,
Friend and dear friend and a planet’s encouragement.
The barbarous strength within her would never fail.

She would talk a little to herself as she combed her hair,
Repeating his name with its patient syllables,
Never forgetting him that kept coming constantly so near.

Wallace Stevens, 1879-1955

Links to upcoming readings

We're turning to a few shorter modes after completing Sophocles' Antigone - beginning with Pindar's First Olympian Ode, and Penelope to Ulysses, the first of the Heroides:

Ovid's Heroides
Latin only
The Latin Library 
English only:
Kline translation
Theoi Loeb Translation (Showerman) 
Odd: Perseus has a commentary on the Heroides, but not, seemingly, the actual text in either Latin or English.

Pindar's Odes on Perseus
Olympian Odes (Greek and English)

English only - Diane Arnson Svarlien
Printable copy - if this link works for you, it opens an easily printable copy of Pindar's first Olympian.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Another first for Ovid

Ovid's Heroides as fan fiction:

Sappho and Phaon
Ovid, in my opinion, is first author to truly take the time to write his version of a “fan fiction.” A fan fiction is when a “fan” of a show, book, or series takes the time to write an alternative ending or even a sequel to the already established lore.
via rogueclassicism

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Where's Ovid?

The ancient Black Sea town of Tomis (today Constanta) was Ovid's home in exile. Today a statue of the poet designed by the sculptor Ettore Ferrari in 1887 stands in Ovid Square.