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164Philosophy and Literature from the Middle Ages to the twentietii century, too brief to be very helpful but with some lively suggestions which would have been worth developing. The medieval iconography of Rhetoric (p. 227) would gain from comparison with her Renaissance counterpart, especially in German engravings, and the equation ofErasmus's Folly with Lady Rhetoric (p. 228) needs some supporting evidence. The whole chapterjumps about disconcertingly among topics: irony, women's voices, cognitive psychology, and the importance of dialogue. But ifmy final impression is ofthe uneasy combination oftwo separate books, one on the history of rhetoric up to Augustine and one on the relevance of that history to today's society, I was never bored. Swearingen combines solid erudition with provocative viewpoints, and raises questions of crucial interest to us all. The book has endnotes, sometimes running to pages of discussion, a long bibliography, and an inadequate index. Too many of its misprints involve the agreement of subject and verb, and someone at the press should learn how to spell dilettantish and several Latin nouns. But these minor flaws do not detract from what is on the whole an enjoyable book. Vanderbilt UniversityBarbara C. Bowen Another Reality: Metamorphosis and Imagination in the Poetry of Ovid, Petrarch, and Ronsard, by Kathleen Anne Perry; ix & 260 pp. New York: Peter Lang, 1990, $43.50. It is all too easy to think of Ovid's Metamorphoses as a simple compendium of poetic myths and fables where Renaissance poets drew freely, and more or less at random, in their search for rhetorical ornamentation to highlight the expression of exquisite feelings of love or explore complex issues of poetic inspiration . The fact is that this material could have been drawn from many other sources and, upon reflection, it is clear that the appeal of Ovid must have been more organic than we are in the habit of supposing. In fact, as this stimulating and broadly interesting study shows, the theme of metamorphosis as elaborated by Ovid encompasses many Renaissance concerns —about the reliability of perception, the instability of the self, and the preoccupation with change in an infinitely mutable world—that make it an ideal vehicle for presenting a Renaissance vision of the poet, his work, and his relationship to the ambient world. Following the medieval fear of change and movement that compelled the attempts to stabilize the Metamorphoses through Christian moralizations, the Renaissance attitude is more nuanced, and while it still found mutability threatening in the real world, the idea ofmetamorphosis Reviews165 presented an excellent medium for an exploration of human subjectivity and the subjective nature of human perception as thought began to evolve away from dogmatic philosophy (p. 5) toward a preoccupation with human imagination . An opening section on Ovid raises the questions of ethics, perception, and skepticism that lay the groundwork for a reading of Petrarch as a transitional figure between medieval and Renaissance understandings ofOvid's work. Ovid's metamorphoses are seldom complete, or "pure," and hence come across as "misperceptions" (pp. 50, 158) that destabilize preconceived notions and open the way for a skeptical and relativistic view of the world. What becomes clear in fresh new ways in the first pages ofthe section devoted to Petrarch is that the late medieval attempt, as epitomized by Bersuire's moralization , to impose the stability of a dogmatic Christian allegory upon Ovid's disconcerting work was a failure. AU that resulted was a fragmentation (p. 85) that permitted multiple interpretations and an ensuing confusion that appears in the various perspectives in Petrarch's readings of certain Ovidian myths in the endless exploration of his poetic subjectivity. Metamorphosis became a tool of the poetic subjectivity, expressing possibilities , but not truth (p. 132). So while the poet was no longer a vates, he was not controlled by external authority either. This is the lesson Perry draws from Ronsard's discussion ofthe vrai versus the vraisemMable, and this new perspective on the development of the idea of verisimilitude in the late Renaissance is one of the most original insights in this excellent study. Imagination emerges for Ronsard as a substitute for "divine inspiration" (p. 137), but while it powers the poetic production of an alternate world...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 164-165
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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