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.


Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Languages of Iron-Age Italy

In our reading of Ovid we had touched upon the ecosystem of languages of Italy before Rome made Latin "the" language. This video offers some recent interesting research on the subject. A link to a site with further info is below.



Saturday, December 28, 2013

A poet reads Ovid

Reading the Metamorphoses on a Transatlantic Flight

In Ovid, where the birds are manifestations of our grief,
we watch the tyrant Tereus who has just supped on the flesh
of his own son, transformed by loss and desire for revenge
into a stiff-crested hoopoe with a pronged beak to replace his sword. 
We watch Ino's distraught servant girls assume the shapes
of shearwaters as they follow their mistress over Juno's cliffs,
and poor Cycnus, his love forever undeclared, turned
to a swan as he laments the sudden death of Phaeton. 
We watch, thinking past the allegory, knowing no heron
springs up from our empathy when we see, through
the windscreen, a car pushed to the side of the highway
where shattered glass shines like a recent shower of rain 
and a state trooper stoops to lay down his orange flames
as the traffic slows and weaves its way round him.
Or at least that's what I've come to think up here,
winged with so many others in this approximate manner 
somewhere between Saint Johns and the Blaskets, spine
of this book open across my knees, now, that our son's asleep,
now that Icarus has flapped his homemade wings,
begun to rise away from the earth, his father's terse warning. 
How can we keep him from the harm this world can be,
our rose-cheeked boy, named for your uncle who drove a truck
through Queens, delivering cheesecakes and key lime pies
to the diners of Flushing and Kew Gardens? 
Ginger head resting across your arm, he knows nothing
of how he's borne aloft on jet fuel and aluminum, his first flight
marked by the thin yellow line we track across the screen
as we bear him, like an offering, towards the place I still call home, 
the roads corkscrewing into the mountains, a broken rosary
of tidy towns where, driving once, I saw a man stripped
to the waist, chained to a sign, on what must have been the morning
after his stag night. Body smeared with treacle and feathers, 
skin red and dry, it was as if he were a sunburned boy
just fallen from the sky; aware suddenly of his own limits,
the lack of anything like ichor in his veins. And even in the body
of this plane we're grounded things, doing our best 
to ignore the turbulence, channel surfing or pacing to pass
the time while the wine trembles in our plastic cups
and the seatbelt signs flash on and off and on.
It will be hours before we see dry land again, cats' eyes 
on the runway leading us towards the gate, the baggage claim,
the sudden weight of sleeplessness and cups of strong coffee.
Meantime, the clouds are like something from a cartoon,
and the birds go on mocking what Ovid makes of them, 
picking the eyes out of the dead as if they were baubles or beads,
the shrike driving its beak through the field mouse
at great speed, marsh hawks amok among the winter trees.
If they could they would laugh at Icarus as he falls 
face first towards the waves that will take possession of his limbs,
they'd laugh at Scylla in that instant before she becomes
one of them, as she loses her grip on the keel of that Cretan ship
and, for a split second, is simply falling.
via Poetry Daily via a friend.


CIARAN BERRY

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Slavery, freedom, and the body

In the latest NYRB, there's a fascinating review of a book with a provocative thesis about sexuality, slavery, and freedom in ancient Rome and the early era of Christianity.

The book is From Shame to Sin: The Christian Transformation of Sexual Morality in Late Antiquity by Kyle Harper. The reviewer is historian Peter Brown. It begins:
One of the most lasting delights and challenges of the study of the ancient world, and of the Roman Empire in particular, is the tension between familiarity and strangeness that characterizes our many approaches to it. It is like a great building, visible from far away, at the end of a straight road that cuts across what seems to be a level plain. Only when we draw near are we brought up sharp, on the edge of a great canyon, invisible from the road, that cuts its way between us and the monument we seek. We realize that we are looking at this world from across a sheer, silent drop of two thousand years. [More]
 One question is to what extent that silence can be ever so slightly lifted by listening carefully.