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Mail and Female

Epistolary Narrative and Desire in Ovid's Heroides

Sara H. Lindheim

Publication Year: 2003

    In the Heroides, the Roman poet Ovid wittily plucks fifteen abandoned heroines from ancient myth and literature and creates the fiction that each woman writes a letter to the hero who left her behind. But in giving voice to these heroines, is Ovid writing like a woman, or writing "Woman" like a man?
    Using feminist and psychoanalytic approaches to examine the "female voice" in the Heroides, Sara H. Lindheim closely reads these fictive letters in which the women seemingly tell their own stories. She points out that in Ovid’s verse epistles all the women represent themselves in a strikingly similar and disjointed fashion. Lindheim turns to Lacanian theory of desire to explain these curious and hauntingly repetitive representations of the heroines in the "female voice." Lindheim’s approach illuminates what these poems reveal about both masculine and feminine constructions of the feminine

Published by: University of Wisconsin Press


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pp. vii

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pp. ix-x

This project began as a dissertation at Brown University under the direction of David Konstan, Georgia Nugent, and Michael Putnam. All three, first as teachers, then as readers, have shaped the ways in which I think about Latin literature. I thank them not only for the generosity with which they gave of their time and of their knowledge but equally for the freedom they gave...

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Introduction: Re-Reading Ovid's Heroides

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pp. 3-12

In dreams, a writing tablet signifies a woman, since it receives the imprints of all kinds of letters. Artemidorus, Onirocritica A little over fifteen years ago, Florence Verducci tellingly referred to Ovid's Heroides, a collection of fifteen letters in elegiac verse from mythological heroines to the heroes who have abandoned them,

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1. Mail and Female: Epistolary Narrative and Ovid's Heroines

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pp. 13-77

Granted then, that all of literature is a long letter to an invisible other, a present, a possible, or a future passion that we rid ourselves of, feed, or seek. Three Marias: New Portuguese Letters Introduction: This chapter focuses on Ovid's choice to write the Heroides as letters. I explore what is at stake when Ovid decides to compose the stories of famous heroines abandoned by their...

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2. Women into Woman: Voices of Desire

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pp. 78-135

Women have served all these centuries as looking glasses possessing the magical and delicious power of reflecting the figure of man at twice its natural size. Virginia Woolf, A Room of One's Own Love Letters: Chapter 1 examined the various ways in which the Ovidian heroines contrive to manipulate the conventions of the epistolary genre, seeking to present themselves as marginal...

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3. Setting Her Straight: Ovid Re-Presents Sappho

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pp. 136-176

Male fantasies, male fantasies, is everything run by male fantasies? Up on a pedestal or down on your knees, it's all a male fantasy: that you're strong enough to take what they dish out, or else too weak to do anything about it. Even pretending you aren't catering to male fantasies is a male fantasy: pretending you're unseen, pretending you have a life of your own, that you...

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Conclusion: Male and Female: Ovid's Illusion of the Woman [Contains Notes, Bilbliography, Indexes page]

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pp. 177-185

I think I've scratched the surface after twenty years of marriage. Women want chocolate and conversation. Mel Gibson, quoted in USA Weekend, 11/12/00 You need but go to Rome and see the statue by Bernini [of Saint Theresa] to immediately understand that she's coming. There's no doubt about it. Jacques Lacan, "God and Woman's Jouissance" In Rome? So far away? To look? At a statue? Of a saint? Sculpted...


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pp. 187-243


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pp. 245-257

Index of Passages

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pp. 259-265

General Index [Contains back cover]

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pp. 267-274

E-ISBN-13: 9780299192631
Print-ISBN-13: 9780299192648

Publication Year: 2003